Is "The Bachelor" Hurting Your Relationship?

How TV love affects real-world commitment

Posted Feb 26, 2013

And it’s all in good fun. Watching this kind of television has no effect on your real-world relationship. Or does it?

Nearly 400 married people were asked about their television viewing habits and their relationship commitment for a study published in the journal of Mass Communication and Society. Programs from medical dramas to dating games and soap operas to reality shows include themes of love and human bonding. The question posed by the researcher was: will watching a lot of these shows increase the perception that you have attractive alternatives to your partner? And will that perception reduce your relationship commitment? After the researcher compiled the numbers, that appeared to be the case. The more romantic programming people watched, the more they believed they had good alternatives to their marriage, and also, the lower their commitment to their marriage.

We all compare our relationships to other relationships we see in our culture, even if that’s the unrealistic portrayals in romantically-themed television shows. Consuming this media can increase our expectations and make us believe there are more attractive partners who will bring us more joy with little cost. While taking in these media can have a negative effect, more important is whether we believe the representation. We can consume romantic media without harming our commitment if we remind ourselves it isn’t real.

If you are easily influenced by what you see on television, you may want to remind yourself that what you are watching is for “entertainment purposes only.” If that isn’t enough, consider limiting your exposure to the romantic, sexy stuff in order to remain focused and committed to your current relationship.

Heidi Reeder, Ph.D. is the author of the forthcoming book, Commit to Win (Hudson Street Press).

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Reference: Osborn, J. L. (2012). When TV and marriage meet: A social exchange analysis of the impact of television viewing on marital satisfaction and commitment. Mass Communication and Society, 15(5), 739-757.