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 something 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 actually have positive impacts on 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, and this provided a fondly treasured reference point.
For example, over the course of their pregnancy, one couple watched the entire 5 seasons of "The Wire". It may not be the most romantic of programs, 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.
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 movies – with popcorn, bottles of beer, and a bag of pick ‘n mix? Turn off the main light 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.
Pick out a series or movie that has a special meaning for you and your partner. Agree 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 programme that’s important, but its 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.
So, kick back and enjoy that time on the sofa!
Jacqui is Professor of Sociology and Intimacy at The Open University in the UK and Chief Relationships Officer at Paired.
Her 'Enduring Love?' study on long-term couple relationships has received widespread critical acclaim, with findings being reported in national and international media, including: BBC World News, CNN, the New York Post, and more.
Her research and impact activities have been recognised by three prestigious awards: the BSA Philip Abrams Memorial prize (2009, the Open University Engaging Research Award (2014), the Evelyn Gillian Research Impact Award (2016).