It's normal to turn down sex for TV, right?
August 17, 2005 2:41 AM   Subscribe

How do I find a compromise on how much TV my boyfriend watches?

First off, I love my boyfriend. He's great and he loves me. He will be moving across the country to live with me. He has a home theater hobby, and he loves his TV. Seriously, he LOVES his television.

I understand that he uses television as a way to unwind and that is okay with me. I don't dislike television. It's just that sometimes I feel I have to compete with the TV for his free time and attention. Offering sex in order to get him to turn it off is starting to lose its effectiveness.

I don't like the idea of setting rules. However, I'm stumped about how to fix this without some sort of quota. I'm not even sure how to bring this up without sounding really negative. How do we reach a compromise where each of us isn't vaugely dissatisfied? Does such a thing exist? I would like to address this before he moves in. Would this be a bad idea?

Please no "throw the TV away" solutions. Doing that would make my boyfriend cry.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Broadcast/cable TV or DVDs?
posted by krisjohn at 2:54 AM on August 17, 2005

Oh, anonymous. Hmm, well you could try and find stuff you both like.

Quite frankly though, it does sound like you're trying to do the stereotypical "changing the boyfriend" thing. You know this is what he's like, he's not a building that's a bit of a fixer-upper. If you think you need to change him then it sounds like he's not the one for you.
posted by krisjohn at 3:03 AM on August 17, 2005

I think it is fair and reasonable to try to change people a little by changing their circumstances. They will always slip back into bad habits if you let them, but you can keep working at it and you can make some progress.

If the guy was a heavy drinker, it would be better to try to get him into situations in which he wouldn't drink. If the guy ate like a pig, it would be better to get him away from the kitchen and into the great outdoors, and to replace all the crap food in the kitchen with healthier stuff that he could more sensibly gobble down.

And if he's glued to the downfall of western civilization, try getting him to go out with you (and friends) more often. He can't watch the damned thing -- all TVs are damned things -- if he's walking down the street, at a concert, at a play, at the zoo, on a picnic, up a mountain, bicycling, skating, surfing, dancing, flying a kite, lifting weights, boxing, kickboxing, kicking the can, learning a language, learning an instrument, acting in a local play, hanging at a friend's place, in the park, at a museum, at the beach, at an outdoor cafe, at a restaurant, at a pub, even at the movies, but not slumped in front of the TV at home.

Also, try counting the hours he spends with his "home theater" (big TV?) and see what it adds up to. If it's a big chunk of his life, ask him whether there aren't other things he's rather do with some of that 35 hours a week before he's an old guy whose girlfriend has left him for someone more interesting.
posted by pracowity at 3:39 AM on August 17, 2005

I like pracowity's answer and I'd just add that trading sex is not a firm foundation upon which to base a live-in relationship. You really should bring it up with him before he moves in. You have a right to share time with him. Tell him that it's a matter of concern for you. Plus, you could also find your own hobbies - I'm not saying that's an answer to your overall question, rather, it might be seen as an opportunity for at least some of the time he's watching tv.
posted by peacay at 4:28 AM on August 17, 2005

Honestly, Tivo is a great thing. He may not realize how much television he really watches, but if he Tivo's it, and then sees the sheer amount of time this takes up, then he might think twice. I know we did.

The only other thing I might suggest would be to try to find things (other than sex) that the two of you like to do together. Then, when he comes back to ninety gabillion hours of Tivo'ed stuff to watch, he will probably have to pick what he really wants to watch rather than the fifty Law & Order reruns, or whatever.
posted by Medieval Maven at 5:00 AM on August 17, 2005

1) Never trade sex for anything. It's not a winning formula.
2) Find something you can do in the same room, while the TV is on. (Personally, I use my girlfriend's TV habit as my time to play online poker and such)
3) Get a TiVo. I know it's weird advice, but the longer you own a TiVo, the less willing you are to watch random crap.
4) Be straight up and direct with him about it, preferably before he commits to a very expensive and difficult move.
posted by mosch at 6:26 AM on August 17, 2005

If he was spending the same amount of time reading every day instead of paying attention to you, would you still be so frustrated? What about if he was playing online roleplaying games? Gardening? Working on his car? Skateboarding? Working out? Playing poker with his buddies? Camping out in the woods? Meditating?

I think you need to find out which bothers you more: that your boyfriend isn't giving you enough time or attention, or that his primary hobby is sitting in front of the TV.

If it's the TV, I think you need to give up now. I've seen too many relationships fall apart because one partner thought the other's favorite way to spend time was a waste. I have a friend right now whose boyfriend thinks she wastes too much time reading, when she could be doing fun stuff with him. The fact that she can't get him to understand that reading is fun for her spells doom for their relationship, in my opinion.

If the time is your main concern, I think you need to approach the conversation from that angle. Now you have a scheduling problem -- "I feel like you don't set enough time for me/us" -- not a problem with his hobby -- "You watch too much TV."

You do need to get across that time together in front of the TV doesn't count, in your book, anymore than time in the same room as someone pursuing another interest would cound as "us time." One you get this across, the onus is on you to come up with things that you can do together, at least at first. Hopefully, your boyfriend will eventually start chipping in with "us" things to do.

The two of you also need to negotiate how much time you'll spend together paying attention to each other, and how much time you'll spend in your own personal spheres.

I think one of the great challenges of relationships is finding the balance between "me time" and "us time." Different people have different needs, and if you don't communicate one partner can wind up feeling suffocated while the other feels neglected.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 6:31 AM on August 17, 2005

Hmmm... if he's lived alone for a chunk of time before you came into his life, he's got some ingrained habits that will take a while for him to even recognize, much less change... assuming he wants to change. Go slowly.

I second the suggestion re: TiVo. My boyfriend has recently hooked up the digital recording service offered by Comcast, and it is awesome. He records the really important shows or sports he doesn't want to miss, and watches them whenever he's ready. (Deadwood comes to mind. We had several Deadwood Marathons recently where we watched three or four episodes in one sitting. My language will never be the same!) Because the device doesn't have limitless capacity, he's being selective about what he records, which is making him aware of his viewing habits.

We go through the TV listings on Sunday to decide together on some things we'll watch during the week. This could work for you, too. Maybe suggest that he keep a TV diary of things he watches and wants to watch. He might be surprised to find that he turns the boob tube on and mindlessly watches it just because it is there. If he's recorded the best of the tube to watch at his leisure, maybe the TV will stay off until he wants to watch something specific. Maybe.

Check into the cost of TiVo / DVR. What if you surprise him with a 'gift' of this technology when he moves in with you? It will allow both of you to control your own viewing schedules, and give you both the freedom to untether yourselves from the couch.

Two suggestions that are not TV related:

#1 - Don't nag. Not about this, not about anything. Nagging is a relationship killer. Talk about what you feel, what you want, what you need. Then shut up. Let him digest it. Walk away from the discussion. Agree to revisit the issue when he's had a chance to think about it himself. That's the only fair way to approach any important subject. He'll only resent it if you make a huge argument out of it.
#2 - Don't start trading intimacy for anything! Just don't go down that road. Sex and love and intimacy are not bargaining chips. It cheapens everything if our most precious emotions and feelings can be bartered for favors.
posted by Corky at 6:33 AM on August 17, 2005

I'll chime in with the Tivo suggestion as well. My husband watches a buttload of television, and it's about halved since we got Tivo.
posted by gaspode at 6:44 AM on August 17, 2005

Yeah, Tivo is great. Comcast's DVR sucks.

But that's not the issue.

Anon, you're under the misconception that you're competing with TV. That he loves TV more than you.

You say you love him. Show it! If you love him, you should try and have interest those things that he loves. Similarly, he should try and have interest in those things that you love as well. You're turning this into a contest: Me or TV. If you win, he will secretly resent you. And he'll still try to find time to watch TV.

You're doing the most dangerous thing in a relationship - you're using sex as a weapon. And your trying to use it to shape his behavior. This is extraordinarily manipulative. In a healthy relatinohship sex ought to be an expression of how you feel...not a way for you to get attention.

And that's the issue. He's moving across the country to live with you. Clearly, he's commited and wants to be with you. Take pleasure in that fact.
posted by filmgeek at 7:05 AM on August 17, 2005

I don't think there is anything wrong with just telling him that you feel neglected. I lost a girlfriend once because I was spending too much time in the darkroom and she was afraid to just come out and say it to me honestly. Just make sure that you are nice about it and don't appear to be scolding him.
posted by Bengston at 7:17 AM on August 17, 2005

I had exactly the same reaction as croutonsupafreak when I read this post. There are several things potentially going on here, and your post is unclear about some of them.

- What is your attitude toward TV? If you "have a problem" with the Platonic idea of TV, your relationship is going to have serious problems.

- As a correllary, what kind of TV is he watching? If he's melting his brain on bad sitcoms, star-vehicle flicks, and reality shows, it much different than watching quality TV and film. Assuming he's more focused on the latter, I'd say there's a significant effort needed by you to engage in something that deeply interests him.

- You're moving in together after living on opposite sides of the country. It's natural to feel anxious about meshing your behaviors.

If you and your b/f truly love each other, this will sort itself out, but will require some negotiation. I was in a similar situation when my g/f moved in with me from Chicago (we're now in NYC). I'm a tech junkie, and she'd never had cable TV. There was some initial awkwardness, but it all eventually just fell into place.

One concrete suggestion: move into a new place together. An easy trap to fall into is turning all the inevitable behavioral changes that come with this situation into feelings of "I have invited you into my space". He'll feel like a guest, and you'll feel put upon. It makes it all extra hard. A clean slate is a wonderful thing.

And yeah, don't use sex as a tool to get him away from the TV. So, so bad.
posted by mkultra at 7:29 AM on August 17, 2005

Not sure this question really makes any sense. Do you think he doesn't set aside enough time for the relationship? Or do you not like the fact that he watches so much TV? If the TV in itself is the problem then either accept it or move on. He really likes it, has probably devoted quite a bit of time to it, and there's not much you can or should do. If the problem is more a question of time allocation then you're right set a quota--not for restricting the TV, but for spending time with you. It's perfectly acceptable to tell him, "I want you to do your own thing and have some personal space, but your weekends and Wednesday nights belong to me." If you set aside specific times to be together then you'll also find yourself doing more interesting things with him as a bonus.
posted by nixerman at 7:46 AM on August 17, 2005

I was a computer game addict for several years - not really an addict, but I played a lot of games a lot of the time and I now look back at that time as a waste.

I started dating a girl who didn't like all the game playing, but she put up with it while also exposing me to the reality that I could do so much more with my life NOT by nagging or making threats, but rather by inviting me to do other things with her. Eventually, I quit gaming because it was a huge waste of time and I realized that I wasted a lot of my life on it. I still play a game once in a great while, but I'm more interested in doing things that are fulfilling.

I think that your boyfriend might be in a similar situation with his TV watching and you simply need to interest him in other stuff that is more rewarding. Try to find ways to make your non-TV activities longer-lasting in the sense that you think back on them positively. Nobody looks back in their photo album and enjoys seeing hundreds of pictures of themselves watching TV. Try to have fun together and talk about it.
posted by crazy finger at 7:50 AM on August 17, 2005 [1 favorite]

I like the idea of using Tivo to solve this problem, but not for it's effect on limiting TV watching as others have mentioned. I like it for the idea that he could record whatever he would normally be watching, and spend that time with you instead.

I myself am guilty of sometimes scheduling my life around the TV: "But we can't go out now, Grey's Anatomy is coming on soon...", "I'd love to go! But we have to be home by 8 because Lost is on...", etc etc. If he's worried about missing his favorite shows, a Tivo could help free him from being tied down to specific times, and he could watch his shows later, say while you're at work or something.
posted by geeky at 8:02 AM on August 17, 2005

Get a new boyfriend who fulfills your need for attention. He might be depressed.
posted by letterneversent at 8:22 AM on August 17, 2005

The solution may lie in placement of the TV set. If you put it in the living room, he gets to enjoy your presence as well as watch TV. If you put it in a separate room, he has to make a choice.
posted by klarck at 8:43 AM on August 17, 2005

1. Get him to committ to a number of hours a week.
2. Get a tivo so you both stop watching commercials
posted by ewkpates at 8:54 AM on August 17, 2005

I am in the same boat. I just moved in with my fiancee and my idea of destressing/after dinner activity is reading and watching tv, or being on the internet. Living alone for the past 6 years, I got into doing this whenever I wanted. My fiancee obviously, does not like this, and feels somewhat neglected. What you need to do is find a happy medium. I do not think my fiancee is trying to change me, and I will not be changed. I do agree with people on here saying you will not change him, but what is not mentioned is that if he is committed to you and the move, he will change SOME of his habits for you. Its about compromise. Voice that you want more attention, and he will say he enjoys the tube. Literally our conversation also. Do I love TV more that her? Of course not. I have to make SOME compromises then. SO... I read a while while she makes dinner (that sounds like a 50s thing, but she enjoys it and its another subject ;-) and maybe for 30 minutes on the couch after dinner. We spend time together from 8-10 or so until she passes out (early sleeper), then I am free maybe to read in bed or, as of lately, I have been turning in with her as I know it makes her happy. What I did not mention yet is that she moved a similar distance for me, so I feel that she already made so many sacrifices already - you might consider that, at least initially. Taking away or asking him to modify all that relaxes him might be too much for comfort. At least plant the seed though. I am reading/watching TV far less than I hope our balance will be in the future, but I made sure to start us off on the right foot, and not just come out of nowhere with demands later. I'll admitt also that we have had more disagreements in the past week than in the past year, but we never let them fester or get out of hand. Try to boil it down to what the other side wants, and how you can give them SOME of that. He needs to follow this too, and will if he is committed to you and your relationship. If not, THEN you have a ticket to run. Voice your concerns, recognize his sacrifices, be patient but not passivist, and all will work out in the end.
posted by skyguy14 at 9:31 AM on August 17, 2005

Does anyone else think skyguy14 is the boyfriend of anonymous? Heh.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:33 AM on August 17, 2005 [1 favorite]

PS: I have TiVo too. What happens when it doesn't work? Not likely, but I do not base the success of our relationship on the technology of the times...
posted by skyguy14 at 9:34 AM on August 17, 2005

You say he hasn't moved yet - what makes you think everything would be the same afterwards? I would imagine moving across the country would change things in ways you aren't expecting. If I were in his place I'd try to get myself established in my new town in my own right - i.e. get out there and do things, at least at first, so as not to be too dependent on my partner. It may be that he's not the type to do that, and that's a separate problem - but give things a while to settle down after he moves, is what I'm really saying.
posted by altolinguistic at 10:08 AM on August 17, 2005

i'd try to break him of the misconception that 'tv time' can also be your 'together time.' To do this, for every hour that he spends in front of the television, you should spend an hour out doing something cool with friends, out at movies, etc. Do the kind of stuff you would want to be doing with him during that time, but not in the same room as the television. If he has a problem with that, then negotiate how much time you guys spend doing stuff together versus how much time you each will spend doing fun things apart.
posted by troybob at 10:45 AM on August 17, 2005

Do not try to change him. If you feel change is nessicary, change yourself. The TiVo solution could help, but that's only going to change when he watches TV, and could make it so he watches TV for longer periods of time.

Do yourself a favor and accept that he has something he loves to do. Someone who wants to take that away from him isn't going to rate very high for very long.

Accept it, get over it, or move on.
posted by bigtimes at 3:40 PM on August 17, 2005

I've been in a similar situation. For me, there was an aspect to the problem that no one's addressed here.

I wasn't jealous of my boyfriend's time and attention; I was busy myself and I felt pretty securely loved. Rather, the problem was that unless I'm actively watching it -- which hardy ever happens! -- I hate being around a TV at all. He wasn't willing to use headphones, we didn't have another room to move it to, and I felt physically miserable with the switched-on TV dominating our common space.

It was tough for us. The closest thing we found to a solution was that I'd retreat to the bedroom to read. That made him unhappy; he wanted more companionship and wished we could spend more neutral time together.

In the end we broke up for a variety of other reasons, but I think it contributed to some distance and general discomfort that perhaps kept us from working harder to stay together.
posted by tangerine at 12:43 PM on August 18, 2005

Get him a Tivo, so that he dosn't have to watch it every day.
posted by delmoi at 2:09 PM on August 18, 2005

I wish I could TiVo metafilter, and participate in all the intresting discussions at my lesure.
posted by delmoi at 2:11 PM on August 18, 2005

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