Watching TV Together Is Good for Your Relationship

If you were going to paint a portrait of a marriage creeping slowly into dissatisfaction, what would it look like? We're guessing that you might include the couple spending every night glued to the TV, next to each other but not actually together. While it's true that any relationship could probably stand more excitement than that, research shows that watching a lot of TV with your partner isn't in and of itself a drain on your relationship. It could even be a good thing.

The Couple That Binges Together

In a 2016 study led by Dr. Sarah Gomillion, a team of researchers quizzed 259 college students on the details of their relationships. Every participant had been dating for an extended period of time — 16 months on average. They were specifically asked about two different features of their relationship: first, how frequently they enjoyed different forms of media together (namely, books and TV shows), and second, how many friends they had in common. Lastly, they were simply asked to gauge their relationship's overall health by ranking how much they agreed with statements like "I am committed to maintaining our relationship."

Perhaps it's not surprising to learn that the couples with the strongest relationships were the ones that had both a lot of friends in common and enjoyed a lot of the same media together. It's not just common sense, it's science: shared activities, including watching TV, improve relationship quality. One of the most interesting findings of the study, however, was the fact that sharing media had a much larger effect on couples who didn't share a lot of friends. In other words, if you and your S.O. don't have the same tastes in friends, you'll bond a lot more closely over "Friends."

So No One Told You Love Was Gonna Be This Way

Perhaps even more interestingly, partners didn't even need to be watching those TV shows (or reading those books) together to get the benefits. Writing for Scientific American, Gomillion noted, "In long distance relationships or among working couples with conflicting schedules, for example, outings with mutual friends or family gatherings may be few and far between. In these circumstances, sharing TV shows and movies with one another might allow couples to maintain closeness by creating a sense that they share social connections." You can watch "Harry Potter" from California while your partner watches it in New York — you'll still be able to bond over how Hermione should have dated Harry the whole time.

The reason, says Gomillion, is that that media might actually be taking the place of a friendship with flesh-and-blood people. It's not a completely unknown phenomenon — we've written before how you often build real relationships with fictional characters, and how binging a series all the way to the end can feel like breaking up. The good news is that even once that TV friendship ends, your real relationship might be stronger than ever.

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Ever wonder how the binge-watching model got started? Take a long, hard look at it in Adam Alter's "Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked" (just make sure you do so with a partner). We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase through that link, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Written by Reuben Westmaas November 14, 2018

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