Question: I have been married for nineteen years and I was wondering if you know what I should do. The problem is that my husband always ignores me when he’s watching TV - no matter what is on - even during commercials. What can I do to stop that? I feel so useless and unwanted. ...Marie
Answer: Since you did not say that your husband ignores you at other times, as well, I have to assume he engages in this behavior solely when he’s watching television, and that he isn’t otherwise an insensitive jerk. And if this is the only time he ignores you, then I will conclude that this isn’t a symptom of a much larger relationship problem, and instead focus my comments on why I believe he treats you this way during TV time, and what steps you might take to change things.
First it is important to understand how most men view television. Often we perceive it as an escape: from our jobs; from our worries; from our responsibilities. In other words, it’s a kind of electronic oasis; a safe place for us to relax and unwind; the “cave” that John Gray referred to in his popular book, “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus” (our other favorite cave is the bathroom, but that’s a whole other story). As such, when we crawl into this virtual cocoon, we do it to download. And unlike computers, and well…you - multitasking is not our strong suit. So carrying on a conversation with us while we’re blissed-out in front of the tube, can become a frustrating, demoralizing, and ultimately very unsatisfying exercise indeed. Is his behavior rude? Yes. Is it understandable why you’d be upset? Absolutely. So shouldn’t your husband stop watching television and pay attention to you? Maybe. But right now his need to relax is being infringed upon by your need to converse. So who’s need should win out?
Well, in a fair and equitable world, half the time your needs would supersede his, while the other half, his would be top priority. But very few things in life are fair, which is especially true in relationships. What is also true, is that in the scenario you presented, both of you probably feel like the wronged party. And surprise, surprise, you’re both right!