Your guy is at it again—staring fixedly or screaming frantically at the TV as the uniformed men on the screen chase a ball, swing a club or whack a puck. You try to get his attention, but it’s like talking to a goalpost. Then you think about all his undone chores and unmet family obligations, and your anger level spikes through the roof.
Being a TV sports “widow” is not fun, so it’s no wonder you feel neglected, frustrated and infuriated. But before you throw in the towel on your relationship, try these game-changing strategies…
Resolve to hang onto your temper. Screaming, nagging or unplugging the TV in the middle of a game will only escalate tensions between you. He may even retaliate by complaining about your favorite pastimes or purposely engaging in other irritating behaviors, such as giving you the silent treatment, which will drive a bigger wedge of resentment between you.
Understand his passion. When you’re both feeling happy and calm, ask him sincerely to explain what thrills him about the games—the invigorating sense of competition, the companionable post-game analysis with his buddies, the feeling of being a winner or the chance to forget his own worries for a while. Discuss the qualities he admires in his favorite teams—their toughness, persistence or ability to perform under pressure. Encourage him to talk about the sports he played as a boy and his childhood ambitions for being the next Yogi Berra or Johnny Unitas. The more you know about his inner dreams and desires, the easier it is to help him find ways to fulfill them that don’t involve endless TV time. Also, as you identify similarities between his passion for sports and your own love for, say, knitting or 19th-century literature, you’ll be more understanding of, and less bothered by, his devotion to sports.
Encourage him to turn passive watching into active play. Guys who love watching sports often miss playing the way they did when they were young. Encourage your partner to join a local tennis club or head for the gym to shoot hoops. Plan an afternoon at the local park where he can play catch with a buddy or grandson—and pack a picnic and go along yourself, so you are a part of the play.
Ask him to establish weekly sports-free times for household chores and standing dates. Knowing that the lawn will get cut every Sunday morning and that you’ll have his full attention every Tuesday evening will assuage your feelings of resentment or neglect during those Monday night football games.
If you can’t beat him, join him. Sit down next to him on the couch and ask him to teach you about his favorite sport—you may be surprised at how interesting it can be. Or learn about the game on your own and amaze him with insightful questions (“Should they kick a field goal or go for the touchdown with so little time left in the quarter?”). Throw in some quips that make him associate the thrill of the game with you—for instance, when the quarterback gets sacked, you might say, “I like it when you pile on top of me.”
Be alert to signs that TV sports have taken over his life. A love for TV sports can become a bona fide addiction—similar to an addiction to gambling, sex, alcohol or anything else. A person crosses the line from fan to sports addict when he cannot choose not to watch…spends endless hours watching sports-related TV or studying stats while his work remains undone and other obligations go unfulfilled…or experiences anxiety or distress when denied access to his games. If you suspect that your partner falls into this category, urge him to seek help from a professional addiction counselor.