Relationship Power Struggle: Controlling Relationships

Many couples spend their evenings “together” watching television. While they want a non-demanding way to relax after work, tensions often arise when couples struggle over what they’re going to watch. I know a lot of men who watch sports and the news. Period. They’re not interested in Two and A Half Men or Thirty Rock. They have no patience for Dancing with the Stars or American Idol.

Men want to dominate the TV. Period. Women often capitulate and give up their own shows, choosing togetherness over viewing pleasure. Sometimes they read or catch-up on Facebook while watching. Some women give up togetherness and watch what they like in a different room. There is no ideal solution. Everyone is different, but in the spirit of healthy relationships, I offer some questions to consider.

  • What role does television play in your life?
  • Does it enhance your life, or is it an easy default position, or a way of numbing yourself?
  • What effect is television having on your relationship/family?
  • Does television make you feel more cohesive or encourage intimacy?
  • Do you and your partner talk about the impact of television?
  • How do you select which shows to watch?
  • How is power around these choices delegated?
  • Does someone have veto power?
  • Do you and your partner discuss the content of shows and/movies?
  • What is the quality of those discussions?
  • Do you tend to hold similar or different views about shows?

Television plays a central role in contemporary American life. If used intentionally, it offers a shared experience for a couple and enhances the quality of connection. Through communication with your partner about television in your life, you can decide to use it creatively to bring you closer together. At the same time you can practice give and take, and giving up control.

Dr. Jerry Duberstein is the author of the book, Relationship Transformation: How to Have Your Cake and Eat It Too, co-authored with his wife, Mary Ellen Goggin.  The husband-wife team hosts private couples retreats attended by couples from across the US and Canada.





Jerry is a patient, warm-hearted therapist dedicated to guiding couples to breakthroughs. He has counseled individuals and couples for over 40 years, in a variety of settings. He received his Ph.D. in Psychology at Saybrook Institute in San Francisco and a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology at Antioch New England University. Jerry co-authored Relationship Transformation: How to Have Your Cake and Eat It Too with Mary Ellen Goggin — and they were married by chapter 3. Jerry brings a great depth and breadth of expertise to his work, and distills nuanced theories into actionable simplicity. He loves The New Yorker, dew-laden fairways, and dusty delta blues. His revolution: changing the world, one couple at a time. Read more about the retreats


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