The Man Who Secretly Divorced His Wife And How She Discovered the Truth 20 Years Into Their Marriage

The Man Who Secretly Divorced His Wife And How She Discovered the Truth 20 Years Into Their Marriage

The Man Who Secretly Divorced His Wife

And How She Discovered the Truth 20 Years Into Their Marriage

Gabriel Villa and Cristina Carta met in 1994 at a mutual friend’s house. They were soon married, and Carta left her job as an Italian literature teacher at Boston College to jet set around the world with her new husband, a successful travel agent and lawyer 30 years her senior.

To protect his property and hedge his bets long-term, Villa divorced his new bride of just four months in the Dominican Republic and did so in secret. He hired lawyers to act as proxies before a judge in Santo Domingo, the Carribean country’s capital city.

Meanwhile, back home in New York, his wife had no idea.

U. S. Recognition of Foreign Final Decree of Divorce

Over the years, celebrities have made headlines by divorcing abroad. Among the list are Mariah Carey, Jane Fonda, Liz Taylor, Lisa Marie Presley, Diana Ross, Sylvestre Stallone, and Michael Jackson. That’s quite the list!

Calling the legality of these divorces (in the U.S.) into question means taking into account the countries in which they are filed. When it comes to the Dominican Republic, it boils down to the couple’s home state’s laws to decide. Not all 50 states in the country will consider that fancy Dominican decree valid.

Only New York, Maryland, and a handful of others consider unilateral divorces (where only one party signs) legal. Documents have to be filed in the couple’s home state, and the divorce decree has to be registered for that to happen.

In fact, states like California won’t honor it unless both parties lived in the Dominican Republic long enough to establish residency. Generally, that’s six months.

All that said, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1965 that unilateral divorces are unconstitutional, calling them, “…too doubtful…” Government agencies (such as the IRS, Social Security Administration, and United States Military) will not honor a final decree of divorce that was obtained under questionable circumstances.

Dominican Divorces

The Dominican Republic is one of a handful of countries in the world where one could go from married to single-and-ready-to-mingle in 24 hours or less.

Their laws don’t require either party to be a Dominican citizen or resident. However, one of them (either the husband or wife) must attend the proceeding in person. The other can choose to sit it out by filing a type of power of attorney form. A proxy will then be assigned in his or her place. The entire process costs about $1,500, and two weeks later, a final decree is sent out, translated into English of course, to each party at their home address. If it all sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is!

It all sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Well, that’s because it is!

Challenging a Divorce Decree

In November 2015, Cristina, 59, arrived home to the New York apartment she shared with her husband and checked her mail. In the stack of circulars was a property tax bill. Utterly unremarkable, except for the address label. Where once her name appeared next to her husband’s as co-owner of their flat, her name was now nowhere to be found.

She hired an attorney to dig into the matter for her. They uncovered documents Gabriel Villa, 90, filed with their local tax office. These documents included finalized, Dominican divorce papers he submitted to the tax agency as proof that Cristina no longer had ownership of the property.

Research revealed Gabriel ended his brand new union only four months after their wedding, citing “incompatibility of temperaments,” calling his wife, “unbearable.”

To have secretly divorced Cristina, he had to hire Dominican lawyers to serve as proxies for both her husband and her. Although unilateral divorces are legal there, divorces in which neither party is a part of the proceedings are not. Cristina argues that in addition to that, a formal announcement must be published in a Dominican newspaper — something that wasn’t done in her case. Neither was the so-called divorce registered in New York.

In court papers she filed before a Manhattan Supreme Court, Cristina claimed she has, “no recollection of [giving] any authorization to anyone to proceed with a divorce, or even thinking about divorce from the man she had just recently married.” It was his failed attempt at hedging his bets and protecting his assets, according to the New York Post.

In her lawsuit challenging the divorce, she alleges he was trying to steal their $1.4 million apartment out from under her to sell to his adult daughter.

Despite Having Secretly Divorced Her, She Still Loves Him

What’s amazing is the way Cristina describes their marriage. In 20 years the couple raised a son and owned homes in New York and France. They lived a fancy life, flying all over the world.

She told Kathianne Boniello of the New York Post that, “…despite our age difference, it was love at first sight.” She says that despite all the mess and decades of lies, “It was and somehow it’s still a great love.” She describes her near-centenarian husband as, “…a very charismatic man, strong, intelligent, and very charming….”

At one point in their marriage, Gabriel, now 90, fell gravely ill and spent time in a hospital. In his moment of need, he named Cristina his health care proxy and gave her power of attorney over his assets.

It’s a strange version of unconditional love. Regardless of what she says about how wonderful their romance was or is, she is, in fact, still suing him. Her arguments are valid. She has a point. What he did was wrong, sloppy, and deceitful.

Where was all this concern for his assets when they married? Prenuptial agreements were invented long before 1994. Even, if the practicing lawyer had absent-mindedly moved past that, post-nuptial agreements existed then, too.

In Conclusion

Overall, the case is incredibly confusing. Gabriel Villa’s motives are unclear. A successful attorney in his own right, one assumes he had to have known about the technicalities and obstacles he’d face as a result of his decision. Successfully becoming unilaterally secretly divorced from his wife in the Dominican Republic wouldn’t just be difficult to pull off. It would be illegal.

Then, there’s the fact that he remained committed to her and trusted her with his life. Their relationship was far from over four months after it began (when he filed his petition to end it). The 20-year, “love at first sight,” as she calls it, was just beginning. And whether things between them were as great as she claims or as “unbearable,” as he swore they were, he stayed in it.

It could be that at the time the then 70-year-old man felt he had valid reasons to question Cristina’s motives for marrying a man 30 years older than her. But if he did, and was serious enough about it to secretly divorce her, why didn’t he just leave her once it was done? What could he possibly have gained from a 20-year-long deceit?

The self-described, “…caring wife and mother,” concedes to her husband’s betrayal. “I realize now that during all these years of joy and happiness, and of difficult moments we shared together, my husband lied to me and had the Dominican divorce on the back of his mind,” she decides.

It’s possible that once he divorced his wife, he spent 20 years waiting for the opportune moment to play his ace. It could’ve been his way of controlling the marriage, a ruse of sorts.

Gaining sole ownership over their apartment may have just been a convenient reason to use his hidden token. Cristina admits, “It’s what’s hurting me the most.”

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When Financial Troubles Mean Your Ex Moves Back In A Case Study of the Effects of Economic Hardships on a Divorced Couple

When Financial Troubles Mean Your Ex Moves Back In A Case Study of the Effects of Economic Hardships on a Divorced Couple

When Financial Troubles Mean Your Ex Moves Back In

A Study of the Effects of Economic Hardships on a Divorced Couple

Several years ago, I came across an article featuring the stories of happily divorced couples who each lived together as roommates in peaceful harmony. Intrigued by what could only occur in the land west of Narnia, I read on and learned all about this new species of non-bitter, super-humans capable of finding common ground to do what’s in the best interests of their children.

Each ex-spouse-turned-housemate claimed to respect the other person’s privacy and dating life. They even took their kids on vacations together!

I filed the fairytale under Yeah-friggin’-Right! and moved on with my life.

Meet Michael

The article re-entered my mind one November evening. A friend I’ve known for eight years – who we’ll call Michael – invited me out to catch up. Eager to get away from my (then) three-month-old and carry on a conversation that didn’t include the word, “A-goo,” I happily accepted his invite.

After getting him all caught up on my obligatory family, baby, and cancer stuff, he filled me in on his plans. Paige, his ex-wife (not her real name), had recently fallen on hard times. She lost her job and couldn’t meet her rent. She reached out to  Michael for help. He thought about it for a few days and then opened up his new place to his ex-wife, their daughter, and her two sons from a previous marriage.

All of it got me thinking about what could and would happen if his ex moved in with him. Then, the old article came to mind. Could Michael and Paige be as happy as the people in the article were? Intrigued, I asked him if I could follow his story for a case study on failed relationships and financial difficulties. He agreed.

A Little Backstory

No one remembers the Michael/Paige break up like I do. Even though the end of their relationship felt inevitable (at the time), I was still shocked when it happened. They’d been together for well over a decade, and in the back of my mind, I held out hope they could fix their issues.

Michael wasn’t perfect. In fact, he was quite the lothario – a fact Paige hasn’t been made privy to. His attention was locked elsewhere, and the marriage fell apart. She harbors her suspicions, of course. But I don’t think Michael will ever tell her the truth.

During a heated argument, Michael left the home he shared with Paige and moved in with his friend. When Paige moved in, Michael lived alone and said he was now in charge of the lease.

Living Arrangements

To fit everyone, Michael split the large house into two. Paige, their daughter, and Paige’s two sons would sleep and live downstairs. They’d have custody of the kitchen, the living room, two large bathrooms, the dining room, all the appliances. Paige and their daughter would sleep on Michael’s living room sofa/pull-out couch. Her sons would take spots on the carpet.

Michael would live upstairs. He’d have his bedroom, a closet, and bathroom.

Early on, I learned that when and if your ex moves in, boundaries quickly become imaginary. Michael was a bachelor in every sense of the word. He enjoyed his time to himself. Having his ex there made that difficult.

Paige used her own car for transportation. Which was great because Michael’s work schedule has him working over 100 hours per week.

Length of Stay

The Original Plan

When the original “Ex Moves In” plan was hashed, they agreed several goals would be met with due time. Here are some of them:

  • Paige would do her best to follow Michael’s goal to be out on her own within one year
  • She was due to have a job within a month
  • 20% of her paycheck would go into a savings account to help her save enough money for an apartment
  • Michael would continue to make court-ordered child support payments to Paige even though his daughter was technically living with him
  • Paige’s sons were of adult age. Michael offered them the choice of either enrolling in community college courses or getting a job
  • They agreed to look for work

Michael is a focused, driven guy. He keeps his eye on the prize and doesn’t deviate. He would check in with Paige every few days to check their progress.

What Actually Happened

Michael’s plan didn’t exactly work out the way he intended. Despite doing all he could to help, Paige, their daughter, and her two sons lived on the ground floor of his house for more than two years.

The older of Paige’s sons moved out three months into their second year at Michael’s. Her younger son entered community college after he couldn’t find a job. Upon receiving his associates degree in computer science, he transferred to a major university on a full-ride scholarship. Paige is very proud of her son.

Paige struggled with low-paying, temporary jobs for another year. Finally, she met a man who she fell in love with. They dated for approximately six months before moving in together. Michael likes the guy and even helped Paige and their daughter move from his place into their new one.


I followed the story closely over the three years in which it happened. Both Paige and Michael dealt with challenges. The biggest complaint from everyone in the house was a lack of privacy. Here are other findings:


  • Failed to meet any of the goals Michael set out for her
  • Daughter on cloud nine living with her dad but was short-lived because of Michael’s schedule
  • Living under the same roof caused the adults to work out (some of) their issues after arguing non-stop in the beginning
  • Took care of the home as a form of a non-monetary contribution
  • Offered to help Michael with his laundry or other effects; he declined her offer


  • Went through financial difficulties as a result of supporting all five people on an IT salary but never mentioned it to Paige
  • Privacy virtually gone
  • Worked additional shifts to make extra money which limited the time he could spend with his daughter
  • Forget about dating!
  • Lost his girlfriend because of the arrangement

Verdict: Can any couple make this type of living situation work?

After observing the chaos that ensued in the early days of their arrangement, I can say with certainty that this sort of arrangement isn’t for everyone. Despite years having passed from the time they divorced until the day Paige moved back in, it seemed most (if not all) of their issues were still there.

Granted, they were able to work out the worst of them, it wasn’t a pretty sight. That said, Michael changed a lot about himself, about the ways in which he handles stress. The disappointment wasn’t something he let Paige see, but I (as the casual observer) noticed small, subtle nuances in the way he would talk to her.

Would I Recommend It?

When your ex moves in, back into a world and situation, he or she may no longer be used to; everyone suffers initially. If you’re willing to go through the arguing and frustrations that Michael and Paige did, then, it can work.

I would only recommend this if:

  • It was necessary,
  • if you have the patience of a saint, and
  • On the condition that boundaries be better established than they were in Michael’s case


As a casual observer, I applaud Michael for doing something not many people (let alone bachelors) would do. He didn’t expect to sacrifice as much as he did. Privacy, social life, and personal space were things he gave up in favor of doing what he felt was right. He’s not the type of guy to be okay with that.It didn’t last forever, and now he and Paige are closer now than they were before. For the sake of their young daughter, he ditched the pride and bit his tongue. I

It didn’t last forever, and now he and Paige are closer now than they were before. For the sake of their young daughter, he ditched the pride and bit his tongue.

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New Wife and Teen Daughter at Odds Simple Things Dads Can Do to Help Keep the Peace at Home

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New Wife and Teen Daughter at Odds

Simple Things Dads Can Do to Help Keep the Peace at Home

You remarried. Everything seemed okay at first. But something caused a rift between your new wife and teen daughter. They seem to hate each other. You’re caught in the middle and don’t see a way out.

For the first time, you’re finally happy. You’re in love and have everything you’ve ever wanted – except, for peace. Peace left your humble abode and now your wife and teen either yell and scream or give each other the silent treatment. What can you do to help them get along?

A Warning

In the interest of full-disclosure, I must tell you that I harbor views that differ with normal, more Dr. Phil-like methods of parenting. What I have for you are lessons I’ve learned the hard way over 16 years of parenting my own flock and of watching others do it.

Parenting is not a sport of gut feelings. It takes control, smarts, and critical thinking to raise an adult capable of handling life’s challenges. Teens aren’t who you think they are. They’re so much more!

There, now that we got all the disclaimers out of the way, let’s move on.

Things Your Wife and Teen Daughter Don’t Understand About Each Other

You’re not a victim of two forces of nature. Don’t behave as if you are. I want you to think about your role as the guy caught in the middle. To help you understand your new wife and teen daughter, it’s paramount that you learn about major differences between them. Surely, one of these will be the underlying source of the problem.

1. Each is from a different generation.

This is the biggest cause of all the issues your new wife and teen have. Millenials can more or less relate to other millennials. But anyone older than the Generation X crowd would likely base their system of values on experiences teenage millennials wouldn’t easily relate to.

2. Differences in social class

We all would like to pretend our social class doesn’t matter. Unfortunately, it does. Children of working class families grow up on less than their middle-class counterparts. These differences can create opposing political and social views or opinions.

3. Your teen may have grown up in a one-parent household while your wife may have come from a home with two parents

Your teenaged daughter likely spent her young, more formidable years in a single-parent home. If your new wife was fortunate enough to grow up with two parents, she may not understand why your teen behaves more like an adult and less like a child.

4. Nature makes teens feel a sense of entitlement of which they aren’t aware

They don’t know they’re doing it. And even when you bring it up to them, they usually disagree. Obsessed by labels, they’d like to satiate their constant need to be right about something after spending their childhoods getting it wrong.

Thank a teen’s lack of a proper, functioning pre-frontal cortex for this one! It’s the part of your teen’s brain where empathy (the real kind and not the puppies and kitties type) will one day reside. Until then, she only understands the world as she sees it. She knows you have a point of view, but she doesn’t understand where it comes from specifically.

5. Disparity in levels of education

If your new wife is a college graduate, and your child is only in high school, a rift could form in their educational gap.

Your teen probably knows the basics. She can add and subtract without the use of a calculator. Your wife’s college degree is a good thing! Freud believed that children copy the habits and behavior of their closest same-sexed parent.

How to Fix the Relationship Between Your New Wife and Teen Daughter

Now that you can understand the factors that could be causing the problem, Here are a few ways to begin the healing process.

Family Counseling

Counseling will help you grow as a father and husband. You’ll have a place to work out all of your ills. It is my honest-to-goodness firm belief that all children whose parents are divorced need to be in a family counseling program. It’s too important to skip. It’s a biggie!

Invite your new wife to attend. If she has children, too, ask that they all come along.

You’ve never forged a new family before – at least not successfully on your own. It’s ideal that you learn how to do it. You wouldn’t pop open up a box containing a dresser (in pieces) IKEA and just start connecting “Screw B” to “Panel A.” No one does that! You need an instruction manual to build anything worth your time and attention.

How to Get Them Talking

In order to get your new wife and teen daughter to break out of their behavior, talk about it in counseling and let them both know that it bothers you.

Clear the air. This one will probably get messy. Everything you didn’t want to know will get said out loud and in living color. Prepare yourself. Remember not to freak out. Keep it civil but honest. Make sure that both your new wife and teen understand you’re only there to listen. The conversation is theirs to have.

Ask each one to make a list of each other’s concerns about the other person. Read them to yourself in private. Then bring the two together in an open setting, a public park for example, and ask that they each read one another’s lists out loud. This one I learned from a therapist. It actually works if you do it right.

It helps them see the humanity in the other person.

Have weekly session time together. If your wife and teen daughter are ever going to have a half-decent relationship, they’ll need to work on it regularly by spending time together. Don’t skip this one it’s important.

In Closing

Science has proven it takes 21 days of consistent, repetitive action to turn a new behavior into a habit. Be it biting your nails or starting off your mornings with a coffee, you developed your habits by taking behaviors and doing them daily. The same is true with this. Make talking to both your wife and teen a part of your routine to help them build healthy communication habits.

They both have to be willing to work at building common ground to figuratively stand on together. Then, they’ll have to work to maintain it. Your spouse is the adult. Equipped with a functional prefrontal cortex, she is perfectly capable of trying to understand your teenaged daughter.

They might not ever get along. That’s a possibility. Not all humans are the best of friends after all. If that happens, it may be time for a change for everyone’s sake. Everyone has to work at it. You should feel as if your efforts and energy are being met and returned. Someone who loves you should love your child. Don’t hang on to a relationship in which you benefit and your teen daughter lives her life at odds with your spouse.


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Choosing Your Stuff or Choosing Your Kids A Daughter's Letter to Her Estranged Father

Choosing Your Stuff or Choosing Your Kids A Daughter's Letter to Her Estranged Father

Choosing Your Stuff or Choosing Your Kids

A Daughter’s Letter to Her Estranged Father

Divorce is messy. Messier still is a divorce with children – even teenaged ones! Custody, asset division, child support, it’s a stressful time for everyone. Depending on your situation, you might think this is the time to get back at your ex.

Before you decide to make it ugly in court, consider your kids. You and your ex may not be together anymore, but your children will always be a part of your life – at least they should be.

The events leading up to your divorce can be traumatic enough on kids of any age. You’ve been fighting. Perhaps, there was an affair or abuse.

Regardless, your children are watching. Even more so, they are watching how you act during the divorce proceedings. What they see will affect how they respond to and feel about you for the rest of their lives. Consider what it says to them when you decide to fight for unreasonably low support payments or to keep the family house more than you fight for joint custody.

I’m not a psychologist, but I am the child of a Dad who chose his stuff over me. My parents’ divorce became final in 2009. I was 17. It wasn’t just in the divorce that my siblings and I were an afterthought in comparison to my father’s material things. It was the norm of my childhood.

Since then, I’ve excluded him from my life. I haven’t spoken to him since.

I am breaking my silence just this one time. Here’s a letter I wrote to my father telling him how it all made me feel.

I hope you can glean some insight from it.

My Letter to My Father

Dear Dad,

I haven’t spoken even one word to you in five years. I have ignored every text, voicemail, friend request, email, and card. I have gone about my life as if you were never even in it, because if we’re being honest, you weren’t. I can hear you now saying it is my mom’s “brainwashing” at the cause of it, but that just isn’t it. As an adult, now I am realizing that maybe, just maybe you’ve never connected the dots. So, I’m going to lay it out, one last time for you.

I remember sitting in one of the endless family counseling sessions, being asked to record a happy memory with you. I couldn’t. It’s not that there weren’t any good times, it was that I had begun to understand the circumstances of them all.

Yes, we went to the park, but never because you wanted to spend time together. Your behavior, your attitude, and demeanor made that clear, even to a small child. You always made it known how inconvenient having kids was for your wallet and your time.

I can’t speak for my brother and sister, but I can tell you that in the back of my mind I knew. I knew how much we didn’t mean to you at the time. I knew how much more you cared for your stereo, car, wine tastings, and bank account. After all, those were the things you spent time on.

Do you remember the time Jessi stood on the hood of your car to get her bike off the rack? She must have been only 40 or 50 pounds, but you yelled at her for hours when you found out. Not out of concern for her safety, but because the tiniest of dents may have been left. I remember it so vividly, standing between you two. I remember walking her to the bus stop and feeling the eyes of our neighbor’s pity us. Your car was fine, but she cried for hours and felt guilty for weeks. This was a normal occurrence. It seemed like anytime we wanted to be kids, it interfered with your lifestyle.

When the divorce settlement came around, and you didn’t even ask for custody or visitation, I wasn’t surprised. I was angry – but not at you. I was angry that I allowed myself to hope you would do otherwise. It is the only thing kids want to hear; our parents love us SO much that they are fighting to be with us more. You didn’t. So, I did what every angry teenager does; I cut you out of my life entirely.

It was easy to do, because since you had fought so hard to keep your money and things, I had to help pay the bills and put food on the table. It actually took a few months for you to realize I had cut you out. When I did, you became almost stalker-ish, but it didn’t mean anything. You tried everything, even bribery. Did you even realize what you were doing?

You kept the huge house I grew up in, you disputed paying support, you even stopped paying them to fund the happy-go-lucky divorce’ life you wanted. Never once did you think of the multiple jobs I worked while in school and college to help make ends meet. When you refused to help with my schooling, because in your opinion it was a waste of money, I relied on scholarships just to cover the cost of community college. Your actions contradicted all of your requests for me to speak to you.

No matter how many times you said you wanted me to let you back in, all I could see was the hardship you forced upon us. Before you think I am writing to scold you, I’m not. I want you to understand why.

At the onset, I believed I was punishing your selfishness, but over the years it has changed. Once I was done finding justice, I wanted to prove you wrong. I wanted to prove to the world that not only did I not need you, but also that your words and actions were wrong.

Every paycheck showed that I didn’t need your money. Every dean’s list letter told me I would be much more than you ever told me I could be. Looking back, I can clearly see that I was masking the wounds left by you. Even now I can feel myself pridefully trying to deny that your choices hurt me. The reality is they did. When you decided that keeping your stuff was more important that our well-being: it cut deep.

I went through phases trying to deal with this. First I was angry, then I denied it, but then one day I woke up and something was different. Disproving you wasn’t my motivation to get through my five classes and three jobs. I went weeks without even thinking about you, because I had forgiven you. I had forgiven you for 20 years of bad parenting. That is when things really got interesting.

Call it karma, call it the cosmos pushing you down, call it what you want. Hardship began falling on you. You struggled to keep a job, the house started falling apart, and your revolving door of girlfriends halted. Don’t get me wrong, your unemployment was not good news for us. It meant even more long hours to scrape by without support payments. Unlike you, even in hard times, we were at peace. We were happy.

We had nothing – at points we were faced with living in our cars, but we were happy. We didn’t need assets, big bank accounts, and a showy lifestyle… we had our relationships with each other, our friends, and we were okay with that. Even though I didn’t respond to you, people always made me aware of how poorly you were handling it. I am certain that it was because you had no one by your side.

Fast forward to now. I look around at my life and at any given moment, I am incredulous at how far I’ve come since the divorce. I married a good man, who is so unlike you and so devoted and so matched to me that I think I am dreaming at times. We have successful careers, a dog that is too smart for his own good, and together we are tackling our goals. I am closer than ever with the mother who walked through hell with me. My brother and sister and I have overcome all of our baggage. I have friends who stand by my side through the best and worst points of my life. I wouldn’t change anything from my past, including cutting you out. It’s no longer about proving a point or being angry or not forgiving. My life is whole without you.

This is not to say my life was not hard without you. I have always watched my friends with their dads. I’ve wondered what might have happened if you were different. You weren’t though, and that is 100 % okay with me. All of this has taught me the simplest of lessons:

Assets, money, things are not worth the people you sacrifice for them.

No, I don’t want you back in my life. At this point, it just seems unnatural. I do hope that you’ve also found truth in this lesson and that going forward you change your behavior.

With regards,



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Is Your Relationship Netflix Serious? Study Reveals How the Popular Video Service Affects Your Love Life

Is Your Relationship Netflix Serious? Study Reveals How the Popular Video Service Affects Your Love Life

Is Your Relationship Netflix Serious?

Study Reveals How the Popular Video Service Affects Your Love Life

Would you initiate a relationship with someone based on what they’ve saved to their Netflix lists? Do you base the strength of your bond on being “Netflix official?” Do you feel like you’re in a legitimate relationship when you eagerly hand over your Netflix login info?

The popular video streaming service entered into our lives and became more than just a place to binge watch The Walking Dead. It’s now a full-fledged lifestyle brand – a verb even!

The popular global streaming service now boasts 75 million subscribers and $7 billion in assets. From its humble 1998-beginings in shipping DVDs by mail to the video streaming powerhouse it is today, Netflix has always had a hand in our lives and relationships. Its grip has become tighter, and we all seem to be okay with that.

Recently (October 26th-28th, 2015), the company took notice and conducted a study to determine just how serious we all are about our Netflix accounts.

Are we “Netflix serious” about Netflix?

Netflix probed into the inner workings of relationships to determine how relevant the company is in people’s lives. The study surveyed a sample of 1,008 Americans 18-39 years old. They found that a third-or-so (27%) said compatibility (liking the same shows as their mate) was important. Furthermore, 13% of those surveyed claimed they’d initiate a relationship with someone based on the shows they had in common – men were more likely to make the first move (34%).

Where once being “Facebook official” was the cornerstone of a serious relationship, now Netflix has replaced the term. In fact, being “Netflix official” has booted Facebook off the top of the proverbial totem pole. Half of all polled said they wouldn’t share their account password with anyone who wasn’t worth it. Some even said they’d wait until they were engaged (17%) to share their login and password details. It seems Netflix is the virginity of the new millennium.

If you can call your relationship Netflix serious, you’re probably one of the 25% who found their partner more attractive based on their show and film preferences. Or, you could be a part of the 58% of people who added programs to their lists in an attempt to attract a potential suitor. Married users claimed spending a night in with their partner (72%), watching shows off their lists was a favorite thing to do.

The Fickle Heart of Netflix

As the calendar page flips back revealing a new month, so does Netflix’s list of shows and films available for streaming. Some (like the Terminator movies) get removed for months and months only to return for a short time before going away again. It’s the entertainment equivalent of a revolving door. If one calls their relationship Netflix serious when the shows are good, does that go away when the entertainment does?

Your show choices could sway someone into loving you more or loving you less according to the study. Some people believe love is always enough. Netflix seems to think a couch (and broadband) is all you need.

A relationship Netflix built, Netflix can take away.

Everything that has a beginning has an end. When serious relationships end, the keys inevitably go back to the home from where the came. In a breakup situation where the couple has shared one account, is the relationship Netflix over when the account’s owner changes the password? Lists of titles the couple once watched and enjoyed together don’t change overnight. In a sense, Netflix blurs the lines between what’s over and what gets left behind post-breakup.

I used to believe that if a couple could survive money problems, they could survive anything. Instead, it seems it’s the relationship that weathers Netflix’s schedule changes and rolling show offerings that thrives in the end.

Netflix Helps Couples Learn to Communicate

It could be that Netflix’s monthly changes in offerings create a unity within relationships. Roughly half of all individuals polled said they take turns. They let their partner choose the first show. When it ends, the other chooses the next. There aren’t many other places in which this happens. Humans are very ego-centric, and taking turns isn’t something we’re hardwired with.

A lack of effective communication in a relationship is the leading cause of breakups. In this sense, the streaming service keeps couples talking about what they want, think, and feel about basic programming options. Couples who build on that could – in theory – expand on those conversations and apply these tactics to other instances. People who consider their relationships Netflix serious share their innermost needs in an effort to negotiate and talk out their differences. They’ve learned to debate and disagree without being disagreeable.

Couples’ counseling only works when both parties want it to. Without a reinforcing reward, any progress made in the initial phases will likely fade. With Netflix, however, the reward is clear. It acts as a digital counselor, helping people grow in their relationships by reinforcing favorable behavior with entertainment. It creates a bonding experience (says 58% of participants) that brings two people together on common ground.

Having Good Netflix Game

With Netflix playing a pivotal role in every aspect of the human mating process, it behooves singles to spend the $7.99 monthly fee for the service. What may begin as an innuendo-laden “Netflix and chill,” could become one’s ticket to finding a suitable paramour.

Keeping tabs on the fad shows like Making a Murderer and marathoning Breaking Bad will only get you so far. Popular shows make for good chit-chat around the office and not much else.

Nicole LaPorte of Co.Create thinks you should spend your watching-for-research time on shows likely to advance your agenda. “While Jessica Jones might get you to second base,” she says, “Hemlock Grove could prove a perilous move.” To improve your odds of landing someone you’d find interesting, spend real time going through Netflix’s offerings. Start with LaPorte’s Jessica Jones suggestion. Afterward, you’ll be given a list of recommendations based on the show. Watch a few of those. Give them a chance. You might end up striking up the right conversation with the right gal about the right show.

Avoid Getting Hung up on Status Labels

Not everyone can call their relationship Netflix serious. It’s a label that transcends casual dating. Now that Netflix is a lifestyle brand, it’s a part of the way men and women court one another. It’s ingrained into our social fabric.

For all the trumpeting that comes with calling your relationship Netflix serious, when it all ends, it ends. The status label goes too. People rarely sit on the porch, sipping an iced tea, thinking about that gal they once dated who they shared everything (even their Netflix password)  with. As time forgets, so do we.

In Closing

Netflix is far more than a fad at this point. This year it will celebrate its eighth birthday. It’ll only grow and become a bigger part of our lives. From its Los Gatos, California headquarters, the company controls televisions, computer screens, cell phones, and now relationships the world over.

But maybe they have something here. E-Harmony commercials claim compatibility is the secret to a long-lasting relationship. Perhaps it’s the couple who binge-watches Orange is the New Black together that truly stays together.

Despite the data, being a part of a relationship based on TV shows and movies seems artificial. Like Netflix’s programming, the list of things I like to spend my time watching has been through a few changes. It’s even changed on the fly based on my mood at any given time. Few titles have endured (Last Holiday and Sons of Anarchy are still there) the test of time without being booted off my list of favorites in favor of what my short attention span finds new and exciting.

Photo Credit: Gangs Rapping via photopin (license)

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