A weekly series in which our expert in all things everything solves life’s conundrums, big and small.  Got a problem that could use a no-nonsense perspective?  Tell it to the Co-It-All at voice@intheco.com


Dear Co-It-All,

Like everyone else in the world, my boyfriend and I have been watching Making A Murderer on Netflix. We had just three episodes left when I had to go away for five-days on a work trip. Now I’m back and I can see from the “recently watched” menu that he has watched ahead—not just ahead, but right to the end. When I brought up how excited I was to finally watch the rest of the show, he smiled, but then quickly changed the subject. Do I bust him? Keep quiet and let it slide? I know it sounds silly, but I’m really pissed.

It’s true that what you’re describing is not exactly House of Cards-level relationship drama. Still in these times of binge watching, spoilers, and shows-good-enough-to-lie-for, the scenario you’re describing—known officially as Netflix adultery—is not uncommon. Nor is it totally unimportant.  

Sharing a TV show with a significant or soon-to-be-significant other is an intimate experience, one that qualifies as “taking your relationship to the next level,” to borrow a bit of The Bachelor speak. One of my close girlfriends started seeing a new guy before the holidays. When she told me they had kissed, I thought—great! When she said he was taking her to a fancy restaurant for her birthday, I thought—lucky you! When she told me they were on Episode 3 of Narcos, I thought—wow, this is getting serious.

If we recognize that sharing a television show is an intimate act, then of course any betrayal of that intimacy is a totally jerky thing to do. So, are you allowed to be pissed? Heck, yes—not just allowed, but entitled!  So long as you recognize that there are varying degrees of injustice in this world (as a Making A Murderer viewer, you are probably already aware of this), and on the scale of slight infraction to unforgivable act of relationship treason, your boyfriend’s faux pas is likely the former. I say likely because I don’t know how the cheat fits into the bigger picture.

Question: Is watching ahead on your current show part of a larger profile of selfishness? I know TV adultery may seem (and largely is) a frivolous topic, but ultimately what we’re examining here is a scenario where your dude has put his own needs in front of yours. Does that happen frequently? Like, if you are on a flight together and both of you want the window seat, who would get it? Or, if he committed to hanging out with your friends and then all of a sudden his buddies invite him to a concert—does he ditch you?

Note that these drummed up “what ifs” aren’t black and white by any means. I’m just trying to remind you of what habitual selfishness might look like, and if it looks like this guy you’re dating, then it’s time to make a change (both in man and in Netflix password).

Let’s assume though, that we’re talking about more of a blip than a behavior pattern. Even so, ignoring it all together doesn’t feel right. Because it’s important to be able express how you are feeling in the face of betrayals big and small. Open communication is at the core of most successful relationships, so why let these feelings fester?

Just bring up the show again and let him know that he is totally busted. Say that you are really surprised that he would be so sneaky and dishonest. Add in that you would never dream of doing such a thing…and then make sure you cover your tracks on the “Recently Watched” menu if you ever do.

Which brings us to what is most important here—how to avoid tele-infidelity in the future.

Tip #1. I’m not sure how glam your business trips are, but if they’re the sort where you’re back alone in your hotel room making eyes at the mini bar by 10 pm, why not make a date to watch together? You can press play at the same time and text or even Skype throughout. (Wow—does that sound a little co-dependent? Alternatively, you can just agree on X number of episodes that you will both watch during the time apart.)

Tip #2: Find a few binge shows of your own and get him to do the same. You may be a couple, but surely your entertainment pallets are not totally in sync. My bf has Peaky Blinders, Daredevil, Penny Dreadful, while my go-to solo shows include Nashville, Gilmore Girls, the entire Shonda Rhimes catalogue. (Not that we’re living breathing gender stereotypes or anything). You know what they say—even in the most committed relationships, it’s nice to maintain your own interests and passions. It is probably also nice to have interests and passions that aren’t television, but on that front, I’m in no position to judge.