Netflix And Chill? Watching Shows With Your Partner Can Actually Improve Your Relationship

For Quora user Charissa Enget, watching the AMC hit TV show, "The Walking Dead" with her long-distance partner resulted in the two of them coming up with ideas for what they'd do if the zombie apocalypse ever came to town. "Then, I moved to Denver and we watched 'Ozark' together. Obsessed again. We both love Ruth," wrote Enget on the forum. Next, the couple got into the riveting tale of Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) in "Breaking Bad." Two seasons in, and Enget's beau shaved his beard to look like the drug-peddling chemist White. "This is a new level," Enget concluded. 

If there's one thing long-distance couples know to do well, it's watching shows together. There's a whole new meaning to Netflix and chill when partners kept apart by miles find a connection in downtime that involves engaging in the lives of fictional characters together. Even in local relationships, you're probably more than familiar with coming back from work, turning on the TV, and sitting next to your spouse to enjoy a show together. You might do this without much thought as to what the activity is actually doing for your relationship. 

As it happens, just like learning your partner's love language is important for improving your relationship, quality time in front of the TV could be doing something for you too.  

The benefits of Netflix and chilling with your significant other

There are three different benefits to watching shows together: it improves communication, gives you an opportunity for shared experience, and builds physical intimacy. Professor Emeritus of Communication Studies Kevin Sauter told CBS News that watching fictional characters tackle life opens a window to talk about a couple's own similar real-life challenges. "Let's say a child-rearing issue comes up on the sitcom. All of a sudden you're talking about it in how you're raising your children," he explained. It's an insight into the mind of your partner who likely sees the world differently than you.

You may remember ardently admiring a movie character as a kid. Do you recall how engrossed you were in the corresponding setting? Getting into the worlds created by TV shows with your partner does something similar for you as an adult, according to a 2016 study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. One of the authors of the study, Sarah Gomillion, wrote to Scientific American that the survey shows that "couples can use shared experiences with TV shows and movies as a strategy to compensate for lacking shared social experiences in the real world." 

Furthermore, sitting close to your partner on a sofa or bed, all snug and comfortable, can also pave the way for physical intimacy, per The Open University Professor of Sociology and Intimacy Dr. Jacqui Gabb (via Paired Magazine).

Want to try watching shows together? Here are some things to keep in mind

The habit might seem simple enough but you may run into some roadblocks, especially if you and your partner have different tastes in shows. Try not to criticize or make fun of your partner's suggestions. Sauter shared with CBS News, "Sometimes you have to look for those shows and have some tolerance and patience to find programs that you can both enjoy."

Once you've settled on a few Netflix shows, throw some thought into the affair. Gabb shared in Paired Magazine that incorporating special food — like popcorn or candy — and setting a nice ambiance can go a long way. For long-distance couples, this might mean picking times that work for both of your time zones. And if Netflix has canceled some of the shows you both want to watch, try Amazon Prime or Apple TV. You could even download some series beforehand and go through them in order of preference for you both.  

The important thing to remember is that you're intentional about the time you carve out to spend together, and if possible, use the worlds the shows create as a way to get to know your partner better. The interesting thing about humans is that we have layers, and there's always something about someone you didn't know before. Your partner isn't an exception.