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I’ve noticed that your column covers an assortment of topics, including compulsive addictions, and therefore I decided to write.
My husband has become addicted to/obsessed with movies, since we got married three years ago. The habit started quite innocently, renting a movie occasionally to watch together, out of boredom. It has since progressed to a nightly occurrence, often more than one movie a night. He has no self-control and does not set limits to the amount of movies or viewing time. My husband uses movies as a tool to unwind from a long day, tune out the stresses of reality or keep himself company, when I’m tired and go to sleep early (which is often, I have to admit).
Aside for the enormous waste of time and money (and bitul Torah) this habit is affecting us in many ways. My husband is often tired and irritable in the morning and during the day, and in the evenings he turns to his movies, as opposed to us spending time together. I also believe that his language and behavior are being affected in subtle and not so subtle ways (which is inevitable, I suppose).
I’ve spoken to him numerous times about limiting the amount of movies he watches and have mentioned some of the detrimental effects this might be having on our marriage, but he’ll refrain from watching for a day or two and then lapse back into the habit.
At this point, I’m wondering if his habit is just something that he has to want to break on his own, or something that might need professional intervention.
If you would be able to address this issue, I would greatly appreciate it.
At My Wit’s End!
It is complicated, to say the least, to zero in on the reason(s) your husband has become so attached to the “great escape” – considering the myriad of details that are part and parcel of a couple’s existence together.
Let’s explore some facets of your relationship that you’ve touched on in your brief letter, as they may offer more than a clue to what may be brewing underneath the act being played out nightly.
You speak of your husband’s “long day” and “stresses of reality.” Do you refer to the normal daily grind, or are there serious issues that aren’t being addressed and dealt with? If that is the case, your husband may be immersing himself in a fantasy world to avoid responsibilities that overwhelm him.
You say that you “go to sleep early” often. If this has been an ongoing regimen, your hubby may be harboring underlying resentment toward you – for not being available to him in his time of need. (“Unloading” to an understanding and loving mate can be a most effective stress-buster.)
You mention watching movies “out of boredom” when you were first married. “Boredom” between newlyweds? What more satisfying pastime than sharing dreams and goals with a new spouse in the rewarding process of getting to know one another!
Presuming there are no children in the picture, the stress of frustration in being unable to conceive can be a factor in his behavior. Conversely, he may be avoiding intimate contact with you for fear of bringing a (or another) child into your lives at a time when he feels he’d be unable to cope with the ensuing responsibilities.
If it’s action your husband craves – whether born of a need to alleviate mind and body fatigue, or as an outlet for pent-up male energy – his best bet may be to sign on with chesed organizations, such as Chaveirim, Shomrim or Hatzoloh. This type of involvement offers excitement and “escape” of the healthy kind, with the bonus of acquiring a sense of fulfillment and well-being – still leaving plenty of evenings free for family bonding.
As for yourself, you would be best advised to readjust your own day’s itinerary (if at all possible), so that you can be there for your husband as often as you can when he is home. Couples who have only evenings and weekends to “connect” need to prioritize their agenda to allow for quality time with one another.
A most effective deterrent to succumbing to temptations that surround us is meditation in Torah. Solicit the help of a close friend (surely there’s someone!) to entice him to attend a shiur at least once a week. All of us require constant reinforcement in Yiddishkeit – how vital for a ba’al habayis, the head of a household, to be a dependable source of guidance and chizuk to his family!
Should your husband be displaying a reluctance to confide in you, or you feel you cannot relate to him, your best recourse is to seek professional counseling.
If, after all is said and done, he still opts for the dummy screen, you may need to rethink this relationship altogether. Your husband’s deleterious nocturnal habit is obviously eroding your respect for him and, doubtlessly, eating away at his own self-respect – both integral elements for maintaining a tip-top marital partnership.
May Hashem grant you strength and wisdom and guide you through this difficult time.