Q. My husband watches and rewatches Archie Bunker reruns and I swear he is becoming more like Archie! He’s so wrapped up in the reruns that we don’t have much of a relationship at all. I don’t get it.

A. A research study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships contained some interesting comments that might speak to this. The abstract pointed out that, ”Insecure attachment places enduring limitations on one’s ability to satisfy important intrinsic needs. An increasing body of literature suggests that such barriers may motivate engagement with stories such as absorption into fictional worlds, sharing experiences and forming relationships with characters, and even pursuing vicarious satisfaction of unmet needs. Moreover, this sort of engagement has been demonstrated to drive narrative influence, further suggesting that barriers to intimacy in relationships such as those characterized by insecure attachment may render one more susceptible to the influence of entertainment media.”

They found that when the individual’s anxiety was low their use of story-based movies and television was lower also. But when their anxiety was high, their use of story-based movies and television also increased. (https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0265407519826345)

Nathan Silver, the study’s first author, has explained the research like this. “For people with attachment issues, movies and TV shows can be a way to try to understand their problems or to vicariously meet their needs for intimacy in a way that they may find difficult in real life.” People who were anxious and avoidant, tended to be most strongly connected to characters in TV shows, and were more likely to:

  1. become absorbed in the story
  2. imagine different choices for the character
  3. imagine knowing a fictional character personally.

Silver also pointed out that individuals who are both anxious and avoiders, are classic self-sabotagers. Many would like to engage in supportive intimacy but tend to sabotage the relationship because they also have avoidance behaviors. For them, movies and TV shows give them a safe place to imagine relationships.