If I told you that one simple thing could double your marital satisfaction, takes two seconds, costs no money, and has all-but-guaranteed results, would you do it? Then turn off the TV.
Click that big button at the top of the remote; push the power switch on the control panel; unplug it from the wall; heck, put it out on the front step for the Salvation Army if you want. But however you do it, turn off the TV.
Or even better, don't turn it on to begin with.
In an age where people have become addicted to news, are entranced by the stock market fluctuations, and quickly develop Zombie-like characteristics if left without noise for more than three minutes, the "habit" of keeping the TV on is increasingly common, which has led to an increasingly common complaint being voiced in my counseling office. It's a red-flag signal that couples have let the routine of living intrude upon the responsibility of loving.
It's not that I've got anything against TV. I live in the techno age. I have a pager, a cell phone, a PC, even a Palm Pilot. And in our home you'll find a couple TVs—sometimes they're even on. The important questions are "When?" and "How often?"
This is a familiar scenario. She's preparing dinner (whether or not she's just come home from work herself) when he cruises in with a quick "Hey" to the kids, a "Hi, Hon," to the wife (maybe even a kiss on the cheek) as he sets his briefcase down. Then he grabs the TV remote and switches on the pregame show (it's Monday night, after all). If he says anything else to the wife, it's usually, "Honey, where's the mail?"
Okay, so what's wrong with that? The husband spoke and was cordial. Nobody was yelling. "Hons" and "Honeys" were used. There might even have been a kiss. A guy who works hard deserves a little down time when he gets home, right?
It's that "deserve" mentality that gets us into trouble. Magazines, books, and online relationship columns bombard us about a man's need for "cave time." So we speak up for our needs and quote some Mars-Venus drivel to support our claim.
Yeah, okay: Men and women are different. That's what God has said all along. But God didn't create our differences so we could put up a wall to hide behind. Our differences were supposed lead us toward fulfilling the God-given needs of our mates. God calls us to love each other; not when we feel like it or have time. We are called to love each other all of the time. So both men and women face the challenge of convincing our mates that they're more valuable to us than anything else, that what matters to them matters to us, and that we want to know what's going on in their lives. That takes time and concentrated conversation.
When you've been apart for eight or more hours, a disconnection is natural, inevitable. But home time should be the time when you reconnect. Look into his eyes, verbalize your love, talk about her day, and join in the activity of the moment, whether it's cooking dinner or helping with kids. Let your spouse know you're fully available. That can't happen above the din of the TV.
It's your actions, more than your words, that communicate what matters to you. A person who stresses the importance of saving money and investing wisely and yet is overdrawn at the bank proves that what truly matters to him is spending, not saving.
That "actions speak louder" truth comes through loud and clear in the New Testament: "I will show you my faith by what I do" (James 2:18, NIV). I'll put love in the same phraseology: "Show me your love with the TV blaring and I will show you my love by leaving the TV off and saving the mail for later." If you love your spouse, say it with your actions. Prove it with your time and attention.
Dr. Tim A. Gardner is author of Sacred Sex (WaterBrook) and Director of The Marriage Education and Policy Center at the Indiana Family Institute (an affiliate of Focus on the Family).
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