Binge-watching: The new date night for parents

Compulsive TV watching with your spouse doesn’t have to mean you’re in a marriage rut. Does it?

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I blame it on Dexter. It was the first “special” TV show that Sean and I got into, and were able to watch episodes, then whole seasons, on our own schedule. It felt like the perfect source of evening entertainment for parents of young kids: compelling drama on a big(ish) screen, with no need for a babysitter, make-up, or even getting out of our comfy clothes.

We continued on with some regular network TV shows once we got PVR and could just record everything and watch it when we had time. Then it was Game of Thrones, which I initially watched only to try to show interest in something Sean liked, but somehow got sucked in (even when I was morally repulsed by everything on the screen).

Being able to watch what we wanted when we wanted—and good shows, at that—felt like a great way to spend time together. But I wondered if it was totally lame. I couldn’t bring myself to admit to people that, night after night, we just sat and watched TV. Shouldn’t we be out discovering cool new restaurants, drinking sherry on our porch as we pondered life, or reading poetry aloud?

Read more: In defense of the boring marriage>

I knew we’d sunk to a new depth of reclusion when this happened: The girls were both away (Anna at camp, Avery at my parents’) for a span of four days and three nights. Sean and I were so excited to have a few evenings without kid pick-up, dinner drama and bedtime stories about princesses or kids named after fruit. We weren’t stuck at home—we could do whatever we wanted! We scanned the movie listings to see if we could take in a flick, maybe after a leisurely dinner at a grown-up restaurant. There was nothing we really wanted to see, though we pondered going to a movie we didn’t actually want to see, just because we could. But, after working all day (and later than usual, because we didn’t have to pick up kids), time was actually a little tight. Then I said, “Why don’t we order Chinese and watch a bunch of Breaking Bad?” Sean’s eyes lit up. It was like he’d fallen in love with me all over again. We spent the night trying not to get sweet and sour sauce on the couch, engrossed in Walter White’s drama.

And it was, you know, fun. More satisfying (and so much cheaper!) than dinner and a movie. It wasn’t lost on us that we were doing something we totally could have done when the kids were home. (But we didn’t have to turn the volume down during the loud swear-y parts and, because we could sleep later in the morning, we could stay up to watch more episodes!)

Read more: Why you should be watching more TV>

Sitting with your husband to watch TV every night doesn’t seem the least bit romantic or like an activity that would bring you closer together (in fact, it sounds a little bit like the rut you get into when you’ve hit that point in your marriage and need to shake things up), but I think the opposite can be true. Watching dozens of episodes of a great TV shown in a short period of time can pull you into a vivid shared experience with your spouse where, together, you’re rooting for characters, predicting plot twists (or hitting each other when you’re shocked by them) and using teamwork to decide if you can stay up for another episode (“Just one more” always seems like a good idea at the time). You get invested in these characters and discussion of their lives and relationships and stupid decisions can fill any empty pockets in your day-to-day life. Binge-watching is a gift that keeps on giving until, of course, you run out of episodes.

We really should get out of the house sometime soon, though. It’s probably not healthy for TV to be our sole source of evening entertainment, especially since it’s summer (it’s still summer, right?). But not until after we plough through the last season of Breaking Bad, yo.

What have been your favourite TV series to binge-watch? We’re ready for some new recommendations!

Follow along as Today’s Parent senior editor Tracy Chappell shares her refreshingly positive take on parenting her two young daughters. She’s been blogging her relatable experiences for our publication since 2005. Read more of her Tracy’s mama memoir posts and tweet her@T_Chappell.

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