My boyfriend chose TV over our relationship- and I’m glad.
When your priorities don’t align with those of your significant other, you have to re-prioritize.
Relationships are hard. They are also fun, rewarding, and most of the time, well worth the effort. I recently spent two and a half years with a kind, handsome, successful man named James.
There was an instant connection and comfort when we met. It felt right and real, so we saw each other numerous times within the first week of meeting. But a few days later, I left for a pre-scheduled 6 week motorcycle trip around Vietnam.
I thought James and I might stay in touch or chat a bit while I was gone, but I wasn’t banking on it. I mean, a lot can happen in six weeks. And you know what wouldn’t be happening in those six weeks? All the sexy, fun, exciting stuff that comes with a new love interest.
Flirty texts, fancy dinners, and trying to impress each other with our best outfits and most charming selves. Those are the best part!
And of course all the really good sex.
Since all those perks were off the table, I continued along with my plans. I bought a motorcycle when I got to Vietnam and hit the road. Little did I know, my relationship with James was actually taking off and not slowing down. Over the next six weeks, we talked constantly and got to know each other on a deeper level. Probably because we were without the distraction of all those sexy, exciting perks.
James enhanced my trip in many ways. He helped me out tremendously when I found myself in a few sticky situations. We fell in love with each other’s minds. It was a beautiful thing.
When I got back home, it was game on.
The mental and emotional connection we had formed made everything more intense. We did the fun new-relationship stuff and spent a lot of time together, and within months were living together as a couple.
We took weekend trips and met each other’s friends and family. We laughed a lot. It was all great, and we were better together, for about a year.
Year two, as you may know, is usually the “I’m comfortable now” phase of a relationship.
The newness and excitement has set sail, and the rest of life takes precedence. You get dressed up and go out less often, because mac and cheese on the couch is SO much easier, and better on the wallet. For James and I as a couple, it was still a happy and healthy relationship. For me personally, life felt lackluster and unfulfilling. I was surviving but definitely not thriving.
Over the next few months I started making improvements to myself and my life. I ate better, exercised more often, and read books instead of watching TV at night. I invested in a personal development program.
All these things did wonders for me, but they took me away from my relationship with James. No problem, I thought. We could carve out some time to spend connecting and get back on the same page.
Surely that’s much more valuable than just laying next to each other on the sofa, right?
I suggested working out together, but that never aligned with our schedules. So we decided to dedicate 1–2 hours twice a week to spend alone together- no TV, no phones, no distractions. We could go out or cook or go for a walk, as long as it was dedicated time. We made it happen on a handful of occasions, and it was noticeably beneficial to our relationship.
I started to feel better about us as a couple, and I felt less guilty when I spent time alone trying to ‘get right with myself.’
But just like new years resolutions, after a few weeks, old habits reign again. And some of those old habits reined me in right along with them. I found myself doing less of what I should be doing and more of what was easier and sounded better at the moment. I was feeling connected with James again, so I wanted to spend time with him and not in the other room with a book or project.
Usually we cuddled on the couch and watched TV together. It was only in the evenings, but those were the only times that we had together during the week. For a month or two, everything was fine. Not great, but fine.
And then the shit started to hit the fan.
We were arguing often, I was drinking more, and my feelings of despair were growing. I gained weight and felt less like my spunky, sassy self. Sex was almost nonexistent in our relationship. I wasn’t happy with myself or many aspects of my life. I was kind of wishing I would get hit by a bus and be done with it all.
I also realized that what I was doing professionally wasn’t what I wanted to be doing. That only added fuel to the fire. My overall unhappiness was trickling down into every aspect of my life.
I knew I had to make some drastic changes, so I did. This time I didn’t hold back or accept any excuses from myself. I set sky-high goals and was strict with my regiment and schedule. I stuck to it and kept my eye on the prize: happiness, health and wealth.
I was determined to be thriving and not just surviving.
It was a tough but worthwhile journey. It kind of felt like I was leaving James in the dust, but I knew I was doing what I needed to do for myself. And there’s only so much you can do for someone else in that situation.
I often tried to encourage him to get on the wagon of mental and physical health, but he wasn’t interested. He was comfortable with his job and personal habits, and how he spent his downtime. There were no goals or plan for the future- for him personally or professionally, or for us as a couple.
This became clearer to me as my own self image and goals were coming into focus.
Even though James was not on the journey with me, he was the best cheerleader I could have asked for. He was supportive and encouraging in all my endeavors. He asked me regularly how things were going and how I was feeling. He sent me words of encouragement almost daily, either in text messages when he was at work, or from the couch when he was home.
I genuinely wanted him to be a part of it all. But if he wasn’t going to be, this was the next best thing, and I was grateful.
Towards the end of the second year of our relationship, I was feeling more in alignment with my true self. My goals and values both personally and professionally were clear. It felt great. Unfortunately, the opposite was true for James and I.
We loved and cared deeply for each other, but we were on two separate pages in the chapters of our lives. I felt torn between continuing in the direction of my dreams and staying in the little cocoon of comfort I had built with James.
I knew I had to push for bigger and better things if I wanted to get to the next level. But James was my best friend, and even if we were not in the best place, it was still a pretty good place.
I was in a state of limbo for some time. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I just rode the wave and waited it out. James and I were spending less time together and growing more distant. Then it started to eat away at me. I was sad and disappointed. I pushed for more from him and for us and was often given smiles and agreement, but no action to back it up. One thing that really started to irk me was the TV.
The TV was always on in our house when James was home.
There were three TVs in the house, and sometimes two or all three of them would be on at the same time. Anywhere I was in the house, I could hear that constant, annoying noise. It was usually garbage TV that was on, and there are so many commercials.
There was absolutely nothing positive to it. Just negative news, annoying opinions, action movies playing on surround sound, and trashy reality TV. There was no value to any of it, in my opinion.
Can we please turn off the goddamn TV?
It started to bother me to the point that I would put headphones or earplugs in. It made me angry. In hindsight, I guess I was so upset because the TVs got all of James’ attention, and there was none left for me.
My unhappiness grew and our relationship sputtered. I spoke up about different things I wasn’t happy about or wanted to improve, especially the TV, but it fell on deaf ears. Sometimes James would go into the farthest room in the house to watch TV since he knew it upset me so much. It was a nice gesture, but only created more distance between us.
At one point during an argument, I sat across from him on our bed where he was sitting with his eyes glued to the television. I asked him point blank:
“If I asked you to turn off the TV for one week for the sake of our relationship, would you do it?”
After nearly a minute of thinking about it, his response was:
“I don’t know, maybe.”
I DON’T KNOW. MAYBE. Wow. That was it. That was the answer I needed. The dilemma that I had been struggling with for the last few months no longer existed. The television was more important than our relationship. Cool.
At least now I knew.
A part of me died that night, right along with all the hope I had for James and I to live happily ever after. At the same time, I also recognized something beautiful in the situation.
It was endearing to me that someone could be so happy and content with their own little bubble of a world. Never yearning for more or feeling deflated, like they were drowning in inertia. I am a bit envious of these people, because it is something I have never been able to achieve.
My need for challenge, change and progression is something that has always been at the forefront of my life. At regular intervals over the years, I start to lose my mind if I don’t have movement. I have accepted that this is who I am, and I can appreciate it. I also appreciate the James’ of the world, who can be happy and fulfilled with the simplest things life has to offer. A job, a roof over their head, and TV.
Within a few weeks, I made the decision to take the leap of faith I’d been contemplating to live abroad and follow my dreams.
I bought a one-way ticket and started packing.
And you know what? James was still there cheering me on until the day I left, even through all of the hurt. He is a true gem in a world of stones.
It was difficult for us to say goodbye. There was a lot of tears and fear and doubt. Leaving James and everything I knew behind was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. But it’s exactly what I needed.
I bought the ticket and I’m taking the ride.
I have a feeling that it’s going to be the ride of my life. So thank you, James, for choosing television over me. I couldn’t have done this without you.