The more television that people watch, the more disappointed viewers are with their romantic relationships, according to an Israeli study of university students conducted at Ariel University.

Prof. Amir Hetsroni, of the school of communications, and Abira Reizer, of the university’s department of behavioral sciences, looked at 188 undergraduates, 142 of them women (reflecting the greater representation of women on campus), with a mean age of 25. Only those who were currently involved in romantic relationships were included in the study, which has just been published in the journal Psychological Reports. Most of them were unmarried, while the majority were unmarried but some of those living with a partner.

The participants were asked not only about their TV watching but also about their use of Internet (for non-work purposes) and newspaper reading. This data was compared with their commitment to their relationship, satisfaction with the relationship and their partner and their tendency to get involved in conflicts with their partner.

“These results are in line with the assumption that unrealistic beliefs, expectations, and standards based on distorted assumptions impair the subjective assessment of intimate relationship quality,” researchers wrote. “People feel disappointed when their expectations are not met.”

Researchers said that TV viewing is a better predictor of relationship quality than is the use of new media or newspaper reading.

“It is the presentation of the ‘ideal’ as ‘typical’ that arguably makes media images influential and potentially harmful for heavy viewers, who may feel as if their own relationships do not measure up to those observed media ideals,” researchers said.

The results of the study, in which participants self-reported their TV viewing and the amount of satisfaction from their relationships, were that a large amount of time spent in front of the TV set predicted more conflicts, lower satisfaction from their relationship and even a tendency to be unfaithful.

How much TV time they reported predicted commitment to relationships better than demographic data or the history of their relationship.

If the students spent more time watching TV, they tended to have relatively low commitment to the relationship.

Watching a lot of TV shows whose characters were romantically involved, such as reality or comedy shows, predicted fighting by the couple and low satisfaction with the relationship.

Previous research had found that watching TV shows in which sex is a theme correlates with lower satisfaction with one’s own sex life and that more exposure to TV was correlated to pessimistic expectations about one’s financial status.

Hetsroni said that TV presents models of successful relationships that almost can’t be replicated in real life.

“Thus watching a lot of TV makes people less satisfied with what they have. They compare their own relationships with what they see on TV and feel they are losing out. Of course, it may be that [these are] people who run from reality by watching TV. But in any case, heavy viewing does not mean good news for romanticism,” he said.

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