Have you ever cheated on your spouse—by viewing an episode of a series you’ve been watching together?
If so, you’re not alone with your video infidelity. According to Netflix, 46% of people who stream shows with their significant others have snuck episodes on their own. There’s even a name for this modern form of unfaithfulness— “Netflix cheating”—though it can apply to any TV streaming channel.
You may think that this is exaggerating the scale of the misdeed just a bit, but before you dismiss Netflix cheating entirely, consider that watching TV shows together—that most unexciting of evening activities—is good for a marriage. Research recently published in Journal of Social and Personal Relationships found that when couples watch TV shows and movies together, it tends to strengthen their relationships.
Netflix cheaters inevitably argue that theirs is a very minor misstep, one that reveals nothing more than impatience. They just got so caught up in the show that they couldn’t wait to find out what happened next. But the fact that Netflix cheaters give in to this impatience suggests that they prioritize their own enjoyment ahead of shared experiences with their partners, which is troubling.
If you’ve been the victim of video infidelity, put a positive slant on this issue when you raise it with your TV-unfaithful partners. Rather than say, “That hurt my feelings when you watched our show without me,” which could trigger a defensive response, we should say, “I feel close to you when we watch our show together.” There is less accusation in this second approach, improving the odds of productive exchange.
There is one positive aspect to Netflix cheating—it can occur only when couples are close enough to start watching shows together in the first place. When long-term couples are in serious trouble, they often stop sharing shows entirely.