I like the outdoors, but my husband is a screen type
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I love nature and sports and my husband is, how to say, more of a screen guy. He enjoys watching and re-watching shows and games, and he does so for several hours most days of the week. He contributes equally to finances and household chores, so there is no problem with his family contribution, but I can’t help but think he wastes his life when he’s young and healthy and that he will regret it one day. I also feel like being outdoors is inherently good and doing so little. Is there a good way for me to say something without being a nag?
When I was a child, my father was very concerned about my productivity. He had a mental list of productive activities (reading, art, school work, socializing with friends, any kind of sport, etc.) and non-productive activities (“you’ll know”, he told me ), and even though I was not forbidden to do the latter, I could usually feel his discomfort until I moved on to something from the first list. Eventually, I hacked into the system, because I realized that the activity he considered most productive – above all else – was thinking. When I heard his footprints in the hallway, I would hide the catalog I was flipping through (or any other “unproductive” task I was engaged in) and just sit on the floor with my hands on my knees, without do nothing. Then when he asked me what I was doing, I said I was thinking. Thinking! He was immediately excited. Do I need anything? he asked. A glass of water? And when I shook my head, demurely, he ran away – reluctant to interrupt me constantly – and I had a good few hours of time to enjoy myself in peace.
As an adult, I often reflected on this expectation of productivity, which was one of my defining childhood experiences (and has since become a permanent joke with my father). Overall I think it has served me well, with some big caveats that when I’m sick and can’t do things I feel bad about myself, which is not not very conducive to healing or self-esteem. And while my dad’s broad definition of productivity would certainly include rest when you need it, I’ve found it helpful to offer my own personal guidelines for activities — a little check-in, if you will. I ask myself: is this activity productive, or relaxing, or fun? If yes to any of them, I continue. If not, I might start thinking about changing course sooner rather than later. (Incidentally, most things I choose to do fall into one of these three categories – and the ones that don’t, like the doomscroll on my phone, tend to make me feel actively bad if I do them. too long. The recording is a good reminder to hang up the phone and go for a walk or call a friend instead.)
I guess you see where I’m coming from. Does your husband experience his TV and game time as fun? If yes, then it is a positive thing in his life! It may be different from your idea of pleasure, but one person’s pleasure is neither better nor worse than someone else’s; it’s just a matter of taste. The only change needed here is for you to think about why your husband’s recreational activities bother you so much and how you can learn to relax and let go, both for you and for his – I think you will both be much happier. (And for what it’s worth, when I mentioned your question to my dad, he said “Studies have shown that video games have a number of tangible benefits!” So there you have it: even Mr. Productivity gives his approval to your husband. )
If your husband doesn’t find television or games fun, I’d be slightly worried. Not because there’s something wrong with what he’s doing, but because he could use it to deal with something else, like depression or burnout. In that case, shows and games might still help, because sometimes the best thing you can do for your health is literally anything that gets you through a tough day, week, or year. But if his habits have changed recently or you notice he’s having other difficulties, it’s worth checking how he’s feeling and asking if there’s any way you can help him get help. .
Now I want to address the last thing you said, that the outdoors is inherently good. This is something I completely agree with. I think anyone could benefit from a greater connection with fresh air and nature, but I don’t presume to assume what that connection should look like.
Instead, I think the benefits of nature are similar to the benefits of, say, music. A connection to music can enrich anyone’s life, but the details of that connection itself are very individual. Some people play an instrument – and of those, some like drums and some like viola. Some people sing for a living, and others only sing in the shower or when something good is on the radio. Some people listen to metal and some people like folk. But no matter what a person’s connection to music looks like, it’s almost always a force for good in their life, in part because it’s so personal.
It’s like nature. There is not a single relation to this which is true. You may have an intense and active connection to the outdoors, and your husband’s may be much more subtle: perhaps he grows succulents, loves cats, enjoys thunderstorms, or looks up all day to smile at the hummingbirds out the window. If you want to nurture his connection to nature and the outdoors, it’s worth figuring out what that interest really is – what he feeds on – and doing what you can to support it (buy a new hummingbird feeder !). It may look incredibly different from yours, but that doesn’t mean it’s worse. It’s his, and for that reason alone, it’s perfect.