How to Overcome Independent Behavior
Dear Dr. Harley,
I'm sick of my husband's addiction to television. He's a sports addict, which I understand. When he was single and wanted to get married, one of his chief complaints was that he was tired of being alone watching TV and having no one to talk to. Now, because he's accomplished the act of marriage and two children, it's like he wants to be single again. He's here in body, but he spends most of his free time in front of the TV; comes home after we've eaten, eats in front of the TV, when he plays with the children he's also watching TV; he never comes to bed with me because he's got to watch TV. We have no sex life; he's not interested. He gets up late every morning because he's tired (from staying up late watching TV). He's been great in terms of working on our house, but if he's not working on something, it's TV. We seem to hold no priority in his life. It's almost like because he got married and fathered children, he's done his work. I've had it.
You are the victim of an independent behavior -- watching television. Unlike annoying habits, which are effortless and done without much thought, independent behavior is something that is part of a person's schedule. Your husband's tendency to watch television may seem like a bad habit, but he makes a decision each time he watches it. I call it independent behavior because he makes his choice to watch television independently of you. Your feelings are not considered in his decision.
To help you gain some perspective on your problem, let me explain what lifestyle is and how your activities define your lifestyle. Bear with me -- I'll get to the point quickly.
Your activities make up most of your lifestyle. To discover your lifestyle, suppose you were to make up a list of everything you do throughout the day, 24 hours a day, with an entry every ten minutes for, say, a month. Those entries would define your lifestyle.
Your entries, would tend to repeat themselves, because you tend to do the same things from hour to hour, day to day, and week to week. As it turns out, most lifestyles are confined to fewer activities than people realize, because those activities repeat so many times. That's why when you have an annoying activity, it can be a considerable drain on the Love Bank because it occurs so often.
Now let's suppose your husband agrees to do the same, list everything he does throughout each 24 hour day for a month. His entries would also repeat themselves, particularly his "watching television" entry.
As we look at your entries, and those of your husband's, we would see two different lifestyles. Comparing your lives, 10 minutes by 10 minutes, you would each be engaged in various activities.
Now comes the important part: What should have become vividly clear to you after a few years of marriage is that almost everything that's on your husband's schedule effects you, and almost everything on your schedule effects him. In other words, what each of you do throughout the day either deposits or withdraws love units from each other's Love Banks. Consequently, your lifestyles will have a great deal to do with your love for each other.
Let's take our example one step further and document exactly how each activity effects each other. You could put a number next to every 10 minute entry that would reflect the number of love units deposited or withdrawn by that activity. Negative numbers would reflect annoying activities and positive numbers, agreeable activities.
If both of these schedules were placed before you, you would be able to see in an instant what you are already feeling -- your husband's lifestyle is causing you to lose your love for him. We don't know for certain how your lifestyle is effecting him, but you could be doing the same thing to him, engaging in activities that he finds annoying. Maybe that's why he doesn't feel like making love to you these days.
While it's possible that your husband's activities away from the home annoy you, you have specifically mentioned only those activities while at home. So for now, I suggest that you analyze only the time you are together in the house.
Ask your husband to join you in making up a list of activities that reflect what you are presently doing when you are together at home. I suggest that you streamline the project by writing activities down for only one day on an hour by hour basis instead of every 10 minutes for a month.
Then, I want you to do something very important. I want you to look at each other's schedule of activities, and mark with a yellow highlighter any activity that meets with your enthusiastic agreement. In other words, I would want you to apply the Policy of Joint Agreement to every activity each of you has listed.
Activities without a yellow highlight represent incompatibility in your lifestyle. These activities should be eliminated in your future planning. In their place, you should put activities that you can both agree to enthusiastically.
How would this exercise turn out for you and your husband? What would turn up on your schedule that is incompatible with your husband? Would you be willing to change your activities to accommodate your husband's feelings? Before you ask him to accommodate you, be sure to be willing to accommodate him, regardless of what it is you do that irritates him.
I think your husband would be willing to try almost anything to help his marriage if it were only for one day. And after one day, I think he would be willing to try it for another day. That's how a new lifestyle can be formed for both of you, one day at a time.
Your husband will be able to watch some television with your enthusiastic agreement, but I would imagine it will be much less than he would like. How will he react to a new schedule that takes your feelings into account? If you are like most couples I've counseled, it will annoy him at first, but he will see how his change in behavior improves your outlook on him and your marriage. You will be on your way to building a compatible lifestyle, one where both of you plan your activities with each other's enthusiastic agreement.
My book, Fall in Love, Stay in Love, will help learn how to create that mutually enjoyable lifestyle. It will help you apply the Policy of Joint Agreement to every aspect of your lives together, and the longer you apply it the more love units will be deposited into both of your Love Banks. After you and your husband follow the policy for one year, not only will you and he be living in peace, but you will love each other much more than you do now.