Donna C. Terrell

I Was Just Thinkin'

Remote Control


What television viewing habits say about your marriage and yourself

The Remote Control. That little device that does just that—control. When parked in front of the tube, who holds the remote? The husband? The wife? Do they even watch TV together, or are they on separate channels?

I am a hard-core TV watcher, a term coined by a former co-worker who too is “hard-core” in her viewing habits.

Hard-Core TV Watcher

  • Has favorite shows that absolutely cannot be missed.
  • Will not watch episodes out of order.
  • Never watches favorite shows in real time.
  • Takes no calls while engrossed in a show.
  • Will not tolerate talking while shows are on.
  • The DVR mostly contains that person’s shows.

The Honeymooners

First, you need to know that we are a one-TV couple.  Sad, but true.

Watching TV is my favorite pastime. It’s how I relax and clear my head. I used to love coming home on Fridays after a long workweek and plunk down in front of the TV to watch the week’s recorded shows.  It’s really cool to have a special treat like ice cream, cheese and caramel popcorn or a glass of wine while watching.

When I got engaged, I informed my fiancé that on Fridays I have about 4 to 5 hours of TV watching laid out in front of me. It’s what I do. However, once we were married, interesting revelations began to unfold.

My husband would come home and start talking to me while I was watching something. Okay, nothing wrong with conversation when one gets home; of course he wants to run down the day’s events. So I would just cut the DVR off so I could listen to him. Then he would ask, “Why did you turn the show off?” I’d sweetly reply, “So I can listen to you and give you my full attention.” In my mind, I’d be thinking, “Cause I can’t HEAR!!!!!!”

Sometimes, Michael would sit down and watch TV with me. Okay, that’s cool. Only Michael liked to TALK while the show was on. Who’s that guy? I thought he was dead. How did that happen? She took the anecdote, didn’t she? He’d want me to catch him up in 5 minutes on a show that’s been on for 4 years. Or if he wasn’t running off at the mouth, he’d criticize and make sarcastic remarks. CSI is too predictable. He hates Lost. Drop Dead Diva is stupid and unrealistic. The characters talk too fast. I had to tell him that just because he doesn’t like something to not ruin my enjoyment of a show and make me feel uncomfortable because I’m watching it.

Michael is not a hard-core TV watcher. He prefers movies. He likes certain TV shows, but he doesn’t follow them and doesn’t care if he misses episodes. Michael likes home improvement shows on DIY. If he’s home and the TV is on, that’s the channel that’s his main ambience. Sometimes he just sits there and does the Y-chromosome thing of flipping endlessly through channels and never settling on one show. It’s whatever catches his attention at the time. Once he sat engrossed in “Pit Bulls and Parolees,” some show on Spike TV about ex-prisoners caring for dogs. Needless to say, I was withering on the inside while trying to be patient and let him have his time in front of the tube.

Football Follies

My husband is a football coach, and I love football. A match made in Heaven, right? That’s how we started our relationship. I overheard him talking to someone about football and I jumped in the conversation. When we got married, I had visions of us watching games together. NOT SO!!!! Would you believe it? A football COACH husband and a football FAN wife don’t watch FOOTBALL together??? That makes no sense! Well, Michael watches football like an NFL owner—critical and stoic. I watch football like a fan—yelling, screaming and emotional. I have to watch football ALL DAY on Sundays, and if it wasn’t for church, I’d be in front of the TV for 12 to 15 hours. I like pre-game and post-game stuff, including checking NFL Network’s Stat Zone throughout to see how my Fantasy players are faring. I also watch the NFL Network and NFL LIVE on ESPN everyday (when I wasn’t working), much to Michael’s chagrin. He thinks I watch way too much football and he gets sick of all of it. How can one get tired of football, I wonder. During the playoffs, my weekends are booked with the games throughout January. Michael has no real interest. How can you not be interested in the playoffs?? So again, it’s me watching the games with my faithful cat. Michael also does dirty stuff like purposely holding the remote on Sunday evenings so I can’t watch the night game the way I want, and when I scream about what’s happening on the field, he gets irritated and starts slamming doors, telling me “It don’t take all that.”

So what does all this mean? What does this say about us as a couple?

  • Donna is totally set in her ways and has areas of selfishness.
  • Michael is a brat.

Growing Pains

This started off as a TV story about couples and their television viewing habits but has evolved into a marriage story. I read the comments of couples whose input I sought and I realized that they were not having these issues.  Every couple reported differences, but there really were no problems. Both Trina R. and Pam J. said that watching TV was a way of bonding with their husbands. Their guys will even initiate TV time and togetherness. Paul R. said that there isn’t an exact science to his and his wife’s TV habits, “we mostly just turn the TV on, change it to the channel we want to watch and place the remote down. No arguments there!” Note the use of the word “we.”

It is said that the longer you have been single, the longer it takes to adjust in marriage. I guess that’s because one gets really set in their ways and it’s hard to let that go and allow someone else room.

Selfishness can take many forms; in this case it was the television that exposed areas of my being selfish. As married people, especially for those of us whose marriages are young or who were single for a very long time before marrying, we need to really examine ourselves to see where we are.

In my case, I guess I didn’t want to share my downtime. Watching television is what I do for relaxation and I didn’t want that part to change. I also grew up as an only child, so entertaining myself and being alone with books, my writing and watching TV was never a problem for me. I figure that if my husband and I had 2 TVs and he was as hard-core as I am, we’d probably never see each other. We’d each be in our own television worlds, he in a kennel with a bunch of ex-cons and me on a base with some Army wives.

A lot of times Michael gets on the computer while I’m watching television. That’s cool because we’re both occupied. But it does seem strange that a lot of times we’re engaged in separate activities while at home. Is that ok? I had to really think about that.

The Good Wife

My husband officiates high school basketball and baseball games, so during the seasons when he’s at games, I get to watch TV uninterrupted throughout the week. This year he opted not to do baseball, so it was the two of us alone with the remote.

Hmmm, how do we work this out? Is this a compromise situation? What shows do we both like? What are some happy mediums for us? We both like westerns, History Channel stuff—but it has to be real history, not Pawn Stars and such, which I like but Michael hates—and dramatic biographical sports shows and specials on the NFL Network or ESPN. We also like Drive-Ins, Diners and Dives on Food Network and NBC’s Friday Night Lights.

I realized I needed to let my husband into my downtime. Why not invite him to watch TV with me? I need to relax during my relaxation and not be so rigid. So he talks while the show is on, this is 2011, not 1971. I can always back the recording up, or cut it off altogether and watch it later. It’s not going anywhere.

Through this past spring and summer, Michael and I have watched several things together. I cringed through the NBA playoffs. He endured The Next Food Network Star. I have learned, as we sit side by side in front of our only TV, to sometimes pass him the remote. Most times, he won’t monopolize it. He’ll pass the remote to me and say “Watch what you want.”

Michael has begun to let me perch myself in front of the TV when I get home. He actually said, “I know you need your relaxation.” I, in turn, will put a show on that we both like, probably Memphis Beat or Necessary Roughness. I watch the shows he hates when he’s not home or is behind closed doors. And on Saturday afternoons when we’re both home and he grabs the remote first, I just let the DIY Network roll off my back. I’ve even learned to have some interest, albeit slight, in Swamp People.

So, you who are part of a TV watching couple, relent. Let go of the remote. Let go of the control.


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