Binge-watching the next season of Orange Is The New Black may just be the kick in the pants your relationship could need, suggests a recent study published in Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

A group of researchers from Canada, the UK, and the United States. recruited over 200 college undergraduates involved in relatively long-term relationships (an average of 16 months) to take part in a survey. The students were asked about the quality of their relationships, how many friends they shared with their partners, and the length of time they spent watching TV shows and other forms of media together. While having a wider shared social circle was more greatly associated with a positively rated relationship, so was watching a lot of media together. For those who didn’t have many common friends in particular, the act of binge-watching was especially correlated with better relationship quality, indicating that it helped couples bridge the gap between their different social worlds.

"What these results suggest to us is that when people have a hole in their social network that they share with their partners they might become more motivated to share media as a way to compensate for that deficit,” said the study's lead author Dr. Sarah Gomillion told BBC News.

Remote control Watching lots of movies and shows with your romantic partner may help shore up your relationship, especially if you don't have many common friends, suggests a recent study. Pixabay, Public Domain

A second smaller experiment added more clarity to the initial findings by Gomillion and her team. Students were first asked to either write about the shared friends they had with their partners or the friends they didn’t share at all. They were then asked if they had any immediate desire to start watching their favorite movie or show with their romantic beaus. Those who were primed to think about the friends they didn’t share with their partner were more likely to want quality snuggle time on the couch, but only if they were already a big TV or movie fan to begin with. 

Those made to be at ease about their shared social networks were also less likely to want more mutual watching time, further suggesting that binge-watching sessions aren’t just about spending more time with your beloved — they’re a way of building a shared world of in-jokes and memories that might otherwise go unfilled by the lack of common friends.

"Watching TV with a partner or watching a movie you both like is a really easy way to improve relationship quality and anyone can do it at any time so if this is something that is good for relationships, it might help us identify an intervention that can improve relationship quality," Gomillion said.

Because the researchers only asked one side of the couple weigh in on their relationships, they hope that future research can tease out whether the effect applies to both partners equally or whether there’s such as a thing as too much binge-watching time together. Although there’s hardly anything wrong with small doses of binge-watching, some research does indicate that it can negatively impact both your physical and mental health.

Ultimately, while picking up a mutually enjoyable hobby or scheduling more group dates may help your relationship stay strong (and keep you both more fit), it seems that making room for the occasional Netflix marathon can’t hurt, so long as shows and movies are already your thing.

Source: Gormillion S, Gabriel S, Kawakami K, et al. Let’s Stay home And Watch TV: The Benefits Of Shared Media Use For Close Relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. 2016.