For better or worse, Netflix and other streaming services play a major role in modern relationships, from the ~talking~ stage all the way to marriage. At first, they’re the pretext for getting cozy together on a couch or bed (“Netflix and chill”). Months or years later, they become a bonding experience. Every couple has their “shows” — the ones you queue up together after long days of work and don’t dare watch without each other.
If you get really lucky, both people enjoy the same types of movies and TV shows. But what if you don’t? What if one of you loves sci-fi and the other can’t stop watching “90 Day Fiance?” Sometimes, one person (usually the more decisive one) tends to take control of the TV. Or you both fight for control over the remote, and whoever loses that day perpetually groans and scrolls through their phone, annoyed that they’re being forced to watch something they couldn’t care less about.
I’m going to make the case that you should let your girlfriend (or partner, or wife, or boo-friend) pick the Netflix show or movie next time. Unless she always picks, in which case IT’S YOUR TURN. Basically, you need to learn to compromise. Here’s why.
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Netflix can draw you closer together
Contrary to claims that Netflix is “ruining” modern relationships, experts say that TV shows can help draw partners closer to one another. “For some couples, just the act of physically being close together while watching a television show or movie — cuddling, laughing, or even crying together — can create and allow for intimacy in a relationship,” Saba Harouni Lurie, licensed marriage and family therapist and founder of Take Root Therapy, tells GO.
TV shows can create a deeper sense of connection by drawing both people into a shared imaginary world, according to a 2016 study. Shows and movies also provide an opportunity to bond with your partner by discussing the events and characters on the show.
“Intimacy in romantic relationships is often the result of vulnerability,” Lurie explains. “Television shows and movies can ignite those vulnerable conversations, ones we might not otherwise have with our partners.”
An exercise in decision-making
When you’re picking something to watch on Netflix together, both people should be a part of the decision-making process. A 2019 study shows that couples who make decisions collaboratively are more likely to be successful in the long run. This applies to major decisions like marriage and kids, but it also applies to seemingly small decisions, like what to watch on TV.
Shared decision-making doesn’t necessarily mean that you sit down and take a vote every single time, but it does mean that you always take each other’s preferences into account, and you both get an equal say. “Compromise and sacrifice” is the name of the game here.
“Just like many decisions in a relationship, try to keep your partner in mind,” Lurie advises. “Think about the both of you and hold their desires and needs as highly as your own while you consider solutions and how to compromise.”
Just take turns
Research aside, there is the reality that picking a TV show or movie takes forever, even if you don’t have a partner to please. The endless scrolling! The 5,000 different streaming platforms! The confusing mixed reviews! Sometimes you might have the time and patience to scroll and decide together with your girlfriend, but when you don’t? Just take turns.
Next time, let your girlfriend pick. Then you pick after that. Then she picks. Then you pick. Get the picture?
No matter who is choosing, the decision should be a mindful one. This is not an excuse to force your partner to watch that show that melts her brain. It’s important to “be intentional” about the choice, Lurie says.
“Are you choosing something because you think both you and your partner would enjoy it? Are you choosing something because you want to share a specific moment of your life with your partner? Or are you choosing something just because you think you’ll like it and you want your partner to take one for the team?” Lurie asks.
“If the latter is the case, maybe consider watching that television show or movie on your own, and instead keep your partner in mind while making a decision for the two of you.”
Even if one person likes sci-fi and the other likes “90 Day Fiancé,” you’re sure to find some type of middle ground in the thousands of shows available. (You’re both gay, so why not try some lesbian and queer TV shows?) Keep a list so you don’t have to pick a show on the spot every time you feel like plopping down onto the couch and watching something new.
As you find more shows and movies that can go into the “shared” pile, you’ll naturally get a sense of which kinds you can both get into and which ones are an absolute no-go. Those latter shows go into the “me” pile.
Take time for your own shows
You don’t have to watch every show together — you’re allowed to have different tastes and spend some time alone. “It is healthy for two individuals in a relationship to have their own interests, and that includes interests in television shows and movies,” Lurie says.
This is a great way to compromise by saving some shows for just you. But try not to alienate your partner while doing so, even if you’re using the shared TV.
“If you are navigating the desire to watch a show that your partner isn’t interested in, have a conversation around when the best time would be to watch your shows or movies separately,” Lurie says. “Maybe you take turns watching your own shows while the other partner prepares a meal or cleans up; maybe one of you watches something on the television and the other streams something from the laptop; perhaps one watches their show or movie while the other takes a break to connect with friends.”
If you still want the cuddly TV-watching experience, you can always invite your partner to sit on the couch with you and do their own activity, like a crossword or painting their nails, while you watch your show. Get creative! Compromise!
The point is to put your relationship first, not yourself, or your favorite show. Because Netflix is great — truly, a hero in the fight against boredom when you just want to be lazy. But it’s definitely not worth picking fights over.