Did you know that working couples typically only spend about 150 minutes together when they’re awake, and 50 minutes of this is spent watching TV? This activity is often portrayed as negative in modern society, as "down time" or "wasted time."
You may think of Homer Simpson, slouched on the sofa, eating crisps and drinking beer! However, research shows that watching TV can positively impact your relationship.
In my research on long-term couple relationships, partners talked about how watching a TV series over the duration of their relationship provided lasting biographical anchors. They could remember the times when onscreen events or plot lines happened in their relationship, which provided a fondly treasured reference point.
For example, over the course of their pregnancy, one couple watched the entire five seasons of The Wire. It may not be the most romantic of shows, but what’s important was their mutual enjoyment of the series.
Cuddling up together on the sofa to watch an episode provided physical closeness. Talking about the twists and turns of the plot was a shared interest point. Over the first, second, and third trimesters, the storyline became woven into their experience of parenthood.
A study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships found that couples who watch TV shows and movies together experience a deeper connection, thanks to a shared interest in the characters and plots.
So if you do watch TV with your partner, value the positives of this. Rather than settle into usual habits, make this TV time special. How about making it like a night at the cinema — with popcorn, a drink, and a bag of pick ‘n mix? Dim the lights and make it cozy. You are far more likely to cherish such “couple time” if you talk about both what you’re watching, and how positive it feels to spend this together.
If you’re in a long-distance relationship, watching a show together with your partner allows you to bond and spend time together even when you’re miles apart. You can sync up and watch an episode of your favorite show while chatting about it in real time over a video call.
Pick out a series or movie that has a special meaning for you and your partner. Agree on a time this week to sit down and watch it together, and share the moments that make it special.
It’s not the type of film or program that’s important, but their meaning for you both. Where does it fit into your relationship story? Which fond memories does it bring back?
Taking notice of and valuing everyday activities, such as watching TV together, can enhance your sense of connection to one another and strengthen relationship bonds.