Q&A: Remote Relationship

Friday, September 12, 2014

Q: PardyMama, 
When my hubby gets home from work, all he wants to do is chill.  Why does my husband zone out when we're watching TV??? Why can't he talk to me?  I wish we could communicate more, but I don't know what to do.
Remotely Uncontrolled

A: Dear RU,
It's frustrating to vie for anyone's attention, especially a person you love.  The TV is tough competition too, with its ability to be all-accepting, non-judging, visually stimulating, and totally entertaining.  There's nothing wrong with wanting to veg-out and relax for a little while, but it's no fun when it's at the cost of someone feeling left out.

Let's give your husband the benefit of the doubt and assume his TV watching has more to do with avoiding everyday pressures than it does with avoiding you.  The TV most likely offers him a chance to decompress and distract himself from the burdens of his day.  Consider his context:  whatever his job may be, chances are good he's being pulled in a lot of directions mentally, or challenged in his cubicle with tasks, or having to prove himself to a boss and provide, provide, provide all day.  The last thing he wants to do when he gets home is provide.  Just like the last thing you want to do at the end of the day is hear the theme song from Veggie Tales (again).  

I would also venture that your needs have to do more with him listening to you talk than actually having him tell you about his day.  (Engagement from both of you is ideal, of course.)  If you are at home with young children most days, chances are good you are eager for human, adult connection by the time he gets home from work.  You've had your fill of cartoons and whiny voices and sippy cups, and finally when you hear him walk through the front door you are offered a mind that has more than Cheerios and Caillou on the brain.  Hallelujah!  Daddy's home!

Two Tips:  
1. Welcome Home
When he first walks in the door coming home from work, HUG.  Hug until you feel the tension of your bodies release.  (Maybe warn him about this new addition to your routine so he isn't blindsided by your assault of affection!)  Now, I know this might sound crazy, but as you hug each other, your bodies will literally "sync up" into a calm state and help regulate one another.   It will help set the tone for the rest of the evening and be an easy first step with zero pressure on either of you to say anything!  You will feel closer to each other regardless of whether the TV gets turned on later or not.

2. Shared Meaning
In order to engage in conversation, you need one thing:  something to talk about!  The more meaning a couple shares, the more they have in common to care about.  In other words, you're going to need to find things you both love together.  This doesn't have to be as hard as it might sound.  You don't have to love football and he doesn't have to love HGTV.  
But, if you want to get to know what's inside that head of his, you have to take part in what's going into it!  Get into a rhythm of enjoying things together again.  Maybe there is a TV show you can both watch together, or silly clips on YouTube, read film reviews on the Internet, read the same books or magazine articles, listen to a podcast you both like, or take part in any activity - be it video games, lawn care, or kayaking.  The more you both mutually care about, the more you find meaning in things together, and the more you will naturally have to talk about.  

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