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July 3, 2014
The Real Issue
My Husband Is Addicted to TV!
by Cyndie Swindlehurst

Editor's note: Cyndie Swindlehurst is on a much-needed vacation this week. She has asked that we rerun the following column today. Look for a new column from her on Thursday, July 17.


I swear my husband is addicted to TV! I try to get him to turn it off and he can't, always telling me he's got to finish the program because he doesn't want to be left hanging.

He used to be addicted to video games but thankfully recognized it before we started dating and quit. However, now the tube is perpetually spewing forth ... what TVs spew!

I'm going crazy. What should I do?


Imagine that you are watching TV. Now imagine that someone comes up to you and tells you to turn it off. What would you say?

I could be wrong, but I bet you'd look at the person in disbelief and say, "I'm watching something." And I bet you would then expect the person to say, "Oh, sorry," and either go away or sit down and quietly enjoy the show with you.

I think this would be true whether you had been watching for four minutes or four hours.

So, whatever you decide to do, do not just walk up and ask your husband to turn off the TV in the middle of a show. That's not going to work.

Four other things you will not do:

  1. Tell him that someone else -- your mother, his mother, your friend -- agrees with you that he watches too much TV. This is not about what anyone else thinks.

  2. Compare him to other husbands. It doesn't matter how much TV Mr. Brown down the street watches or how much the bishop watches because your husband is neither of those men. Just imagine how you'd feel if he tried to get you to quit doing something you enjoyed by telling you that super-duper Sister So-and-So in the ward doesn't do it and you shouldn't either. You'd probably say, whether or not he was right, "Well, I'm not her! I'm me! And you're not married to her. You're married to me." And it would probably hurt your feelings.

  3. Compare your marriage to other marriages. There are infinite ways of displaying kindness and respect in a marriage, depending on the preferences of the people involved. Some spouses spend more time together than others. Some spouses divide household tasks differently. So it doesn't matter how much TV Mr. and Mrs. So-and-So watch. You need to come to your own solution. Also, you never really know what goes on in someone else's marriage.

  4. You seem to feel some serious disgust for TV and video games. Are you transferring that disgust to your husband, who clearly likes TV and video games? If you are, stop it! Instead of saying, "TV is junk and therefore people who watch it are seriously flawed," say, "My husband is awesome, and he likes TV more than I do." Remember that not liking TV does not mean you are a more virtuous person. It's just your preference.

Now, as for what you should do.

Your question is light on details, so I'm not sure if your husband truly watches a grotesque amount of television while neglecting all else. Or if he watches a reasonable amount of TV, but you think it is too much because you want him to be doing projects of your choosing, like yard work or playing with the children.

Regardless, here are some things you need to consider. You will notice that most of them have to do with you.

  1. Everyone needs some leisure time, and your husband has the right to use his as he likes. Please consider the possibility that you need to lay off.

  2. If you want your husband to do something other than watch TV, you need to come up with an enticing alternative. And he is the one who must find it enticing.

  3. Ask yourself this: is the TV your real problem, or has it become a battleground in a bigger marital dispute? Remember that whatever your marital conflicts (and every marriage has them), the only person you can change is yourself. So don't bother deciding that he needs to change X in order for your marriage to improve, because you have no power to make him do anything he doesn't want to do. Sorry if this is news to you.

  4. It is perfectly reasonable to ask your husband to adjust something he does that drives you crazy. Every marriage must have a way for such requests to be made. But before you ask your husband to adjust his TV habits, ask yourself how you would feel if he proposed the same solution for a problem he had with something you enjoy. And it's no good protesting that your leisure activities are somehow more worthwhile than his. That's not fair.

  5. Get a DVR. You will never again be chained to the TV just because a program is on if you have a DVR. We got one a couple of years ago and our TV-viewing dropped precipitously.

  6. When you and your husband discuss this problem, do it alone, without the TV on. Make sure neither of you is busy, hungry, tired, or trying to go to sleep. Don't expect to hit on the perfect solution -- or any solution -- after one conversation. Like any marital dispute, it will probably take a while.

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