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Can watching TV shows together improve your relationship?

Good Question: Can watching TV shows together improve your relationship?
Good Question: Can watching TV shows together improve your relationship? 02:52

MINNEAPOLIS -- It can be a struggle at times to find something to watch on TV. But every now and then, there's a show you can't miss, nor enjoy alone.

"We watch so much television," said Joe Johnson as he stood by his wife Julie. 

They then revealed a calendar listing the TV shows they watch each night, down to the specifics of when new episodes premiere.

"Monday night is 'NCIS,' and Tuesday night is 'FBI,' Wednesday now is going to be 'Survivor,'" said the dedicated CBS viewers.

Dariella Bassler and her husband have differing interests when it comes to TV viewing, but they still find a few shows to share.

"'Abbott Elementary' is another good one we like to watch," said Bassler.

What do you get out of watching a show together?

"We get to bond over the show. We get to talk about the characters, and I see it as, we get closer," she said.

"It's the shared experience," said Joe Johnson.

They're far from alone. A survey found 66% of couples say watching TV together strengthened their relationship, while 55% said they adjust their child's sleep schedule to fit in TV time.

Ben Hoogland, a licensed marriage and family therapist and father of four, said he and his wife still sneak in time to watch shows together.

"It's a shared experience. We're watching the same thing. And even though we may not even talk about it, we still know we just saw the same thing and shared that experience together," said Hoogland.

Specifically, couples get to share in the emotions that come from a show. That could be excitement, fear, or joy.

"And be able to then talk about it or share that with your partner is on some level a form of emotional intimacy," said Hoogland.   

Rear view of a couple watching tv

He cautioned though that if sitting to watch a TV show together is the only time when a couple makes an emotional connection, it could become a problem.

Back to the positives, watching TV shows with your partner helps bring in different viewpoints and reactions.

"I see a situation on the show that maybe [my husband] doesn't see it the way I see it, and so maybe he'll give me a different perspective on it," said Bassler.

Can watching TV shows with a partner improve communication? Yes, according to Kevin Sauter, a former communications professor at the University of St. Thomas. 

"It engages communication facilitation, that you talk about it. 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," Sauter said.

While the conversation will likely incorporate plot lines and reactions to the actual content of the show, it can also go much deeper into understanding more about your partner as a person. 

"We all experience the world a little bit differently based on our, well a whole lot of factors, we'll call it a filter if you will. And, so learning how each other experiences that moment in the show different can provide a little bit of a glimpse," said Hoogland.

If you're struggling to find something to watch together, how can you find common ground?

"I have couples that sometimes will take turns watching a show based on one person's interest," said Hoogland.

"Sometimes you have to look for those shows and have some tolerance and patience to find programs that you can both enjoy," said Sauter, adding that partners shouldn't be condescending of the other partner's choice.

"When we come together, we make compromises and we say, 'Let's watch this,'" said Joe Johnson. 

His wife Julie quickly chimed in.

"We don't really compromise. We just kind of like the same shows," she said, with Joe smiling and agreeing.

Couples who share a friend group in real life often have a stronger bond. One study found when couples emotionally connect with TV show characters together, it's similar to sharing a friend group, thus strengthening their relationship.

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