A hot date with a ball of wool?
September 20, 2015 2:10 PM   Subscribe

I enjoy knitting while watching TV. I sometimes enjoy watching TV or a movie with an SO. Sometimes I like doing those things together. Is this going to be a problem in most relationships? How do I find someone who wouldn't be weirded out by that?

I'm not someone who knits in public or while expected to be involved in a conversation (like what's described in this thread), but I do like to knit or crochet while watching TV at home. I don't have a lot of free time where my hands are free to do any sort of crafting, nor do I see that changing a whole lot, so I'm kind of concerned about how to deal with that if I get into a relationship again.

My ex had a big problem with me multitasking if we were watching TV together (not just knitting, he would throw a hissyfit if I dared to second-screen), and found my knitting to be distracting and disrespectful, so I just stopped doing it around him. Switching to bamboo needles didn't help make my knitting less distracting, either. I'm not entirely sure if it was a sensory issue for him, a respect issue, or a lack of ability to put himself in other people's shoes - he's not a good multitasker and didn't seem to understand how others can multitask effectively. Carving out time alone just to knit cut into my limited free time to do things socially, so I more or less just stopped knitting until I was single.

My question is, is this something I can really only do while single, or was my ex just unusual? It seems like other women manage to have partners who don't act this way about their multitasking, but I'm wondering if they're the exception rather than the norm. Should I just adjust my expectations around how I incorporate my hobbies into my life, if at all? I know this sounds melodramatic, but I'm on the heels of a relationship where I basically had to avoid doing a variety of things that a lot of people would see as innocuous because the questioning and pushback against them was exhausting to deal with (he's the guy referenced in this question). Thanks!
posted by blerghamot to Human Relations (51 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Your ex was unusual. I'll cop to feeling very mildly cheesed off at my wife knitting at the bar if we're like kind of on a date; but at the house? What, were you like, disrespecting the TV? Fuck that noise, he was crazy.
posted by ftm at 2:18 PM on September 20, 2015 [91 favorites]

I'd gather that your ex is in the tiny minority of humans in their mid-20s. I have a sample size of 2 husbands and neither of them even blinked if I did something else while the TV was on. Other pursuits include(d): reading magazines, newspapers, books, clipping coupons, playing Candy Crush, second screening, doing work for the next day, folding clothes, etc. We can have the TV on, have the second activity going, and hold a conversation.

I think you are FINE, and you will find someone who won't give a second thought to your knitting.
posted by kimberussell at 2:21 PM on September 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

Knitting while watching tv would be totally, 100% a non-issue for me. The worst that might happen would be that I'd start hinting that I wanted a sweater.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 2:22 PM on September 20, 2015 [17 favorites]

I cross stitch while my husband and I watch TV. He has never had a problem with it, he actually thinks it's cute. The only issue we've ever had is over having the light reflecting on the screen, so when we watch something dark I'll stop stitching so we can turn out the light.

About the second screen - I do find it distracting when the lights are down and it is in my eye line, beyond that though I think your ex was definitely unreasonable.
posted by Requiax at 2:22 PM on September 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Hell, it's practically a gender stereotype that a man just watches TV but a woman watches TV while doing at least two other things.

I am also one of those people who is sort of piqued by inappropriate knitting, but TV-time isn't one of those scenarios. Most people you meet are going to be fine with it, and honestly you need to step back and take a hard think about what all else is going on if you run into it again.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:23 PM on September 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Unless there's some piece of the story you've forgotten here, I'm going to go 100% that this was your ex's issue and very unusual. I know many, many people of all genders who knit and craft while doing other things and their partners don't think twice about it. I don't mind it, and I say this as someone who watches films for a living and tends to ask for a high level of attention from viewing companions. (I do find excessive second-screening annoying.)
posted by thetortoise at 2:24 PM on September 20, 2015

Guess it just depends on the person. I know some people both male and female who get miffed at their partners continually looking at their smartphone while they are together, but I think smartphones carry the implication of someone else on Facebook being more interesting company than them. Personally I am a homebody and would love a partner who was cocooning at home, watching TV with them knitting, or playing boardgames together. Other people want to be out and about with their partners on their arm, showing them off. I read your previous question and your ex sounds like he's an ex for a good reason, I think you could definitely find lots of partners happy to be reading a book with TV in the background while you were doing your knitting or crafting. It's possible those sort of people might be more mellow and low-passion sorts at the same time, but not necessarily. If your hobby is important to you then yes I think a potential partner should respect that, and there's enough good people out there that you shouldn't have to give that up (it's not like your hobby is climbing dangerous mountains and your partner can't sleep with worry, it seems quite an easy hobby to accommodate for a reasonable person).
posted by AuroraSky at 2:27 PM on September 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

I've gotten annoyed with a friend doing a similar activity (drawing, in this case), when it was something I particularly wanted them to watch carefully, or they had to keep asking me what happened because they weren't looking at the screen. But yeah, this should not be a big deal. Your boyfriend was the odd one out here.
posted by chaiminda at 2:31 PM on September 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

Claim space for your hobbies. You definitely can and should have hobbies and a partner at the same time. I know it is a thing for people to get upset about other people multitasking, but it is extremely reasonable to want a partner who doesn't care about multitasking if multitasking is a thing you like to do. I know it's also a thing for people to get jealous of their partners' hobbies, and fuuuuuuuck that.
posted by clavicle at 2:34 PM on September 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

What? No, knitting while watching TV is a perfectly normal thing to do. Knitters gonna knit!
posted by DarlingBri at 2:35 PM on September 20, 2015 [4 favorites]

My wife crochets almost all the time when we're watching TV. To be honest, it's a bit odd when she's not.
posted by antipodes at 2:35 PM on September 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

Your ex boyfriend was a weirdo. I mean, unless you were constantly going "wait, who's that guy? Did she murder him? Is that the widow's sister?"
posted by MsMolly at 2:37 PM on September 20, 2015 [22 favorites]

If you sit down to watch something together and your knitting keeps you from paying attention to what you agreed to pay attention to, then I could see it as rude. But if you are one of those lucky people who can knit and follow the action and plot of a tv show, then I say have at it and it's totally acceptable.
posted by cecic at 2:39 PM on September 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Together alone time rules. Mine knits, I play uke. We make weird chirping noises at each other. Maybe yours viewed tv watching as a holy, uninterruptable activity? If so, negotiate that!

People find different things connecting and distancing.
posted by gregglind at 2:40 PM on September 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

I knit, cross stitch, colour, chain maille...whatever my favourite hobby of the moment is, I do it while the TV is on! It's better than us being in different rooms doing different things because we can still discuss the show.

My boyfriend and I deliberately cultivate TV shows that he enjoys and I can enjoy listening to but still craft during. This is not at all unusual among my group of friends, although the gender of the crafting person varies.
posted by eloeth-starr at 2:44 PM on September 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

Oh, yeah, obviously don't knit during his favorite movie that he's wanting to share with you. Don't make it a thing where you can't sit down on the couch without a project.

But yes, knitting during your average weekly tv shows ought to be fine. We also do a thing with a couple of shows one of us is into but the other isn't (but also doesn't loathe it or can't watch it, like my husband has to leave if I'm going to watch Hannibal, but he can cheerfully ignore some of my more boring cooking shows and I can ignore Agents of SHIELD.) and the agreement is sort of "I'm totally going to pay 0% attention to your thing but I'm going to hang out with you." Those are two different things - when we're watching something "together" I might do other stuff but it's not completely engrossing other stuff, so we can discuss and be involved together.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:48 PM on September 20, 2015 [6 favorites]

The only other person I knew who stopped their partner from her great knitting joy while watching TV was controlling and abusive.

If it was a deeply engrossing movie and you were being all romantic date-nighty together and cuddling on the couch, maybe ask a partner if it was ok. But regular movies and TV shows - bloody hell. Just do it. You're normal!

I just want proximity with my husband on the couch, not necessarily focused on the same thing exactly the same way.
posted by taff at 2:50 PM on September 20, 2015 [9 favorites]

My ex had a big problem with me multitasking if we were watching TV together (not just knitting, he would throw a hissyfit if I dared to second-screen), and found my knitting to be distracting and disrespectful, so I just stopped doing it around him

You know who does this kind of thing? Really immature guys. Good Lord please don't believe this is a normal thing. It's a "Moooom! You're not watching! Waaah!" behavior. It's a red flag. Would you force someone to pay attention to your favorite tv show if you could sense they weren't all that into it? Nope.

I used to like putting my head in my last boyfriend's lap and surfing the web while he watched football and peppered me with occasional kisses. He didnt mind---we spent hours doing that. Because he was an adult.
posted by discopolo at 2:50 PM on September 20, 2015 [11 favorites]

I come from a along line of TV watchers/readers (unto the 3rd generation) and my husband finds it confusing but not enraging. Your ex was an asshole.
posted by fiercekitten at 2:53 PM on September 20, 2015 [6 favorites]

I am the husband of an avid knitter and it never bothers me when my wife is knitting while watching TV. The laptops/phones are the things that bother us, and we always ask each other "do you mind if I play my game on my iPad?" or "Is it rude if I am reading this metafilter thread?" And we answer each other honestly. "I'd like to have more of your company that using ipad/computer/phone etc will allow."
posted by terrapin at 2:54 PM on September 20, 2015 [6 favorites]

My ex had a big problem with me multitasking if we were watching TV together (not just knitting, he would throw a hissyfit if I dared to second-screen), and found my knitting to be distracting and disrespectful, so I just stopped doing it around him.

The problem is not your knitting. The problem is that your ex is a whiny entitled douche.
posted by poffin boffin at 2:56 PM on September 20, 2015 [16 favorites]

Yah, I'm pretty much substituting "unusual" with "obnoxious" here.
posted by dlugoczaj at 2:57 PM on September 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

No, your ex was in the minority with this attitude. There are guys out there (like my husband) who find this type of behavior just fine, or actually charming.
posted by christinetheslp at 2:58 PM on September 20, 2015

My wife is happy, and that makes me happy. Plus I get awesome wool socks, sweaters, hats, scarves, etc, etc!
posted by terrapin at 3:00 PM on September 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

I would be enraged if my partner tried to keep me from reading or working or crafting or even second-screening when we were just doing casual DVR watching.

Seriously. Try me, motherfucker.

(The only time I can kinda see it being justified is if he'd wanted some Important Live Sports Event that Could Not Be DVR'd, and I'd insisted on watching the sixteenth repeat of Chopped or whatever, and then, after insisting, I didn't pay attention to the screen while he was literally dying of anxiety about his team in the playoffs or whatever.)
posted by joyceanmachine at 3:01 PM on September 20, 2015 [5 favorites]

Your ex is definitely in the minority here. I used to crochet while watching tv all the time, and the only time it would get annoying is if it was a plot I wanted to follow but I had a hard crochet pattern to follow at the same time, I would get distracted and would ask to rewind or have it explained to me. But even then no one got mad at each other, he'd tease me about needing to pay attention to the show that *I* chose to watch and I would start to pay more attention to the show than to crocheting. All other times crocheting was 100% a non-issue.
posted by never.was.and.never.will.be. at 3:01 PM on September 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Hmm...I guess for me the only issue would be when it was "this awesome movie I really want you to see" vs. just "let's watch a movie or something"
posted by sexyrobot at 3:06 PM on September 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

One more vote that your ex's behavior is not the norm. Future people you have relationships with will be absolutely fine with you knitting while watching TV. Dare I say, reading your previous question from 2014, your ex's strangely demanding behavior seems to have got you doubting yourself. Please don't use him as a yardstick for relationships going forward!
posted by ejs at 3:07 PM on September 20, 2015

Your ex is weird.

You have nothing to worry about here.

I mean, if you never wanted to have couch snuggle time because you prioritized knitting, I'd be bummed. But even then I'd phrase it as "please put the knitting down for a bit and come snuggle", and not as some absolute "it's rude to knit in front of other people" or "you should never divide your attention while watching TV". Most TV is super boring anyway and doesn't require full concentration.
posted by Sara C. at 3:12 PM on September 20, 2015

Just another vote for weird. My husband and I *both* do this! If we have more involved activities, we might put on a podcast. (Ha, LynNever! I crochet through Agents of SHEILD too lol.)
posted by jrobin276 at 3:13 PM on September 20, 2015

Every boyfriend I've had had been a total whiny baby about my second screening, and when I try to appease them by reading or working on my writing or drawing instead, they still felt "disrespected." It's not a charming trait, but your ex sounds normal to me.
posted by Juliet Banana at 3:15 PM on September 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

I had a boyfriend who would rewind scenes I wasn't interested in over & over again until he felt I paid sufficient attention. It's "normal" in that a ton of assholes do it but now that you know how to recognize it as a red flag you can avoid it?
posted by Juliet Banana at 3:17 PM on September 20, 2015 [6 favorites]

I would just have a conversation early on in the relationship where you say, "hey, my knitting is important to me, and I like crafting while watching TV."

Tolerance for split attention in shared activities is something where people genuinely differ. I don't think asking for engagement is unreasonable at all when the activity is important to one of the partners, and I find constant multitasking and distraction very different from knitting/crocheting. But I also know movie-watching is unusually important to me, and my wife and I talked about how we felt about it very early in our relationship.

It's great that you realize this is important to you, and I don't think you will repeat the negative patterns from your previous relationship.
posted by thetortoise at 3:27 PM on September 20, 2015 [4 favorites]

I'm a TV knitter/second-screener/multitasker, and I can kinda see how some people would find that distracting or off-putting. But when you're not cool with a partner's behavior, you work around it or work on a compromise together. It sounds like your ex wasn't interested in doing that. Good thing he's your ex.

And, yeah, there are lots of people who are totally fine with doing stuff while watching TV, and who don't constantly drain your mental energy or require you to be on your toes. You'll find one.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:33 PM on September 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

Your ex sounds like a knob.

That said, I do get a little grumpy when my girlfriend is fucking around on her phone when we're watching something but only when she says "What just happened?" (which I admit is quite rare) or forces me to look at a picture of a cat (less rare). I'm all for looking at pictures of cats but c'mon, they are setting up some stupid long-winded pointless nothing non-event dumb mystery on Lost even though this is halfway through the final season, and we've already come this far, there's a time and a place for cats!

Knit your socks off! Or should I say...on! *sunglasses*
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:04 PM on September 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

I haven't ONLY watched a movie with my husband in simply years. I don't let the fact that he is watching Blade for the thousandth time right this very minute bother me, he doesn't let the fact that I am answering this askme question at the same time bother him. We are passing companionable time together, and if one of us needs a little more attention, well, like adults, we ASK for it.
posted by thebrokedown at 6:26 PM on September 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

Another data point for "your partner was an asshat." I have never been able to just sit and watch tv, and I'm almost 60. I knit, cross-stitch, read, second screen. I have never ever had a partner, acquaintance, or friend who objected. My husband does like to watch movies together for the companionship, and I do put away my stuff to spend time doing that when he wants. But the majority of my screen time is spent occupying my hands with something else.
posted by raisingsand at 6:26 PM on September 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

I get annoyed sometimes when people are doing something distracting near me when I'm trying to concentrate. I would be bothered if I were trying to watch something and someone were knitting or doing anything else that makes noise and involves a lot of moving around too close to me. I also get annoyed if I am doing something and someone comes in and turns on the TV.

The fact that someone is distracted by things like that does not mean they're an unmitigated douche. It means they have different expectations and tolerance levels than you do, and it's something you work out individually.

There can be douches on either side of that equation, and sometimes people are just too incompatible for it to work, with neither of them actually being at fault. Life just sucks like that sometimes.

If both parties are reasonable and capable of talking and compromising, and they're not totally polar opposites, though, they can usually come up with a series of compromises and guidelines and work together.

If someone is watching TV for hours a day, expecting you stay in the room with them and not do anything else, that's unreasonable. If they are watching things they're really engaged in a couple times a week or so, asking for a distraction-free environment probably isn't unreasonable, assuming you have somewhere else you can go and do your own stuff. It would be unreasonable for them to demand you sit next to them and not multitask.

You're absolutely not unreasonable for having your own preferences. You should, and you should feel comfortable expressing and defending those preferences. You can't really have a safe, healthy, and fulfilling relationship with someone else until you feel confident being yourself. You should not feel like you have to change to be happy, and you should super hella not change your behaviors and preferences in order to appeal to some perceived demographic such as "men who don't like to have people knitting in the room while they're watching TV."
posted by ernielundquist at 6:32 PM on September 20, 2015 [5 favorites]

It's VERY common amongst my ~35-40 yr old coupled- up friends that the man half rolls his eyes & gripes about the lady half's multitasking/second screening.
But that doesn't mean we actually take them seriously! We mostly just roll our eyes back.
For what it's worth, my husband says he prefers the knitting to Candy Crush or working on laptop. So, not weird that it comes up in a men-are-from- mars-etcetc way, but WAY weird for him to pitch a fit to the point that it's an "issue" in your relationship. Sure, bring it up early in your next relationship, but bring it up in the context of "back talk about this issue will not be tolerated ".
posted by dotparker at 6:39 PM on September 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Ughhhhhhhhhh. Movies and tv are background activities to me...! If I had a SO how demanded my attention to something to such a worthless time suck at the expense of something enjoyable to me, that relationship would not last long. Obnoxious, immature, controlling behavior. I'm not living my life to revolve around a screen.
posted by cakebatter at 6:45 PM on September 20, 2015

First point: I totally agree with previous posters that the ex was being unreasonable and when you find a guy you like, he is statistically unlikely to be bothered by your knitting.

Second point: Do wait a while into the relationship to start doing knitting while he's around, except in very clear "down time" situations. If I'm on a date (or other quality-time occasion) with someone who is paying attention neither to the activity we're nominally doing, nor to me, but to something else (their phone, a book, their coworker who we run into, fidgeting with the salt shaker, knitting, etc) I definitely get the impression that they are not thrilled to be spending time with me, and it's hard to think of it as "we spent the afternoon together", because it feels like the other person wasn't entirely there. Once a friendship/relationship progresses into the territory of spending a lot of time around each other that isn't 100% dedicated interaction time, then yes, knit away!
posted by aimedwander at 7:10 PM on September 20, 2015

Oh, man, my ex used to get angry if I knitted while we watched TV, even if (especially if!) it was something I didn't have the slightest interest in, like pro wrestling. For him, it was very much a control thing, because he wanted my attention focuses entirely on him all the time, even if he wasn't paying any attention to me. It's among the many, many reasons he's my ex.

I just asked my husband if he has ever minded my knitting while we watch TV, and he assured me that it's not an issue at all. (I mean, if we're watching something complicated I'll put the knitting down. Or if we're watching a movie and have the lights off, I won't knit. But honestly, I get fidgety if I'm not knitting, so it's probably less distracting if I do knit.)
posted by sarcasticah at 7:21 PM on September 20, 2015 [4 favorites]

I knit all the time when watching netflix or movies, and get together with girlfriends for crafty nights where we easily socialize while knitting. It just doesn't seem rude or inappropriate to me at all to knit while watching TV.
posted by bighappyhairydog at 7:56 PM on September 20, 2015

My ex-wife used to knit while we were TV-watching, and, yes, sometimes it would bug me. But that was my issue, and was probably more reflective of other tensions between us or insecurities of my own than anything else.

What was sometimes a real genuine issue was her wanting to watch TV I didn't want to watch that she was background-watching. I would say that if one of you wants to knit and background-TV, and one of you wants to TV-as-primary-activity, then the TV-as-primary-activity watcher should get veto power for what is being watched.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 10:10 PM on September 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

My wife knits while watching tv. I've never thought it "disrepectful" of us "watching TV together". The only annoying thing is that she sometimes asked too many questions like "what did he just say?" but that seems to happen independent of the knitting.

I also do often internet a bit while we watch TV and I don't think she has ever been concerned. But then I did grow up doing my maths homework while watching tv.... so its possible that I've never had a suitable level of "respect" for TV. ;)
posted by mary8nne at 1:07 AM on September 21, 2015

Knitting's fine. More importantly, with future boyfriends, watch out that you don't let them push your boundaries or treat you with contempt.
posted by sebastienbailard at 3:41 AM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

I knit while watching TV all the time, and my husband and I are near constant multitaskers/second-screeners with one big caveat. Over the years, we have developed two distinct styles of TV watching together: background and foreground. Background TV is usually just pleasant fluff or episodic TV that doesn't require too much attention, while foreground is generally films/TV we are particularly interested in or sometimes subtitled shows. Multitasking with background is fine, but multitasking during foreground is not because of the high incidence of "I missed it. What happened?" moments.

This has far more to do with us and our relationship than it does as a universal rule-of-thumb, and it requires a fairly casual relationship with media and a generally diffuse attention span. We have several friends who can only tolerate one activity at a time, and at least one friend who will always fixate on a nearby TV if it is on, to the detriment of all else, so we try to avoid screen time around him. My in-laws will literally schedule TV-watching sessions with us when we visit, during which every one in the house must stop what they are doing to participate in the designated viewing. It's not at all my style, but it's also how they've specifically requested to spend some of their time with us, so I don't begrudge them an evening or two.

Throwing a hissy fit over knitting? Totally and completely out of line, not because knitting during TV is normal or weird, but because that's not how mature adults operate. The relaxed and happy routine I share with my husband is one that was forged through respectful communication and compromise, because we are grown-ups. Even if partners prefer different styles of TV watching, that doesn't give one the right to act like a spoiled brat if the other doesn't agree, and you shouldn't take your ex's attitude about this to heart. Knitting during TV is a totally reasonable activity, but acting like a jerk about it should not be.
posted by Diagonalize at 5:39 AM on September 21, 2015

I knit either at my LYS or while watching tv at home.

The only time it is an issue is when my husband comes in and asks me to move my knitting so he can go to bed. How freaking dare he! I mean, can you even???

But the rest of the time, there's no problem.
posted by zizzle at 9:55 AM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

My household has two types of tv: OUR SHOWS and whatever she's watching. If shes doing other stuff during OUR SHOWS (or watches it without me) she's a terrible, terrible human being. If I play video games quietly during her shows, it doesn't matter to her.

Some people who really need quality time to feel loved could be a little delicate if they are viewing the TV time as close, personal bonding time (OUR SHOWS!) and feel like you are neglecting them/how important it is, etc. But I sincerely doubt most people would be too worked up about most of this on most days.
posted by Jacen at 11:00 AM on September 21, 2015

It doesn't really matter what most people think, does it? You like knitting while watching TV, so if a guy can't tolerate that, it's a dealbreaker for you, whether he's the only one or in the majority. (It wouldn't bother most people, though, so don't worry about it breaking too many deals.)

I wouldn't put it in the same category as playing with your phone while spending time with your SO.
posted by mister pointy at 9:09 PM on September 21, 2015

Thanks for the thoughts, folks. I think that in the case of my last relationship, it wasn't so much about wanting me to be focused on spending quality time together, because he'd make those kind of comments if he saw me second-screening or multitasking while watching TV alone. I didn't multitask during our at-home date nights, and he was usually the one needing me to explain a scene he didn't pay attention to, so I was trying to follow best practices.

I'm leaning towards thinking this was a matter of him not fully realizing how controlling he was being and/or simply not really knowing what healthy boundaries look like in a relationship. I'll try to keep this in mind for the future and hope that the next guy isn't like that.
posted by blerghamot at 7:14 AM on September 22, 2015

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