Love in the Time of TV: How TV-Watching Habits Reflect Marriage

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As I sat there dueling with her, it occurred to me that the world might actually be improved by inventing a dual remote system. But only if the wifely model -- something with more clearly marked buttons, maybe -- became fully operational after the husband had fallen asleep. It could have, say, a snoring sensor in it.

But two live remotes in one marital TV room? Isn't this what defense experts used to call "mutual assured destruction"?

Luckily, we were called to dinner before spraining our thumbs. But the whole incident made me think about just how many marital issues are played out during the seemingly benign act of watching television together -- especially since so much movie viewing that once was done in theaters is now done at home. I'm starting to believe that the TV is a window into the soul of your marriage.

Actually, before that remote-control battle I had always thought of Diane and me as being fairly tele-compatible. But that's because I was thinking mostly about programming, where our tastes in TV shows are pretty similar. Yes, she refuses to watch football and I could live my life very happily without Will or Grace. But we mostly agree on what's good, which is convenient because we've always been a one-TV couple, den only. (One of my basketball buddies says that, growing up, his parents had two TVs in their bedroom and watched separate shows with his dad using one of those little white earplugs; he and his wife have the modern equivalent, with his-and-hers TiVo boxes.) Diane is even sympathetic when I come home from the picked-over video store and announce we're having another evening of "Best Available Films."

It's in nonprogramming areas that we run into problems. For example, I feel when you're watching a show you should actually be quiet and, y'know, watch it. Diane, however, wants to interact. She likes to talk to the TV and talk to me about what's on the TV -- criticizing flaws in plotlines, free-associating on what a character is saying, doing, wearing. For a while I just slowly turn up the volume. When I finally can't hear over her din, I have been known to shush. But, I must say, shushing is a risky thing for a husband to do to his wife, and I usually regret it. If I'm lucky, she'll playfully do that zipping motion over her lips or the pantomime key that locks her lips and is dramatically tossed away and won't speak until the next commercial. If I'm unlucky, she'll give me dirty looks all night long until...well, until Jon Stewart, who makes her laugh even when she's mad.

Continued on page 3:  Favorite Part of the Show


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