Binge Watch your Way to Romantic Bliss

Will binge watching TV together help couples avoid the January divorce spike?

Posted Jan 05, 2017

Law firms and court records give proof that January and August are the months in which divorce rates peak. Many of us can probably rightly assume that many of these couples have dutifully made it through “one final vacation or Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or New Year's Eve for the sake of the family.” Depending on each couple’s specific circumstances and context, the “family” may be “the kids,” “the in-laws,” “the parents,” or a circle of close friends.

It seems that January and August are the periods in which couples finally make the move to end the union, just as the winter holiday celebration or the summer vacation season fades to merely memories, for the good or the bad. Unfortunately, once the forced togetherness or feigned marital satisfaction has run its course, couples are eager to abandon the relationship and move on to independent lives. It turns out that the first week of January is also the most active time on the dating website match.com—starting fresh is clearly the desire of unhappy marrieds and lonely singles (or soon-to-be-singles) alike.

Couples Need Community

Researchers have long shown that not only are individuals more satisfied with life when they have a sense of social connection, couples who have an active and shared social life report greater relationship satisfaction, too. Relationships flourish when they exist in a hospitable community that fosters the couples’ sense of belonging and worth. Just like folks who attend church tend to live longer, it is not necessarily the piety that is providing protective factors—it is the regular social connection and sense of mattering that arise from regular engagement with others.

Healthy Couples Enjoy Interdependence

This refers to that sense of self that is allowed to merge into a shared sense of coupledom. It’s the glue that allows couples to feel bound to one another, yet remaining independent and a part of not something, not consumed by something. Shared activities that encourage a shared identity are beneficial to facilitating the healthy interdependence that is needed to maintain relationships. When the excitement of the holidays is over, and the weather tends to turn pretty grim, it may be useful to learn that binge watching your favorite television shows or movie series together can help the glue stick.

Happiness Hinges on (Healthy) Binges?

Adults—coupled or no—seem to have increasing pulls on their time; it’s almost as if the time saved by new technology has created a vortex that draws us into spending even more time in individual pursuits on personal electronic devices. However, the developments related to media streaming, on demand viewing, and even the ancient VHS tapes actually do provide a potential relationship-enhancing and protecting factor. Researchers have found that when couples binge watch together, they are also creating a sense of interdependence in their virtual media community together.

While getting to know the neighbors isn’t as easy or as desirable today as it once might have been, getting to know the neighbors in your favorite sitcoms or dramas or sci-fi guilty pleasures is usually pretty cool. You and your significant other may be firmly and permanently planted in a locale hundreds of miles away from your in-laws, but you both enjoy the sense of family connection that you get from television series in which multi-generational families are found.

Not only does shared viewing of a show usually bring a couple physically together, you also enjoy getting to know the characters in the show at the same speed. Sure, you might figure out something about a character’s secret past or clandestine wish before your partner, but at least the two of you are on equal ground when you hash out who knows what and for how long. And if you can’t be together physically, the magic of streaming video allows you and your partner to drop into the show from wherever either of you might be. Listening to the same radio station on the phone used to be “a thing” fifty years ago, streaming the same original television series and sharing the drama is today’s way to stay connected with each other and the world.

So if the winter doldrums have hit you hard and you feel like the weather is as miserable as your mood, and this negative energy is encouraging thoughts of taking a break from the romantic relationship, maybe you should stay inside where it’s warm ... at least for a few more weeks Fire up the flat screen, snuggle up with your partner, and go for a walk down a new path—starting at episode one, season one, with the person who’s been a part of your current love story from when the series first began.

References

Gomillion, S., Gabriel, S., Kawakami, K., & Young, A. F. (2016). Let’s stay home and watch TV. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 1-20. Doi: 10.1177/0265407516660388