Why Do Women Hate TV Watching Men?
July 10, 2014 10:34 PM   Subscribe

Husbands and boyfriends watching too much tv is a common complaint from women. It's so frequently mentioned in relationships of all types that I don't understand it. If not tv, then video games. I'd like to understand why this particular issue is so frequent among couples, and maybe both why men do it, and why women despise it? Is there any studies or other sources that explain behavior, or attempted to explore it, especially in a relationship or gender differentiated dynamic?

I know it can go both ways and women can be the excessive tv watchers. But it seems like the majority of cases are men watching too much tv or playing too many video games. I thought it was related to an unequal distribution of house work (which it is for many) but there are plenty of examples where men are doing their share of work, and yet still "watch too much tv/video games".

I am curious because it's a problem in my relationship. My husband watches tv from the time he gets up to the time he goes to bed. Other things are just distractions to be completed until he can get back to the tv. Even if he's working on other things, he will often have the tv on pause, often taking "breaks" and switching back to tv. He'll watch the same tv and movies over and over again. I don't know he's gone a single day without tv since we've known each other. If he doesn't have anyplace to be, he will take hours to wake up because he turns on tv first thing and watches as part of his waking up process.

I watch tv, and am prone to spells of intently watching a show for hours on end (binge watching a series). But then it ends and I do something else. The notion of watching tv constantly strikes me as weird.

This is perplexing to me because it is such a huge time sink and I think of all the things he could be doing instead of watching tv that would be more productive. Be it hobby, exercise, housework, career training, and probably many other things. I have tried to think of it as his "hobby", but I don't see any hobbies that are that all consuming and a 24/7 part of ones day.

And yet, in trying to understand it in my husband, I see that a lot of men are like this. Or rather, I see a lot of women complaining about the men in their lives being like this. I am also trying to understand why women see it in such a negative light. The number one complaint seems to be that the husband/boyfriend is doing it instead of helping with chores. But the secondary complaint seems that most see it as a waste of time (myself included).

In many cases, that seems to bother women more than the lack of help the television causes, many women stating it would be okay if the husband/boyfriend was doing something else that took up time, as long as it was enriching. Which begs the question, why don't these women see tv and video games as enriching, and is that feeling different than men have towards those activities (from a sample of one, the answer is "yes".) Why do we see it so differently?

Is there any study into this area? Any explanations or hypothesis that are somewhat credible? There is so much information online about people experiencing this problem in their relationship, with many ideas why it happens to them, from the men as to why they do it, and many of them vary or suggest that tv watching is a symptom, but of what and why?

I really am trying to avoid this being chat-filter; but I don't know where else to ask. I am not worried right now about figuring out the cause of it in my relationship (that's for another time), I'm just trying to understand why it exists and why it is so gender biased, both in the watching of tv/playing video games and the general dislike by the other gender.
posted by LANA! to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (31 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
I am also trying to understand why women see it in such a negative light.

I think any time your partner spends a large amount of time essentially ignoring you while you're right there is going to be irritating. And I think any compulsive behavior gets annoying. It doesn't matter if it's playing video games or knitting, I think.

I don't think it's particularly gender based-- my mom does this to my dad, and it's incredibly frustrating when I visit because she will literally tell us to shut up and stop talking to each other, because we're distracting her from television.
posted by empath at 10:52 PM on July 10, 2014 [12 favorites]

No one wants to date someone who sits around all day doing passive activities. No one wants to feel ignored or taken for granted.

I think it's a complaint both in that a) the significant other isn't paying attention to their mate or making them feel loved. But also b) boredom and repetition isn't that appealing -- why have a mate if you don't explore the world and do new things together? When people are in relationships, they tend to want to embark on adventures together. To be dating someone who doesn't want to do that, it's sort of like, what's the point? I can sit around and watch TV alone.

I think your husband is in a rut. He needs to find something he feels passionately about. I find it's very easy for me to spend a lot of time doing nothing. For me it's the internet, not TV, and I can spend hours consuming media -- reading articles, watching videos, etc. It's something I do when I'm not doing anything valuable and I don't have anything better to worry about. He needs better things to do and better things to worry about. Then TV won't seem like a good way to spend his time. Sometimes it's nice to veg out for a while, but after too long, I feel like crap. Try to sightsee or take a class together or something. I doubt he feels like a self-actualized person.
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:53 PM on July 10, 2014 [6 favorites]

I think your impression of it being gender-biased may be confirmation bias, especially when it goes beyond avoiding chores.
posted by jojobobo at 11:27 PM on July 10, 2014 [20 favorites]

I think for many women a comforting, pleasant homelife is something you actively create (by planning what you'll eat together next, do together next, by having a pot of tea together, etc.)
While men more than women tend to let home happen to them, wash over them.
So relationship work is also work, albeit a pleasant one. If you just hang out infront of the tv, you're not doing your part.
That's all I can think of.
posted by Omnomnom at 11:36 PM on July 10, 2014 [19 favorites]

I had a boyfriend who watched a lot of TV (the tv went on the second he woke up, the second he got home from work, and it was on until after he fell asleep) and it really drove me nuts.

For me it was

- the CONSTANT noise! (made worse when it was a vulgar cartoon show where the characters had jarring voices)

- Impacted sex life, sex had to happen around a TV schedule- which was pretty much all evening with the Simpsons and South Park or Motor Racing.

- having to say things 2-3 times because he wasn't listening.

- Not having a nice going to bed routine because he always wanted to finish whatever show

- Being woken up by TV at 3 in the morning and having to turn it off myself because he had fallen asleep
posted by misspony at 11:40 PM on July 10, 2014 [7 favorites]

I think the 'even amount of chores' is a bigger issue than you're thinking. Because while he might be doing X chores, the time spent in front of the TV is often at the expense of emotional labour (connecting with friends/family/children) or other invisible things (planning meals/holidays, researching) and add into that the 'asking three times' and the constant noise, and it's all exacerbated. Particularly if the woman's TV watching gets scheduled around his.

(I see a lot of men doing this with napping, as well as other pursuits - it's easy to say "well he needs the sleep" but also, he's sleeping away hours where his partner has sole care of kids and house and that's not ever really reciprocated)
posted by geek anachronism at 11:47 PM on July 10, 2014 [46 favorites]

I forgot to mention the emotional fallout from what they watch as well. It's hard not to feel my partner is an immature idiot if he is genuinely angry and upset about a football game. For some reason I don't feel the same way about reactions to TV shows/movies, but with those my reaction to the show makes a difference. My partner watching Breaking Bad or The League gave me the shits because I didn't want to watch either of them. And with games, the ones where he cannot pause make me irritated too (we've got a kid, and if he's playing something or watching something that she can't, or he cannot pause, it means I have full care while he's having time off).
posted by geek anachronism at 1:12 AM on July 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

It's extremely irritating to be doing something unpleasant but necessary while your partner is staring slack-jawed at the TV rather than offering to assist or help out or anything.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 1:19 AM on July 11, 2014 [8 favorites]

My husband isn't too bad about TV but he does watch more than I'd ideally like when sports are involved (I am counting down the hours til the end of the World Cup). What annoys me about it is that I feel like he's only ever half (if that) present - others have mentioned having to repeat things, but there's also this feeling that in order to have even a brief conversation I have to interrupt him from his TV watching. If you're knitting or reading or drawing or something and someone wants to talk to you, you can reply without it being A Big Interruption to what you're doing.

I think part of the problem with TV is that it inherently takes up a lot of time, and tends to occur in quite big chunks. I even find documentaries a bit annoying in that it often takes them an hour to explain something I could have read in ten minutes. As you say, it's a huge time sink, in a way that very few other hobbies are. Part of me feels as though it's almost something you do in order to pass the time - something you do on a rainy afternoon.

(geek anachronism is spot on about the emotional labour, too. My husband has been truly amazing about taking on more chores since we had a kid, but it drives me crazy that he still expects to be able to play video games because, well, what did you want to have a kid for if you're not going to play with her?!)
posted by raspberry-ripple at 1:50 AM on July 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

Excessive TV watching like described here is bound to change the power dynamic within the relationship. Because he prioritizes TV over anything else, she has to ask/remind him repeatedly to take care of chores, childcare, errands and so on.
Even if he ends up doing about 50% of the labor, she is doing 100% of the mental work and that feels more like a mother-child relationship than an equal partners relationship.

Watching TV excessively can be a symptom of depression. It's absolutely passive, it does not require any work, any thinking really and tunes out ones thoughts. If life revolves around the TV schedule, he gives up autonomy to a great extent and let's life happen to him (depressed people often feel like there is nothing they can do to change their circumstances, like everything is hopeless and they just have to accept it etc.).
If the TV is the main thing from the moment of waking to falling asleep, self-care and hygiene might become less important. Since it's a sedentary behavior, it has real effects on health and well being. Same with screen time. Having a partner who does not take care of themselves and their health can cause stress and friction in the relationship.
posted by travelwithcats at 1:53 AM on July 11, 2014 [15 favorites]

There are a lot of studies in this general area, but I don't know whether they answer your question. It seems obvious why withdrawing from social interaction in order to 'waste time' would be annoying.

For myself, I would hardly ever play games if I wasn't forced out of the living room by my wife and daughters' need to watch Downton Abbey and the like.
posted by Segundus at 2:02 AM on July 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

I think women in general tend to pay more attention to the state of the relationship, the house etc. This is what we are socialised to do; to make sure everything is running smoothly and everyone is more or less happpy and to become alert when this is not the case. We keep a running to-do list in our heads and are therefore less likely to go watch tv if we are aware something else needs to be done as well.
Men on the other hand, may be blissfully ignorant that this, that or the other (relationship. household chores, sex etc.) is in need of tending, and more likely to go: "yay! I have done all the chores assigned to me by my wife / the duty roster, time to shut off my brain and go watch tv!"
posted by Omnomnom at 3:12 AM on July 11, 2014 [5 favorites]

Here's a New York Times graphic showing how people use their time over the day, based on the American Time Use Survey. It's mind-boggling how much time Americans spend watching TV.
posted by kadonoishi at 3:21 AM on July 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Confirmation bias is definitely in play here. Definitely definitely definitely. It seems like there are other things bothering you in your relationship, and you should talk about them.


That said, and I'm just spitballing here, and here I'm referring to prevailing attitudes and stereotypes and hypothetical average people...

1) In any given heterosexual relationship, it is more likely that the man is both working longer hours outside the home and earning more. It is also more likely that the woman is working doing more work inside the house, i.e. housework, chores, etc. It doesn't matter that most women also work outside the home - they still wind up spending more time on chores inside the home.

When people work more hours at their job, they are more likely to slack off in the house. This can be obnoxious for the other person. Somebody watching TV when it seems like there is more housework to be done can feel like somebody watching TV while you're trying to do work at your workplace.

This can be compounded by the fact that most men are less likely to do housework as thoroughly as most women. This is not just out of laziness, or spite, or feeling like it's not man's work, although of course it can be all of those things as well. It can also be because men are not socialized to be as detail-oriented/persnickety/whatever about this sort of thing. They either don't feel or don't notice that some tasks ought to be done.

Unchecked, this can become a vicious cycle. If the woman is seen by both parties as being the Leader of the Housework, then the only way housework gets done is through compromise between her and the man. She will always have less done than she wants, and he will always do more than he wants. Does that make sense? If it is not already agreed-upon that housework is everybody's responsibility, then it will always feel unbalanced and unfair, for both parties.

Housework is also less fundamental to a man's day-to-day existence. Most men, on average, will only do the minimum to live hygienically. It is not expected that they do more. It is seen as perfectly normal for a bachelor to eat frozen waffles from his single plate, in a spartan room with a dirty shower. Contrast that with what is expected of most women, even young single women.

That can make the learning curve steeper for your hypothetical average man. It is harder to learn new routines when you're an adult. If you have not already been playing house since you were too young to read, then it can be hard to get in the spirit of realizing that the home is also a sort of workplace.

2) This also plays into prevailing attitudes and views among men and women, about men and women.

Men are more likely to view relationships as being contractual, e.g. "I did what we had explicitly agreed I should do, so now I can do whatever". If the man already has a decent job, then this is even more well-cemented. He's done his job, he's presumably done his chores, and now he is done. Why should he indulge in an "enriching" activity, if he has already fulfilled his duties? To the average man, that kind of criticism can feel like the scene in Office Space where Jennifer Aniston is passive-aggressively scolded for only doing the "bare minimum".

Women, on the other hand, are more likely to view relationships as ongoing social processes, e.g. "I know I didn't literally ask you to do XYZ, but don't you feel a little odd that I'm still doing work here, while you're watching TV?" There can be a certain amount of Guess Culture at work here. It is expected that everybody is playing off of others' anticipated needs.

3) Speaking of prevailing attitudes among heterosexual couples...

Men are seen as the rightful primary breadwinners for a house. If a man is not trying to improve his station, then he is letting down the house. He should be doing more, and probably also earning more.

This plays into what is seen as attractive in the first place. Stereotypically speaking, men are attracted to images, and women are attracted to stories. A man receives an image of a woman, a job, etc., and he often feels fine. But for a woman, often the image is never sufficient - there needs to be the continuing story that the man is ambitious. Sitting around and watching TV is not a story.

So, when a woman is the one who is hanging around and watching TV, this is, on average, seen as less problematic. The average man doesn't care about housework, after a certain threshold. The woman is not expected to be the primary breadwinner. The man doesn't even really need her to be all that "ambitious" per se, at least not in the same sense that a man is expected to be ambitious.


ALL THAT SAID, however, these are all prevailing attitudes and stereotypes and hypothetical average people. I'm not defending any of these views, and they don't necessarily map onto any particular, individual case.


tl;dr Think about what is bothering you about this and talk about it with your husband. I'm sure you already have, but it sounds like there is more to be done.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:29 AM on July 11, 2014 [15 favorites]

L'esprit de "already having hit post":

It is often discussed that women need to re-socialize themselves for the workplace, due to how they are taught to behave as girls. It is less often discussed that men often need to re-socialize themselves for the home, due to how they are taught to behave as boys. This is not to say that the mythical way men ran the workplace was the only right way, nor that the mythical way women ran the home was the only right way, but it is often the starting point for many of these kinds of problems.

Part of the reason for this disparity is because housework is still often framed in the stereotypically manly way: housework is seen as secondary to the workplace. When a woman learns how to run the boardroom, she is seen as elevating herself. When a man learns how to do household chores, even if those "chores" are just how to deal with the relationship itself, it is going against what was supposed to have been his manly programming. The idea that men can't do housework, or that they're bad at relationships, is the flipside of the idea that a man ought instead to be naturally large and in charge at the workplace.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:42 AM on July 11, 2014 [6 favorites]

I had two relationships with this problem (though it's not 100% a gender thing -- too much TV / video games is now my own vice but I live alone but it doesn't bother anyone except me).

In both relationships, the common annoyance was attention. Not like, Ooooh, I need attention, but even a simple conversation would need to be repeated, like asking what they wanted for dinner would need to be repeated several times.

Or, god forbid, more serious conversations would have to be postponed or conducted with one eye on a screen. I HATE talking to people who have one eye on something else or have their face turned away from me.

Weekly plans also had to be made around Sunday football and Survivor. It took a lot of the whim and spontaneity out of life when you knew Thursday night was going to be yelling at the TV during a contest among white people for basic human necessities while nearby brown people were busting their asses for a dollar a day without an emergency medical airlift around the corner.

In the event of the gaming partner, it began to smack of addiction. When there was no money, there was still a new game every week, no matter how small or stupid or ridiculous it was. Gaming finally started to happen at 4 a.m. when I was still asleep, so that he'd fall into bed around 8:30 or so, and so we had no together time at all.
posted by mibo at 4:44 AM on July 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm going to ignore the gender stereotypes and just get to the nut of the issue:

"If I wanted to spend my evenings with the TV on and to be ignored, I don't need a Boyfriend to do it. I can do that on my own."

Basically, you want to interact with him, he wants to zone out watching the tube. So now you have two problems, a BF who's not interacting with you, and the noise of the goofy shit he's watching on TV. Who needs it?

I was watching Guys and Dolls and I thought about this scene:

ADELAIDE: What? I don’t understand. Sky, Nathan has to come here tonight. We’re eloping to get married. Is it the crap game again?

SKY: You know Nathan. Why does it surprise you?

ADELAIDE: But he promised to change.

SKY: Change, change. Why is it the minute you dolls get a guy that you like, you take him right in for alterations?

ADELAIDE: What about you men? Why can’t you marry people like other people do and live normal like people? Have a home, with – wallpaper, and book ends.

SKY: Guys like Nathan Detroit, and – yeah, Sky Masterson – we don’t belong in a life like that. So when dolls get mixed up with guys like us, it’s no good. If you want to live like normal people, fall in love with normal people!

It's like my Algebra teacher in high school said, "If you don't want to marry a gas station attendant, don't date a gas station attendant." He is what he is, and if he's a TV watching lump, that's on you, not him. If you don't want to be with a TV watching lump, find someone who doesn't do that.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:33 AM on July 11, 2014 [8 favorites]

TV seems to kill conversation and it stultifies independent thought in a way that other forms of diversion do not - or at least not to the same extent. TV programmes seem to hook and bend the mental processes in a somewhat different and more compelling way than, say, reading a book or surfing the web. I first noticed this many years ago, when (in a gender reversal of your question) I realised that my ex-wife was sucked into TV in a way that I was not (although I could feel the lure enough to recognise it). I was the one frustrated by the way she basically "shut down" when watching her favourite programmes. After work I wanted to talk about our respective days, maybe discuss nice things, plans, what we might do at the weekend. Or even just sit in companionable silence, separate but still engaged in a way that doesn't seem to happen when one person is mentally fixated on the box. The sort of habitual evening plugging in to the TV Matrix started to seem slightly sinister to me, so after the ex left me one of the very first things I did was get rid of the TV. Seventeen years later I have never gone back, or been tempted to do so. TV is peculiarly addictive, and to those of us who do not share the addiction regular TV watchers seem like any other addict. And addicts are boring.

In short: TV-watching can make a person seem especially disengaged, and that can be irksome to the person who shares their life.
posted by Decani at 5:48 AM on July 11, 2014 [6 favorites]

Only part of the problem, but TV/Computer games were a wall that he built between us. I felt very alone and neglected as I just watched him park it in front of a screen at every available opportunity. Sometimes we watched TV together, but it never got rid of that feeling. In short, I guess, it was a substitute for intimacy in our relationship, and a very poor one at that.
posted by sevenofspades at 5:59 AM on July 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think some good points are made above. I would add, that for me, TV watching specifically is a pure reward/zero effort activity, and when someone is spending so much of their day just soaking in pleasure without expending any effort, it hints at poor tolerance for frustration and unrealistic expectations that life should mostly be fun, pleasant, entertaining, and easy.
posted by drlith at 6:05 AM on July 11, 2014 [10 favorites]

There was an article I read years ago (maybe 2002-ish?) discussing how television editing was getting faster (quicker cuts, etc.) and the result was that television now tends to engage our fight-or-flight responses and keep us hooked on watching; when we see things moving fairly quickly we tend to keep looking because our brains are still used to watching forests to make sure there's not a predator hiding in the leaves.

Which means, generally, that if you're in a room with the television on, it's fairly hard to ignore. A partner who's doing a crossword puzzle or knitting or painting or doing some other activity that requires concentration doesn't tend to drag your attention to their task; television or video games do. Even if you're not really watching whatever's on, if it's on in a space that you're in, you're dragged into the activity. So then you've got the extra work of having to actively ignore the sounds and visuals of a medium specifically designed to be hard-to-ignore, and that's tiring. It's extra work for you in the way a partner's game of solitaire is not.
posted by jaguar at 6:15 AM on July 11, 2014 [7 favorites]

Genders reversed here, in that I'm a guy for whom TV-obsessed women are a turn-off. I really don't like it when any SO of mine has sat around watching lots and lots of TV. (This also applies to video games, particularly World of Warcraft, which I sometimes think was created and programmed for the sole purpose of destroying romantic relationships.)

I don't think it gets any more complicated than the reasons you've just mentioned, though I too would be interested in seeing studies on this.

These are my personal feelings, so they may not match those of the women you're talking about:

1. I find it very difficult to carry on a conversation while the TV's on. I was raised in a family where Woe Betide You if you make noise of any sort (e.g. talking, eating potato chips out of a crinkly bag) while my dad was trying to watch TV. So, internally, I find it well-nigh impossible to say "hey, can you pause it please?" or just to speak up in general, even to pull a MST3K or People's Couch on the show that's currently on. I find that most other people were raised in households where the TV is just background noise and it's OK to talk over it.

2. Often, our tastes in TV shows are different, though not always. If it's a show I'm also interested in, I'll be able to sit there for hours. However, if it's some mindless tripe like the Kardashians (WHY are these people famous again, exactly?), where I can feel my IQ dropping with every second the show is on, I'll pass, thanks.

3. I feel resentful (and, frankly, a bit jealous) whenever I'm busy doing stuff around the house (dishes, trash, laundry, walking the dogs, e.g.) after what's already been a long day at work for me, while she's sitting in front of the TV and doesn't even offer to help. (DVRs exist now. You can pause it or record it -- help me out now, and watch it later.) TV to me is not so much a "waste of time" as a luxury/indulgence, to be enjoyed as a reward when the work is done. It's also important to me to have other leisure hobbies, and to connect with my family and friends. So yes, I see it as a "waste of time," but only when there's work to be done.

4. I already get so little free time at home to spend with an SO that I feel ignored/unwanted/unloved if she squanders that time in front of the TV watching some brainless junk in which I have no interest.

5. I understand the desire to watch the same movies over and over and over again -- I have three or four movies I really enjoy, can quote in their entirety, and will never get tired of -- but when you have several bookshelves full of DVDs and put a movie you've already seen 45598287587923897 times on just for background noise while you do other things -- that I will never understand.
posted by tckma at 8:37 AM on July 11, 2014

"If I wanted to spend my evenings with the TV on and to be ignored, I don't need a [Significant Other] to do it. I can do that on my own."

This. So much this.

I've found that when the TV goes on, provided all the daily chores are done, I start playing on my phone and having Internet Time. I figure if I'm not interested in what's on the TV, and I'm not being paid attention to anyway, I may as well pass the time by doing my own Relaxing With Mindless Crap. This, ironically enough, leads to complaints about how I am "shutting off" and "not spending time together." Then I feel bad about spending time on my phone doing mindless social media crap and playing games.
posted by tckma at 8:53 AM on July 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

I think you're potentially underestimating how much the impact of the unequal division of household chores is a factor here.

Women still spend more hours per men on household chores, even when they are the primary breadwinners.

Going off that, it would seem that there are probably a lot of men out there who feel that they have done "their share" of the housework and feel free to watch TV, leaving their female partner to spend more time dedicated to household chores.

Not only that, but men have more leisure time than women, see here, here (specifically mentions TV watching), and here (scroll down to the bottom--mentions TV watching as well).

Given that the average women in a heterosexual partnership spends more of her day doing household work and less time on leisure activities than her male partner, it's possible that some women are frustrated because they have to choose between an enriching activity and TV or video games, while their male partner has time for both (or more TV and video games).
posted by inertia at 9:14 AM on July 11, 2014 [6 favorites]

Other people have already mentioned most of these, and yeah, I don't know how gendered most of these reasons are, but this is a huge peeve for me and have thought a lot about what bothers me about it.

1. If the TV is in a central part of the house, which most seem to be, the television/video games become the central focus of the household. And the more of an open floor plan you have, the worse it is. When someone is watching TV right in the middle of your primary living space, you can't read, listen to music, talk, work, or really do anything else there. This is usually the part of the house with the best climate control, the most comfortable daytime furniture, the most natural light, etc., so monopolizing that space regularly can be a pretty big pain in the butt for everyone else.

2. TV and video games are a constant stream of distracting and distressing noises. Tinny, repetitive music. Yelling. Screaming. Explosions, gunshots, screeching tires, and sirens. Sudden bursts of crying and laughing. Bombastic and other simplistically manipulative music. And, if the watcher is really into something, sometimes they're having little outbursts as well. So your home is basically filled with distress signals and other attention getting noises, which can create a constant, low level stress. Even as you know intellectually that these things aren't emergencies, your brain at some level is going to react as though they are. Search for stress and noise for lots and lots of research into the psychological and cognitive effects of ambient noise and the health problems that can stem from that. Here's a very short, generalized About article for an overview.

3. This is going to sound kind of weird and I'm not sure about how to phrase it, but most people just look dull and ridiculous when they're watching TV. They just sit there, kind of slack jawed, looking like they're barely even functioning. It's just plain unattractive, especially if they intersperse it with childish reactions like yelling or hooting or something. Seeing your partner just acting like a big dull lump all the time can subtly change your perceptions of them sometimes.

4. There are just loud house people and quiet house people. This is not an insurmountable incompatibility, but I think it's much more important than most people realize, and sometimes you don't find out which one your partner is until you start living with them full time.

5. There are tons of tiny little interactions that the TV watcher is checking out of. It doesn't have to be, like, intensive attention and relationship time or anything (I need very little of that, personally), but just boring little transfers of information. We're out of dish soap. The dog is due for a checkup. Your prescription is ready to pick up. I need the big car on Thursday. I'm going to the hardware store--don't use the toilet in the hall bathroom. If you're waiting for a commercial or a break in a video game, you're putting everything else on hold just so you can do those mundane information dumps, instead of just getting them dealt with on the spot and moving on. (And yeah, a distracted person is very very likely to forget what you told them, so you can't even really move on then.) This is gendered. Even men who are reasonably feminist are often oblivious to these little administrative kind of tasks, and don't even notice women doing all that work for them.

6. People absorbed in TV and video games often don't take care of little things that come up. If the landline rings or a kid needs something, if the dog needs to go out or there are Jehovah's Witnesses at the door, the person not watching TV is the one who gets interrupted, even if they're actually doing something productive at the time. A lot of the time, the TV watcher is not even alert enough to notice this stuff is going on. This is gendered too, obviously.
posted by ernielundquist at 10:31 AM on July 11, 2014 [7 favorites]

On average, women make about 2/3s as much money as men. If you flip that around, men make about 1.5 times what women make. The kinds of jobs that pay that well are very often more physically demanding than they are mentally stimulating. Even if you have a "brainy" job that pays you to do mental tasks, they are often boring and repetitive. It is extremely common for people who have demanding jobs to watch TV when they get home. It is passive but keeps their mind occupied.

So I suspect that part of why this is a gendered stereotype is because men so often have demanding jobs and thus come home and watch TV.

My ex-husband watched TV, played games, or spent time at the computer constantly. After he moved out, I often had no TV. Something I have discussed with my sons is that we have very quiet lives and this means we are able to actually think. We are not constantly inundated with background noise type stuff -- TV, music, etc -- and it gives us a different mental landscape than what a lot of Americans have. In my marriage, my husband's habit of being constantly busy with TV, games, etc meant I almost never had his undivided attention. I felt very neglected. It wasn't simply a matter of time. It was also a matter of focus. Even when he did talk with me, he really didn't give me his attention. And it was soul sucking.
posted by Michele in California at 11:01 AM on July 11, 2014

I think it's really just anything that someone does obsessively to the exclusion of all else. I feel the same way about my exes who would just play video games/do shit on the computer until 3 a.m.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:32 AM on July 11, 2014

Let's say the housework really is split 50/50, except time-shifted. Even then, it's hard not to feel twinges of resentment when you're doing some unpleasant task and he's just sitting there watching TV. It's much better, in my opinion, to do housework at the same time.

Our relationship worked best when we carved out time for chores on a weekend and banged through them together in a couple of hours. We had a shared sense of purpose and if the task was unpleasant, at least we were suffering together. It didn't go so well when (for example) I was internetting while he was doing yardwork, or when I was stuck doing laundry while he was playing videogames.

If the housework is not split 50/50, then this resentment is just exacerbated.
posted by desjardins at 11:47 AM on July 11, 2014 [4 favorites]

1) A person watching TV is in a stupor. Eyes glazed, jaw slack, chins doubled, stubble growing in, communicating in grunts, perhaps laughing idiotically, or startling you by yelling at the game. This is fine if you're in a stupor, too, and looking at the TV and not at your stupefied companion. But if you're up and about, doing things, thinking things, perhaps wanting to talk about things, then the person watching TV becomes exceedingly unattractive and annoying.

2) If you're not watching TV yourself, it's just a lot of annoying noise. Especially the fucking commercials. And if you're not absorbed in the story yourself, then all the screaming, explosions, gunshots, etc. of a typical action movie are really upsetting and stressful to hear.
posted by HotToddy at 1:42 PM on July 11, 2014 [4 favorites]

My wife hated my TV habit. I learned to pause the show every 20 minutes or so to have a real conversation with her about something relatively important. Now she doesn't complain anymore because my TV watching involves her instead of just being passive.
posted by tacodave at 1:56 PM on July 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm glad somebody else mentioned tv addiction and the way it takes over a person's thoughts. That's my main problem with television. It's so emotionally manipulative. Especially the ads, but also the news, and dramas about certain topics. I see tv as a machine for replacing a person's own thoughts with the thoughts of others. I wonder how people can live with the tv on the entire time they're awake. And some people even sleep with it on, letting the content of late-night ads and crap seep into their dreams. And then there's the time-sink aspect on top of that. I think tv and video games are way more insidious than they seem. Which is not to say I don't watch any tv shows at all; there are some shows I watch online. But doing it that way means I see zero ads, and prevents me from losing huge amounts of time at once.
posted by the big lizard at 10:30 AM on July 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

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