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February 05, 2015
The Real Issue
My Husband Watches Trashy Television
by Cyndie Swindlehurst


My husband watches trashy TV shows. They are critically acclaimed and popular, but I have very strong feelings against the language, sexual content and violence in them. He enjoys them and also seems to like watching the same TV shows as everyone else in his office. I don’t watch them.

We have children who are getting old enough to overhear and understand the content of these shows, and I’m worried about what they will overhear if they happen to be awake or out of bed at night. I would like us to be unified in our family media policy, but I’m not sure how to make that happen.



Many couples disagree about what to watch on TV. Sometimes the disagreement is one of taste. A show might appeal to one spouse but not the other even though it is not morally objectionable.

Disagreements like this, which are purely a matter of preference, are not worth fighting about. Instead of arguing, a compromise should be arranged in which each person can watch what he or she likes.

Spouses might take turns choosing the nightly show. They might agree to a certain time each day or week when they go their separate ways to watch their separate shows. They might simply watch what they like when the other person is not home. And they should do all this without belittling or mocking each other.

But sometimes, as in your case, the disagreement is a moral one. And when one spouse has a strong moral objection to the other’s television choices, you have a different problem.

The problem is not unity. Unity is not a goal unto itself. You need to be united in something good for unity to be desirable. It is not terribly productive for a family to be united in a bad practice. If unity were the only goal, the objecting spouse (you) could simply give in to the other and the problem would be solved.

The real problem here is not that your husband watches these shows and you don’t. It’s that you want your husband to agree with you that these shows are immoral and inappropriate, and he doesn’t. You think he is making a poor moral choice, and that bothers you.

However, even if it is true that your husband is making a poor choice about the television he watches, you are the one who needs to make a decision here, not he. You need to decide how you will choose to see this situation and how you will choose to react to his television selections. I have five suggestions.

One, if you have not already done so, you should talk with your husband about your concerns. Be specific about your objections and about how the shows make you feel.

“Fred,” you could say calmly, “it bothers me when you watch ‘Misty Sparkle: Private Eye.’ It has constant foul language, someone gets shot or mutilated in every other scene, and there is nudity in every episode. The violence upsets me the most, and I’m concerned that the kids will see it, even though you watch it at night.”

Do not expect this conversation to be one-sided, and do not expect him to agree with you. Listen to his opinion, and consider that he might be right. Be prepared for him to point out books, shows or movies that you enjoy that fail the moral standard you want him to follow.

You should be cautious about appealing directly to Church standards. You and your husband might decide to discuss the issue in terms of Church teachings, but you can’t just declare unilaterally that you stand with the Church and the prophet and therefore you win.

Nor can you say that you have prayed about the shows and received confirmation that he should not watch them. You do not get to pray about what other people should do. You get to pray about what you should do.

It is your husband’s job to decide what shows he should or should not watch and then act accordingly. If he doesn’t want to seek spiritual guidance about his TV habits, you can’t make him. Nor can you demand that his spiritual feelings align with your own.

Two, I’m guessing that you have already discussed this issue at length with your husband, and that you have not come to a satisfactory (to you) solution. If this is the case, and if you have not been able to agree on whether the shows are appropriate to watch, I suggest you drop the subject.

This will be hard because this issue is important to you. But if your husband, with full knowledge of your objections, continues to watch the shows you dislike, you simply must accept that he disagrees with you.

After all, what is your alternative? Will you press the point every time he turns on the TV? Will you ramp up the contention in your home in order to get your way? Nagging him until he changes his behavior will not be a victory — it will simply mean that you made his life so miserable that he gave up.

Three, a better option than nagging is to choose to see your disagreement as one of preference, not principle. If you choose this route, you will think of these shows simply as shows that your husband likes but you do not. You will not fuss at him for watching them any more than you would fuss at him for watching ‘Shipping Wars.’

The advantage to this approach is its respectful acknowledgment that different people have different opinions about what is appropriate to watch, even when those people are married. It is probably the approach you would want him to take if he objected to a TV show you liked.

A respectful disagreement also eases the way for compromise or accommodation. Knowing that you are not going to turn on the vacuum every time he turns on his show will create an atmosphere in which is it easier for the two of you to agree, for example, that he will watch his programs on the laptop and with headphones, instead of on the TV next to the kids’ room. Or that he will watch his programs on the nights that you are at Mutual.

Four, another option is to choose to see his TV preferences as a weakness, and to treat it like you want him to treat your weaknesses: kindly. If you choose this option, you must avoid any trace of condescension. Even if you believe and hope that he will grow spiritually and leave these programs behind, you cannot treat him like a child who has not yet outgrown a juvenile habit. He is your husband, he is an adult, and you are equals.

This weakness, if you choose to call it that, does not negate your husband’s good qualities — including spiritual qualities. He may be a fabulous home teacher, a caring neighbor and a devoted father. Don’t amend everything he does well with, “well, but he watches that show.” Don’t let his TV choices overshadow all of his good qualities.

Finally, consider your timing. People and relationships can only take so much. So if your husband is under a lot of pressure (at work, for example), or if you and he are trying to resolve other sources of marital discord, you should consider whether now is the right time to add “he watches trashy TV” to your list of registered complaints.

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