My boyfriend seems to have a television addiction. We met earlier
this year, and he moved into my house a couple of months ago.
Although my boyfriend does participate in a group sporting activity
one day during the work week, his greatest interest is watching
television from the time he comes home until the time goes to sleep.
We do communicate well during the day over the phone when both of us are at
work (he often calls me). However, once we are both home in the
evening, my boyfriend has no interest in talking to me. He would
rather watch certain television shows and not be bothered, and he’s not tired from working all day when he comes home. We usually have sex once a week or once every two weeks.
He has never had a partner before me. Since his family watched television from the
time they came home till the time they went to bed, he thinks there is
nothing unsual about his viewing habits. How can I get him to
realize that his watching television is impacting our intimacy?
Ugh! There’s nothing worse than being in competition for the attentions of your boyfriend with a television set! I can appreciate your frustration and it’s good that you’ve reached a place to where you’re not personalizing his behavior and instead recognize that this is a habitual pattern set into place from his growing-up years. And some more good news is that habits can be unlearned and changed…but only if the individual in question is willing and motivated to do so.
Before getting into some problem-solving options, one important thing that you do NOT want to do is to get into a power struggle with him over his TV viewing; if he feels that you are trying to take this away from him or are trying to control his behavior, he will most likely rebel and you can count on more conflicts and dissention in the relationship. So avoid any complaining or passive-aggressive digs about he and his TV; he will only get defensive and attempt to protect that which is his haven. As difficult as this may be for you, the more attention and pressure you place on this issue with him, the more powerful a dividing force it will become in the relationship, and you’ll be on the losing end of that battle.
One suggestion might be for you to sit down with him in a classic style of communication and dialogue. Before jumping into your concerns about his TV viewing and the impact it has on your relationship, make sure to validate the importance and meaning that television has for him so you can start the conversation on a positive note. He’ll be more receptive to what you have to say in most cases if he feels you understand him and don’t judge his actions. Try starting out by telling him that you can appreciate and honor his need for TV-time; perhaps that it is a stress-relieving outlet for him, it’s a favorite recreational activity for him, it relaxes him and gives him pleasure…whatever you think he gets out of it, communicate those things to him so he truly feels that you “get” him.
You can then segue into a discussion of the type of relationship that you envision for yourself as being the most fulfilling and rewarding. You can help him understand how much you value time outside the home doing fun things in the community and with friends and how important it is for you that you can share experiences like that with him as your boyfriend. Let him know that you want him to continue to have his TV time because you know how valuable that is for him, however both your needs and preferences for “quality time” appear to be clashing and you’d like to discuss with him some ways the two of you can collaborate possible solutions and strategies to bring about more compromise and balance in how you share time together as a couple and as individuals to allow the relationship to continue to grow in a positive way.
Some possible strategies might be that he could record the shows he wants to see and pinpoint specific times of the days of the week that could be allotted his “TV time” for such viewings. The two of you could agree to what this type of schedule might look like, making sure to compromise and sacrifice so each person feels like there’s equal and fair treatment. Another strategy might be that you each pick one day of the week, for example, that will be your special Date Day or Night. Each of you would take turns being responsible for planning a special day of activities or ways to spend time together that would exclude television or movies; experiences that would allow maximum participation and involvement of both of you. You would alternate from week-to-week on who would be the “planner”. This would create more proactive involvement in the relationship in a balanced way for each of you partners. Get creative! By collaboratively brainstorming ideas together, it won’t feel like one person placing demands on the other. It also offers both of you the chance to specify ways you’d like to spend time both together and separately, because it is very important for both of you to have both individual and couple identities for a healthy relationship to evolve.
Hopefully you’ll be well on your way to having your partner’s attention and involvement in your life after such communication sessions with each other. All the best with this, my friend! Good luck!