How Couples Watch TV: A Valentine’s Day Survey

How Couples Watch TV: A Valentine's Day Survey

How Couples Watch TV: A Valentine’s Day Survey


My partner likes to joke that if he actually watches TV it will ruin our relationship.

A lifelong insomniac, Hunter spent too many nights in college, primarily responsible for the entire TV season from dusk to dawn. Eventually, he had to give up something – so he started a cold war, cutting his own life in the name of good sleep hygiene.

When dating a professional TV critic, one might think this would be a problem: I watch TV for a living, and even like to discuss it without overtime; he doesn’t watch TV at all. But in the two and a half years we’ve been together, our media habits have proved oddly complementary. With no preference, Hunter is basically a blank slate. At the same time, I have an ace at work that needs to see things.Most of the time, we stick to movies or odd episodes Iron Chef. Occasionally, we’ll look at a filter I couldn’t squeeze into the workday, and he’d come up with his ideas as I scribbled notes. It’s a system that works for both of us.

In other words, we rarely debate whether or how to watch TV shows. But from conversations with friends, colleagues and acquaintances — discussions that come naturally given my interests and career — I know it’s a rare luxury.I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve come up with weekly plot-heavy shows like succession to a friend, Just ordered not to spoil: They promised to watch it with their girlfriend, but she has a busy month at work, so they’re a few weeks behind.Or get a text from someone who just got the latest news below deck Because they are afraid that their real partner is not in town. Or hear from a couple in need of eclectic advice and make a list of their individual tastes, hopefully I’ll suggest a show in their Venn diagram hub.

As trivial as it may seem, TV plays a big role in romantic partnerships, but it’s not always frictionless. It makes sense when you think about it. Part of what has always fascinated me about the medium, aside from any particular show or trend, is how intimate it is—the physical location of television in our homes, and how connected it is to the rhythm of our daily lives. It’s natural for TV to be bound by other forms of intimacy, especially when a relationship gets serious. We often associate movies with going to the theater early. (Streaming complicates this to some extent, especially during a pandemic, but we’re talking generalities here.) TV is for families and people close enough to share.

So this Valentine’s Day, I decided to look into how other couples manage their media diets and potentially related issues. What follows is hardly a scientific study – although if any anthropologist is reading this, I’d love to read it. Instead, it gives us a glimpse into how our choices about what to watch are more than just entertainment.

“I joked the other day that I wanted to write a paper titled ‘Dishwasher,'” says Orna Guralnik, a practicing psychologist and psychoanalyst in New York City. “But I think ‘The TV Show’ could be one thing,” she said: a symbolic, seemingly mundane site of conflict and compromise. “The amount of discussion and the way people talk about how to watch TV together is very unusual,” she observed.

You may know Guralnik as the titular therapist couples therapy, Showtime Documentary. After all, who better to talk about couples and TV than a couples therapist? on television?

The primacy of television to certain relationships partly reflects the primacy of television in culture as a whole, especially over the past few years. The rise of prestigious conversation-driven shows has put pressure on people to watch hilarious shows attentively and quickly. The move to streaming made it possible to summon a massive catalog at the touch of a button, leading to endless scrolling and decision fatigue.Add to that a pandemic and watching TV at home has become one of the very limited options, and it’s no wonder that TV has become a hotspot.

When I called for examples in this way on social media, I received an immediate flood of responses. Some of the funniest come from couples I know in real life who can share both sides of the story. “Justin won’t watch any science fiction or fantasy,” vent Ringer Danger! Claire McNeil, her husband’s correspondent. (reply to Justin: “My spouse has been acting like a baby Danger! For me, please help. ”) McNeill added: “He called them both ‘Dragon Shows’. He’d be in the other room watching the burst blood vessels in the old man’s eyes, yelling at Ben Simmons, and he’d be like, ‘Oh, are you watching the dragon show? ‘” McNeil said the genre ban was so complete that even extended shows like yellow jacket, The supernatural element is ambiguous: “This man should be sent to TV Azkaban.”

My friend Steven told me that the varying speed at which he and his partner Allegra watch TV was “our biggest relationship pain point” in the relationship, which now spans 7 years and multiple actions, for context. Allegra is a series watcher who regularly inhales TV seasons across multiple devices, motivated by the need to keep up with larger conversations; Steven is more organized, watching a few episodes at a time to unwind before bed. “He likes to immerse himself in the story,” Allegra explained. “For me, when I listen to five different podcast episodes, I’m ecstatic Rear I’ve finished it as soon as possible. And fewer philosophical questions, more logistical ones: Steven goes to bed hours before Allegra, so she often watches shows in their bedroom with headphones on while he sleeps with earplugs on and blindfolds.

These anecdotes touch on some of the challenges of watching TV in a relationship: different tastes in what to watch; different reasons for watching it; different ways of how we live. There are things to consider, such as having free time at home, or whether we’re better off focusing on work that has white noise — say, a sitcom rerun in the background — or complete silence. Television exists at the intersection of these practical and subjective issues, making it a relatively low-risk place to address fundamental questions about the life you’ve built with your partner.

In Guralnik’s experience, it often reveals whether each half of a couple is even want to Watch TV in pairs.For some people, “seeing things together means a lot to them. If everyone is looking at their own stuff, they feel that something is not right, or that they are missing something. While others are more naturally inclined [say], ‘You do your thing, I do mine. What’s the problem? ‘” Thinking of the way my own church and country view schedules, I feel a thrill of approval. It turns out that even a 20-minute TV counselor can be amazingly revelatory.

Tolstoy made us believe that all happy families are alike. But in gathering stories for this article, I discovered the opposite: There are as many ways to reach a mutual understanding of television as there are shows to watch—that is, almost limitless.

Reacting to the sheer number of options, not to mention their own complex schedules, some couples become pragmatic about their leisure time. Andrew, a reader who wrote by email, gave an exhaustive overview of how he and his spouse keep track of everything on their dockets: “We keep electronic records of all the shows we watch on various streaming services. table, plus a tag for the current season of radio shows we watch. We’ve been doing this since fall 2014 (trust me, I know it’s crazy).”

Other systems are less scientific, but still formal enough to have names. Rob and his wife, Stacey, play what they call a “television game”: one partner suggests three potential shows, and the other chooses from them. They alternated who proposed the show and who picked the show, but they all drew their selections from shared, constantly updated Google Keep notes. Rob says it’s a play on the 5-3-1 rule to make the most of their limited free time: “Having a system really helps reduce scrolling time and indecision – choose from three options Than from unlimited options!”

I also heard “shark tank Rules” (any party can declare itself “out” at any given time); this”cat Rules” (check how each party felt in 16 minutes, exactly as they did in the 2019 movie musical cat); and the “60/20/20 rule” (about three-fifths of overall TV viewing is co-viewing, while each half of the couple has their own individual choice). Regardless of what their practitioners choose to call them, these tips stem in large part from the cornerstone of any healthy relationship: communicating your needs and accepting your partner’s priorities as part of yourself.

Just because TV seems trivial doesn’t mean it can’t be a good practice for a broadly applicable skill. Roman Gupta, a licensed therapist in the Los Angeles area, says, “Any conflict, any separation of ideas, or disagreement of ideas is an opportunity for couples to talk about how they feel and what they want.” (It was an opportunity he was personally familiar with; one time With his wife back at the office and Gupta continuing to work from home during the pandemic, he had to exercise restraint while watching some of “their” shows during his lunch break.) Also an opportunity to really learn how to compromise” — or in some cases Next, try to be honest. Gupta said he once worked with a guy who admitted to covering their tracks by restarting the streaming show, so it wasn’t obvious that they would keep watching future episodes.

On the other hand, the habit of watching TV can also be a red flag. If you can’t be flexible and open about deciding what to wear before bed, what chance do you have to be more receptive about how to decorate your home or where to spend Thanksgiving? “If someone isn’t bending over to watch TV, they’re probably the one who keeps saying ‘OK, I don’t want to go to that restaurant,'” says Trina Leckie, a US-based breakup coach and podcaster . British Columbia. “They probably won’t succumb in many other areas of life either.”

Finally, television has the opportunity to be a shared experience, both to support the contestants survivor or sobbing through eleven stops, It can also act as a numbing distraction. Guralnik says TV often comes up as a symbol of a troubled couple: “They sometimes say, all we do is watch TV together. It kind of shows that everything else has evaporated,” she said. “In a way, sometimes TV can be a retreat from everything else.” In both cases, the question at hand is far greater than whether one party can tolerate it The Mandalorian. But something as ubiquitous as TV can still serve as a temperature check — a kind of canary in the content mine.

At best, though, TV isn’t necessarily the problem to be solved. A barrier for one couple is another opportunity to connect and create shared memories.And because of this Yes On Valentine’s Day, perhaps it’s best to go out with a positive mindset.

Jason and his wife Sarah met about 15 years ago. Not long after they started dating, Sarah convinced Jason to join her on reruns of the first three seasons. Grey’s Anatomy on DVD. (Remember those?) Around the same time, the duo marathon season four top chef, Which features franchise staples Richard Blais and Stephanie Izard. Somehow both shows are on the air, making them the two cornerstones of a decade-and-a-half relationship. “I have my show and I watch it without her,” Jason said. “She has her show…

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