A Simple Way to Enhance Intimacy: Watch TV “Together”

Research tells us that what is novel or out of the ordinary has been found to change neurochemistry and actually stimulate hormones related to excitement and desire. If you are one of many couples who like different TV shows that you watch in different rooms, consider the novelty of finding, saving and watching a show together. It may well enhance intimacy!

Enhanced intimacy is much more than watching a show together once and ending up being sexual. It is building a pattern that includes a mini pause in the midst of a non-stop culture, with non-stop media prompts to privately share something interesting and enjoyable. In a couples’ life the treasures are often found in the simple things shared.

Why Watching A TV Show Works?

  • It involves three domains of communication, which build intimacy- companionship, empathy and physical connection.
  • Without having to hire a babysitter or make a restaurant reservation, the plan to stop everything to be alone to watch a mutually selected show sounds small but is emotionally big.
  • It implies attunement to each other’s interests when making a mutual choice, the desire to be together and an effort to make it happen.
  • It invites companionship, increases awareness of each other’s reactions, and offers a common topic to reference or speak about.
  • It invites closeness. When people are doing the same thing, at the same thing in the same room there is a chance they are going to feel closer and even become sexually closer.
  • When people plan to actually leave their favorite chairs to sit together to watch“ this show” they have enhanced the novelty and increased the chance of intimacy.

What About Content?

While the most important ingredient is the mutuality of your choice, certain content areas have different additional benefits.

Comedy -Laughter and intimacy go together. A couple that laughs together shares something beyond words. In studying humor in married life, researchers found that humor promoted intimacy, belonging and cohesiveness. It actually changes us physically.  Spending an evening laughing is always a good thing.

Drama- What we know about literature and films is that they often have the capacity to bear witness to life issues and feelings that cannot be represented in another ways. As such films become interactive experiences for viewers. Partners may be moved to private memories or emotions in the shared experience of viewing. They may be moved to speak about memories or issues (illness, loss, parents, friends) in their life that have formerly been difficult to address.  On the other hand, for many it will be the silent viewing “together” that will offer more than words can say.

Reality Performance Shows- Many couples have shared the enjoyment and excitement of watching “ American Idol” The Voice” etc. not to mention competitive cooking or other reality shows. Some partners have been surprised at learning of the others interests or childhood talents or dreams. It goes without saying that what is watched together often becomes a bridge to the dance class or cooking class they decide to take together.

This is a culture that spends a great deal of time in front of screens of every type and size, downloading, saving, forwarding and streaming everything from news to sports and more.

Back in the sixties, Marshall McLuhan proposed, “the median is the message.”  We might re-consider that when a couple stops to watch TV “ together”… they are using the medium on their terms in a way to send their message of connection.



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Comment by Marcia on March 10, 2014 at 10:24am

Great point, Suzanne. I think it's the nights when we flip aimlessly from one sitcom rerun to another that I start to realize we're in a rut. We're still sharing the experience, but it's pretty mindless, rather than a deliberate, special shared experience.

Comment by Dr. Suzanne B. Phillips on March 9, 2014 at 12:32am

Patience: I am delighted to read your comment and to hear that you are enjoying the benefits of " Shared TV" viewing - Keep watching - Suzanne

Comment by Dr. Suzanne B. Phillips on March 9, 2014 at 12:27am

HI Marcia: Thanks for your comment and I really like your question - How do we keep from getting into the rut of TV watching? I think the real answer is that TV watching or any activity that we choose to share with our partner really enhances intimacy when it is chosen as something special to be shared. We might consider that "just watching" is one thing, the plan to watch a " certain show or movie" is something special. Thanks again - Suzanne

Comment by Patience on March 8, 2014 at 1:41am
Dr. Phillips, I love what you said about watching TV and the enhancement of closeness and I believe it to be true. I come from a large family and we've always been close but I've lately seen that comprising on a program to watch have brought us even closer together. So count me in!
Comment by Marcia on March 3, 2014 at 5:03pm

You make some great points, and I agree! My household has only ever had one TV, and we've always tried to make TV viewing a family affair. You could choose your own program if you were the only one in the room, but if we were all sitting down together, we had to come to some agreement. Now it's just my husband and me making the choices, and we still try to agree (at least most of the time).

We have very different viewing tastes, but there are some areas we agree on (comedies, cooking shows and some movies or series we download). It is important to try to find that common ground. If he turns on something I really can't stand to have on, even as background noise (because it's loud), then I let him know that I am going to another part of the house to read, unless he'd like to change to something we'd both enjoy.

The flip side of watching TV together is avoiding watching too much TV -- how you keep from falling into the rut of just watching TV every night. That becomes a danger once the kids are grown and activities with them cease. How do you avoid night after night of mindlessly watching TV? I am working on that, but your advice is always welcome. Maybe that's a blog for another day.

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