Tell Me About It: TV time is no longer quality time

Posted: July 26, 2013

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Question: When my husband and I were dating (we did not live together before marriage) we loved being around each other so much that what we did was less important than the fact that we were together. I think I actually remember saying: "I don't mind if you watch SportsCenter! Just so long as I'm with you."

Now that we're about two years into our marriage, I am bored with just sitting around. I sit all day at work, and the last thing I want to do when I get home is plant my butt on the couch. Also, I think it's really unhealthy.

When I let him enjoy his screen time while I do constructive things around the house, or go out on my own, he is hurt that "I don't want to spend time with him." Do I need to redefine "quality time" to match his understanding? Or is it reasonable to make that time valuable for the both of us?

Answer: How much of "I sit all day at work" have you explained? Does he know you're all for the together time, just not all the TV?

Ideally, you'll both give a little on the other's understanding of quality time. Maybe you can manage a couple of couch nights if you find a great series to follow, and maybe that will soften him to your doing your "constructive things" on others, and the mutual goodwill will fuel interest in going out once or twice a week.

If you can think of it roughly in thirds, his way/your way/separate ways, then you might both be able to find more satisfaction in your marriage without changing a whole lot. It all starts, though, with communicating and not judging. And acknowledging that your "I love SportsCenter as long as I'm with you!" declaration was a bait-and-switch - a crime of passion, though, not premeditation.

  Question: When I invite him out to do stuff with me, he often cites tiredness as a reason to abstain. And it's hard not to be judgmental of this excuse because he is an artist who is able to keep his own hours - which are not as long as mine. And I'm supporting us. And maybe this is more about me not liking what I see as his laziness?

Answer: Well there you go. This is about resentment, not romance.

"Laziness" is part of it, sure, but it seems more about his unwillingness to rally for you - or to pay bills - while showing full willingness to give you a hard time about not doing everything his way.

The fact that you're supporting him and his shorter hours, and bring up these things in a conversation about SportsCenter, suggests you're angry and he's responding with passive-aggression. Chicken, egg.

This needs to be a much longer conversation than "I'm through loving SportsCenter." I suggest having it with a skilled, reputable therapist aboard.


E-mail Carolyn Hax at tellme@washpost.com, or chat online at noon Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.

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