If you’re married, there’s a 40 to 50 percent chance of divorcing, but there’s a 100 percent chance you’re going to eventually hate what your partner likes watching on TV. Sure, at first you were happy pretending to like the Bachelorette when you really wanted to watch Mindhunter, but now that you’re all settled in, keeping up the pretense is exhausting, not to mention sucking up all your free time.
Enter the TV divorce: A new solution for couples — and, ahem, surely a cottage industry for someone, somewhere — who can’t stand each other’s taste in films and television and have decided that the only option is to call the whole thing off, cinematically speaking.
A TV breakup—is it practical, or even possible, and what does it say about your relationship?
Over at Variety, Andrew Wallenstein thinks it’s not so bad. Faced with the prospect of going another round of joining in on his wife’s Olympics obsession, he realises he can’t do it anymore and needs to watch his own shows. “Let’s be clear,” he writes. “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.”
Wallenstein and his wife aren’t alone: A 2013 survey of TV watching found that 25 percent of couples watch TV in completely separate rooms about three nights a week.
But is a TV divorce right for you?
If you’re considering it, it’s time to ask yourself six important questions…
1) Do you share any other common interests?
I sure hope so, because if not, it would be weird that you’re married. You don’t have to be TV soulmates if you both love shopping for antique frogs on the weekend with your closest pals. But if you don’t have any other common interests and your social circles don’t overlap either, TV watching is the sort of thing you should hang on to as much as possible.
One study found that couples who do that sort of thing together feel connected because shared media experiences bring you closer. Basically, because the people you watch on TV actually seem real, it’s almost like those people are your friends? I agree this sounds profoundly sad every way you splice it, but we’re trying to save your marriage here — do what it takes.
2) Do you actively despise your partner’s taste in television and movies?
It’s one thing to find documentaries about World War II plane specifications a little dry and put up with them for the sake of getting along with someone you otherwise love; it’s quite another to conscript yourself to screaming silently through four more hours of the History Channel on your one free weekend afternoon for the rest of your TV-watching life, especially when you’d rather be watching The Crown. If you simply cannot stand your person’s taste, but you still love them, and the feeling is mutual, a TV divorce could really work for you.
3) Have you tried to compromise and watch at least some stuff they like?
The survey found that 52 percent of couples said they watch TV together “regularly,” but another 27 percent said they only do so “now and again.” This could be you! So you don’t have to go cold turkey on TV right off the bat, but you should at least have tried to find some shows you both want to watch together. If it’s too much to watch one hour of Sherlock a week, and you can’t even pretend to watch and just fall asleep or read your phone the whole time because they need you to pay attention and then actually talk about it, you probably just need to divide and conquer alone.
4) Do you often fight about what to watch on TV?
Twenty-five percent of couples who said they watch TV in separate rooms said they choose to do this rather than fight about what to watch. As for what men and women fight about, well, it’s exactly what you’d expect along the lines of very obvious stereotypes about gender from a 1980s sitcom: Men most objected to watching soaps with women; women most objected to watching sports with men. Also, 44 percent of the time, the fight was over a documentary.
The women usually “won” the fight, if by win you mean they forced their partners to watch some hot BS he couldn’t stand. I predict this will just lead to TV infidelity and cause the whole thing to blow up. But given that you have enough free time to even worry about what to watch on TV, the ensuing drama could actually be like your own real-life Eldorado.
5) Have you tried watching different shows on different platforms while in the same room?
She’s watching the Handmaid’s Tale on the TV, you’re watching Bojack Horseman on your phone and never the twain shall stream. It’s like you’re together, but not at all, just like you always dreamed of as a child. Wallenstein concedes that he tried this method with his wife, but it still frustrated him. “I have found that while there are some series I am willing to remain in the room for…others I have a moral objection to exposing to my eyeballs,” he writes. If even the mere presence of the offending show sticks in your craw, one of you is going to have to decamp to the bedroom.
6) Have you tried a “Netflix contract”?
Kind of a like a TV divorce prenup, the so-called “Netflix contract” apparently helps some couples figure out how to navigate the Golden Age of TV show options by putting it in writing. Couples agree on which shows they will watch together, and most importantly, which shows it’s not okay to skip ahead on by themselves. Punishment for breaking the contract is death—or watching the Bachelorette, whichever works fastest.
If, after considering all the above, you discover that never even sitting in the same room with your significant other while a TV is on is your best bet, it’s highly likely a TV divorce will save your marriage.
But don’t feel bad about it: Only 15 percent of couples have a TV soulmate and actually enjoy watching all the same shows all the time. While it’s okay to envy them, we can also assume, smugly — even irrationally — that they never have sex. If you decide to embark upon a TV divorce, you might not have sex anymore either, but at least you won’t be stuck watching television you hate.