I Married a Netflix Non-Binger

Image Source: Netflix Activity (in red box: watching with hubby)

My husband doesn’t binge. Now, you may think this is a good thing. You can’t find him lounging on the couch overindulging in chips, cookies, nothing. He doesn’t drink excessively, doesn’t smoke, do drugs, or gamble; he is the epitome of moderation. And these are good things, really, and I very much appreciate being married to him.

But. He doesn’t seem to understand or fully appreciate one of the finer points of modern-day entertainment; my husband doesn’t binge Netflix. Seriously, he has a ridiculous amount of patience for these things.

Once I’ve finished reading to the boys, if the hubby isn’t working, we’ll have maybe an hour to watch a little television before heading up for bed. That gives us time for one show, right? When he’s not around, the decision is easy; play the next episode of whatever show I’m currently watching. If I get the boys to bed early, or can sleep in the next morning, I might go ahead and watch two episodes. Then, when I’ve finished with the series, all seasons, I can start looking for the next series that will catch my fancy. Buffy? Check. The Paradise? Check. Downton Abbey? Check. DramaWorld? Check.

Seriously, looking through my viewing history, I am not the one with the problem (if, of course, we define the problem as not utilizing the newest features of technology). Not binging on Netflix is like using an industrial-grade oven to reheat frozen pizza.

On the other hand, when I’m watching television with my husband, a good five to ten minutes is spent scrolling through the offerings on Netflix, then Amazon Prime, then maybe Netflix again, before finding something that he’s in the mood to watch. And I say that he’s in the mood to watch, because by then, I don’t care. I just want to stop scrolling and start watching.

Now, before you start saying it’s my own fault, that I should have known better, I fervently disagree. Netflix didn’t exist when I got married, so I had no idea that this would one day be an issue. As far as I knew, that’s how television watching happened. You got out the TV Guide, flipped to the current day’s offerings, picked a show, and turned it on. At best you could view the digital guide on screen (the television screen, that is). I couldn’t know–because I got married before DVR–that I would one day be able to pay a monthly fee never to have to deal with the painful process of flipping through channels ever again. Yes, we had pay-per-view, but that wasn’t something we actually used on a regular basis. We had cable, and watched whatever was on. The summer we moved to St. Louis, we watched two hours of Law and Order every night, three hours on Wednesdays. It was glorious.

But that was a short-lived period in our lives, an aberration. These days, the only binging that happens is when my husband isn’t around. My kids get it; my eldest quickly zipped through Psych, my youngest devours seasons of The Flash, Phineas and Ferb, and Malcolm in the Middle a week at a time (if I’m too busy to notice that he’s glued to the television). We try to impose limits, but who are we kidding here? He’s my kid, after all. I used to watch television from the time I got home from school until bedtime, doing homework during commercials. He actually finishes his homework first, so who am I to complain? Oh, yeah, his mother, who really ought not encourage such things.

Anyhow, back to my non-binging husband. I’ve learned a few things about how to maintain peace in our home. And as this problem is likely bigger than just me, I thought I’d share.

Know Everyone’s Viewing Profile

Figure out what kind of shows you each like, whether you like to binge or not, how the weather/time of day/season/schedule affects your viewing habits. The more data the better. Turn this into a Family Venn Diagram to keep track of what shows can be enjoyed with whom, if you’re so inclined. For example, I watch Futurama or Freaks and Geeks with my 15yo and Supergirl with the 10yo. And my 12yo, he lets me choose, so we’ve tried a couple episodes of Quantum Leap and Star Trek: The Next Generation, and are finding a show for us (although usually, we read together).

Know Your Triggers

Are there certain situations or times when you are less likely to want to compromise over what you view? Have you been looking forward to binging on Buffy, only to find that there’s a basketball, baseball, or football game on? Sure, this is a good time to pull out a book, or pop out headphones and take advantage of the fact that you can stream Netflix on your phone. Or, certainly, you can go to another room. But sometimes, you just don’t want to be the one always making the sacrifice. After all, there’s always a sporting event on. Always. I just about lost it during the Major League Baseball playoffs. Too much sports to watch? That’s a definite trigger of mine. If I’m driving my kids around to practices and games five days a week, then my free time should not have anything to do with sports. This includes sports movies, sport-themed episodes of television shows, or even a sports-related segment on your favorite late-night comedy show. Seriously. I understood, truly understood, how important the World Series was to my family. But I. just. couldn’t. So one night, I went to a play. Other days, I went to bed early and Netflixed on my phone or laptop. This way, I could enjoy the games I did watch with the family.

Understand Context

(A.K.A. sometimes, it’s okay to say no.) Many nights, when my husband and I head upstairs, we go into the 15yo’s room to say goodnight, while he stays up doing homework. So when he comes down to join us for a little television because he’s done before ten, we’ll let him choose the show. On the other hand, on a Saturday evening, after having driven one kid to a debate tournament, then taken the other two skiing, then picking up the first kid, if I decide to unwind by watching television, I will not feel guilty for insisting on Sherlock, even if they’d rather not see it. Because I have to take care of me, too.

Take Advantage of You Time

If there are shows that you like to watch that nobody else enjoys, indulge in them when you get the chance. Heck, send your kids to their friends’ houses, and give the hubby your blessings for a guys’ night out. Then binge away!

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That’s all I’ve got. I don’t know how helpful it really is. I suppose coming up with a schedule is also a possibility, but that’s way too much order to impose on what’s supposed to be a relaxing activity, so I’m not doing that. But this has helped us maintain the peace, and enjoy our time together instead of leaving us to our own devices.

Nivi Engineer is a novelist and playwright in Cleveland, Ohio. She is a mom of three boys, and escapes the never-ending sports calendar through reading. This month, she's learning that the capital of Nepal is Kathmandu. And now, so will you.