Why would you ever go outside for a date night when you've got Netflix instead? And now that's especially true, thanks to a new study in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships that says binge-watching TV shows together can bring you closer as a couple.
Researchers at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland tested this theory with two different studies. In the first, they recruited 259 college students who were in exclusive relationships for an average of 16 months. Participants reported information about their relationships and answered questions about their relationship quality, the number of friends they shared, and how often they watched movies and TV shows with their partners.
The scientists found that relationship quality was higher if a couple shared a larger number of friends, which makes sense—and that effect was also there if they shared lots of media. And for you cynics out there, the research ruled out the average time couples spent together, which means that binge-watchers weren't just closer because they spent more time with one another. The media had a specific effect on their bond.
In the second study, 131 participants were asked to think about the friends they shared or did not share with their partners; they then were asked about their desire to watch movies and TV shows with their partners, and how much they watched things together. It turns out that participants who were reminded about friends they didn't share with their loved ones were more motivated to "share media" with them.
The study boils down to this: If a couple lacks mutual friends in the real world, the characters on the shows they watch together can be a pretty decent substitute. If you spend hours debating whether Walter White was the hero or the villain of Breaking Bad, it can have the same effect as, say, gossiping over your friend Judy's latest relationship drama. You're still sharing a social world, even if it's fictional.
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Megan Friedman is the former managing editor of the Newsroom at Hearst. She's worked at NBC and Time, and is a graduate of Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism.
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