Call me crazy, but I’m pretty sure no one ever reached the end of their life and said, “I wish I had watched more TV.” That’s about in the same league as, “I wish I had spent more time at the office, or paid more taxes.”
But despite TV’s questionable contribution to the quality of life, we often spend a lot of time in front of it.
My TV habit started young. Both of my parents worked, so I was often unsupervised and got away with watching 6-8 hours of TV a day. Total addiction. But, as a busy, working adult, it’s unusual for me (or Dawn) to watch that much TV in a week. That sort of reduction took commitment and some strategy.
Here’s how Dawn and I have tried to keep our TV viewing under control. You might find some of these useful…
At the very beginning of our marriage, Dawn and I made a commitment to the quality of our relationship. We realized that a fulfilling relationship relied on having frequent, meaningful conversations. So, that became our focus and priority.
A natural out-growth of this commitment was that we spent the first five years of our marriage without a TV set in our apartment. If you’re a newly wed, we recommend you consider going cold TV turkey for a while. You won’t regret it.
Even after we bought a TV we always kept it in the family room. No bedroom TVs for us or the kids. This limits the amount we watch and keeps the family from separating to watch privately. (You can probably imagine a whole list of issues this prevents.) Having one TV encourages conversation, shared viewing, and alternative activities (reading, puzzles, games).
Our viewing choices can have a spiritual and psychological impact, and our brains have a default “replay” mode for anything that is unhelpful, negative, dishonorable or sexual. So, we try to be very careful about what we watch, and especially avoid late night TV.
We make watching TV together a priority whenever possible. Watching TV apart does nothing to strengthen our marriage. And watching together has been a good way to guard our hearts and minds from poor viewing choices:
“Honey, let’s watch the Victoria’s Secret Special together, okay?”
Not to Escape
If you’re average like us, you sometimes veg out in front of the TV because you’re bored, lonely, angry or discouraged. But, we try to avoid using the TV for comfort. If we’ve had a bad day or received bad news, it’s not a helpful way to recover from the emotional dive.
Another way we’ve limited our TV viewing is by ditching network and cable TV, which means we’re never hip with the latest cool drama, sitcom, or reality show. (Would you believe we still haven’t watched “24” or “Lost?”) But, we find this a small cost. Honestly, a 3-year-old series that we’ve never seen can be just as exciting as it was when it was the new hipness.
Currently, we have an antenna so Dawn can get the local weather and the Today show. But our main source of TV content is streaming Netflix. If we find a TV series or mini-series that interests us, we can watch it on our schedule commercial free. Generally, we watch a little more in the winter when some other activities slow down.
We have a weekly family movie night, usually Friday. Everyone in the family gets to have a few titles in the Netflix DVD queue so each person gets a turn at picking the movie of the week.
All of the above is how we try to manage our TV viewing, but we often have to correct ourselves, paying attention to the quality of our choices, the quantity of viewing, and the motives behind our choices. The discipline doesn’t always feel fun, but we think our family relationships and spiritual lives are worth the effort.
How do you manage your TV time?
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