Netflix has always played an important role in my relationship with my husband.
When we first started dating in college—back in the days when Netflix sent DVDs by mail and only the weirdest movies were available for streaming—Thomas and I would binge watch canceled TV shows to keep ourselves awake during late night study sessions. Some of my favorite memories of our early relationship are of watching Firefly and Flash Forward together at 2 o’clock in the morning while we pretended to finish our homework.
After college, we kept up our Netflix habits throughout our long-distance relationship. Our favorite “date night” activity during those years was to watch shows at the same time and comment about them over text message. I know that sounds really lame, but trust me when I say that you have to make do with what you have when there is an ocean between you and your significant other.
As Thomas and I quickly discovered, though, it is actually a lot more complicated to watch a streaming movie with someone thousands of miles away than you might think. I had assumed that the process would be simple: pull up the movie on both of our computers, count down “3…2…1…” over the phone, and simultaneously press play. However, the reality was that there was always some sort of problem with our ability to watch shows together.
Inconsistent internet and phone delays were the major hurdles to our movie streaming endeavors. I can’t tell you the number of times that Thomas and I painstakingly got both of our videos lined up to the second, only to have my connection cut out moments after we pressed play. Other times, we would get the movie going for a few minutes, but then one of us would have to use the bathroom or there would be a distraction. Anytime there was a glitch or interruption, Thomas and I would both have to pause, recalibrate where we were at in the show, and start over again.
Our long-distance movie watching was admittedly a pretty inefficient process. A thirty minute TV episode could take us more than two hours to get through, and most of our time was spent just trying to restart our video again. Sometimes the problems with the streaming were really frustrating, but since the whole purpose of Netflix was to be something that we could share long distance in our relationship, we had fun with it anyway. It was more important for us to slow down and be able to watch the same scenes at the same time than it was to maximize the total number of movies or episodes that we could finish. Netflix was never really about the movies we were watching, but rather the person that we were watching it with.
Fortunately, Thomas and I don’t have to deal with those struggles in our relationship anymore. Getting married and finally living in the same place means that we get to snuggle up on the couch and binge watch our favorite shows together like a normal couple. (Although not being able to get Internet or cell reception at our house has recently forced us to get creative again with our Netflix habits–sometimes we drive to the other side of town where there is a good data signal just so we can sit in the car and stream to our devices.)
When I look back on our years of long distance dating, I can see how Netflix taught us an important lesson about being on the same page in our relationship. Like many couples, Thomas and I often find ourselves falling out of sync with each other in the hustle of our work and everyday stresses. As weird as it seems to compare real life to Netflix, I think that this is actually a lot like those times in the past when one of us would fall behind in our streaming movie or TV show. We could always have just kept watching separately in those situations, but it would have defeated the purpose of experiencing the movie together. In the same way, in our marriage we constantly have to pause to check in with each other and recalibrate our relationship.
If my years of watching Netflix with my husband have taught me anything, it is that being in a relationship with Thomas means committing to getting through life with him moment by moment, episode by episode, and scene by scene. It can take a lot of extra time and energy for us to stay on track mentally and emotionally in our marriage, but it is ultimately the only way to make sure that we stick together in the epic story of our lives and our marriage.
Flickr/ David Mulder