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A client writes: Over the years, my husband has become completely engrossed with the TV… truly a TV Addict. It is on first thing in the morning, before I wake up, and is on throughout the night. Most nights my husband does not come to bed. When I want to discuss issues of our life, he says we’ll talk later, then we never do. We have three wonderful children, ages 13, 11, and 11. They are aware of this over-indulgence and tease their father about it. He makes it apparent that what he is currently watching is more important than anything his kids would want to show/discuss with him at the moment. I feel he would be happiest if he were somewhere else, alone with himself and his TV, with no one to bother him. It is his greatest friend and companion. I have tried to discuss this with him and he brushes me off. We not longer have a relationship… I wonder why? What will happen when he comes to the end of his life and realizes he wasted a good portion of it on The Box?! I don’t know how much longer I can hang on to this joke of a marriage. How unfortunate… I strengthened my relationship to the Lord and he did with the TV. It may be extreme but I’ve come to think of the TV as a form of Satan. I can’t think of any good it has created for our family.
First, I want to acknowledge your pain, frustration, and feeling of neglect and betrayal. To have someone you co-created life with turn away from the blessings right in front of him and immerse himself into an alternate world… wow, it hurts. Immensely. He’s become a TV Addict, with all the pain addiction inflicts on loved ones. In the paragraphs that follow I share some of the reasons why, and hopefully help you strengthen your resolve to focus on your own emotional and spiritual strengths.
Second, in the time since this was written, screens of all kinds have gotten even better at addicting people, taking them out personal, intimate connection and into a world of likes and tweets. Facebook can addict people, too. Instagram. Twitter. If there is hope, for me it is that more people are awakening to the core emotional needs and looks for ways to get them met in healthy and nourishing circles of support.
And, if you are reading this and want to connect around your specific situation and some ways you can use emotional tools we have developed to feel better and find a path that is true to your heart, your invited to email me at Rick@Thrivingnow.love. Here’s what I wrote in 2005 that has provided insight for many thousands of visitors since then:
Television is a form of passive, impersonal “entertainment.” Indeed, it is one of the most socially acceptable forms of “self-soothing” we have in this culture. If people are stressed, sick, can’t sleep, bored, lonely, afraid, or depressed… the most common thing we do is watch TV (or scroll Facebook and Instagram)! It has become the universal antidote to what ails a person. It doesn’t FIX the emotional pain; it distracts us from it. And it does so extremely well. The human brain goes into an extremely passive state when watching TV. We escape awareness. While we watch, we feel disconnected… disassociated from the world around us. We escape the PAIN.
A normally healthy, engaged, emotionally free man would rather play with his kids and have sexual relations with his wife than watch TV. However, a man is not emotionally free if he has tons of guilt, shame, fears, secrets, worries that overwhelm him, self-doubts, self-hate, overwhelm, inadequacy, depression, suppressed anger and rage, disempowerment… you name it! And if he’s suffering from these negative emotions with no clear way (in his mind) out of his trap, an escape into the world of TV seems pretty logical, doesn’t it?
Again, it comes down to the very basic human need to self-sooth and self-manage our pain. My assumption is that people seek out ways to avoid pain. TV is there. So he uses it. Take away the TV, and I assure you, it is very unlikely he’d suddenly be a connected father and husband. Other men with exactly the same emotional issues—regardless of what they are (and we cannot know what is inside another person)—might turn to alcohol and staying in bars all night. Or drugs. Or internet pornography… We humans have a wide selection of ways we escape emotional pain, don’t we?
We’d love to be able to FIX the emotional pain of those we love. There is only one problem… and it is a biggie:
*He* is not the one asking for help!
Nobody can create joy or force healing in anybody else’s experience. All you can do is shine a spotlight on something they already want and then make the trail to what they are wanting easier for them to find. If you make it your mission to change his behavior, you guarantee your own suffering. By contrast, if you make unconditional love your mission, you guarantee your own freedom. I don’t mean unconditional love that accepts all kinds of unacceptable behaviors and puts perfume on them. I define unconditional love precisely as: “Conditions do not need to change outside for me to experience love inside.”
That’s different, isn’t it? We’re not being asked to focus on the lazy TV-aholic and feel love. Unconditional love means that whatever is going on in the world, I use my intention, energy, and focus to stay connected to Source, and from that connection with spiritual energy, I allow a feeling of love to flow in me.
Is this easy? Hell no! This is a world of contrast. Even on the TV we’re flooded with images of what we DO NOT WANT in our lives or in anyone else’s. But we cannot get sick or depressed enough to make a single soul well. Our own well-being cannot be offered in sacrifice to help our children or spouse or victims of any disaster. All we can do is connect to Source, get to a place that is even a bit lighter than where we were, and do the same reaching for a lighter feeling over and over again.
If we do, we start vibrating in a way that will attract relationships for us and our children that nourish them. Old relationships (and even marriages) will heal or transform into a different arrangement that is better suited to everyone. What holds people in places that feel horrible is the focus: the watching, endless watching, of that which we can’t stand. Watching your husband watching the TV is clearly not working for you. So, even if he is still in the same house, doing the same stuff, my encouragement to you is to focus 99.4% of your attention on anything and everything that is pleasing to you (even if just a little more pleasing…).
Turn off the Husband TV channel in your mind. Focus by shining light on the kids, on new friendships and activities for you, on making your own spaces pretty and peaceful, and as you mentioned, on your spiritual relationship. A suggestion that has helped others: If your husband DOES do anything that even slightly pleases you that isn’t related to the TV, write it down and add it to your prayers of gratitude.
Why? Because it shines a light on the path to connection and joy. And it will make YOU feel better. (To clarify, let’s say your husband does something with one of the kids. The appreciation probably doesn’t begin, “Heavens to Betsy! The lazy beast is finally realizing he has CHILDREN!” Be honest, of course, but consider how something like this might make you feel: “Lord, I really appreciated when my husband spent that time with the kids today. Thank you for supporting him in doing that.”
Whether your husband comes around or not is His Business and God’s Business. Your Business is to clear out the negative thoughts and energy and move to a place where you can feel good. I would consider using EFT Tapping for Stress Relief for 20 minutes a day, for a few weeks at least, on all the emotions, specific events, and body sensations around your husband, the TV, and the loss of relationship. You may want to work with a skilled EFT coach on these aspects so you can master the skill (and it is a skill) of “changing your mind’s channel” to thoughts that feel better to you.
I know this is HARD. You don’t have to do this alone. As you can see from some comments below, others struggle with this, too. You’re invited to comment here, too. If that feels too vulnerable right now, my private email address is Rick@Thrivingnow.love.
Originally posted Sep 2005, Updated December 2019