The TV Divorce: For Couples Who Can’t Agree on What to Watch

TV Divorce
Images: Shutterstock; Illustration: Variety

Leave it to a TV event that brings the nations of the world together to drive my wife and me apart.

Ever since the Winter Games began a few weeks ago in Pyeongchang, her body has been wedged to our living-room couch as tightly as a luger on a fiberglass sled. And just like I do every two years, I try to share her Olympic obsession and watch alongside her.

But this time around, I just can’t find the strength to continue beyond the first day. Blame it on the peak-TV era; when there are so many other shows out there worth my time, can you blame a guy for straying?

Which is why it pains me to write the following words to my blessed wife: I want a TV divorce.

Let’s be clear: I fully intend to spend the rest of my life together with you in the holiest of matrimony. But going forward, for the portion of the marriage spent with the television on, we shall be apart, watching separate TVs in separate rooms.

It’s not just about the Olympics, of course. I cannot stomach any reality TV; you watch almost nothing else. You like documentaries that delve into history; I prefer to keep abreast of what’s going on now in the news. While my wandering eye has me trying lots of new shows, you’re less experimental.

And once you’re done with a show, you won’t ever go back. I’m more forgiving. We both agreed last year, for instance, to bail on one of the few shows we enjoyed together, Showtime’s “Homeland.” But now that a new season began, I’d like to give it another go. You’re too busy ogling the biathlon.

This isn’t easy for me. But for the sake of protecting our sacred union, we must confront the painful truth that our TV tastes have diverged to the point where we are better off seeing other programs.

It’s not like we never compromised. I’ll never forget the time you bravely sampled another HBO show, “Westworld,” even though you doesn’t share my love for sci-fi, only to fall asleep before the premiere ended. I gamely sat through multiple episodes of TLC’s stomach-churning “My 600-lb Life” until I could no longer physically stand it. We’ve tried to make it work but we can’t.

For a time I opted to simply watch on my iPad listening via earbuds just so we could stay in the same room while watching different shows. But alas even that creates problems. I have found that while there are some series I am willing to remain in the room for, like the semi-amusing Bravo reality show “Flipping Out,” others I have a moral objection to exposing to my eyeballs, like another series on that channel, “Below Deck” (or as I insist on calling it, “Below Dreck”).

If you don’t have a significant other, maybe the TV divorce doesn’t seem like a big deal. But when you lead a busy life as so many of us do, it’s actually quite difficult to carve out the time to both watch what you want and give a relationship the attention it requires.

Making a point of watching TV together might even seem downright strange. If two people are together in the same room with their attention focused not on each other, but on a screen, does the proximity even matter? By that logic, the 6-7 hours a night we spend asleep in the same bed should keep us deeply in love.

But in my own experience, counterintuitive as it might sound, there is an intimacy to watching TV as a couple. It’s not just the simple act of sitting together, perhaps in each other’s arms, but also talking before, during and after about the shared experience that is the show. It’s not going to save your marriage, but every little bit helps.

Perhaps the problem isn’t so much my wife and/or me, but from the shows which we have to choose. Peak TV may give us all greater choice than ever before, but that choice may contribute to greater fragmentation of the audience. Everyone can find something they like, but are more likely to find something they like alone.

I take comfort in that notion as we embark on this TV divorce. It’s only natural to point fingers and blame the other person. But for the sake of our non-TV marriage, let’s blame the medium instead of each other for not producing enough of the kinds of shows we both enjoy.

In other words: It’s not you, it’s TV.