My husband and I had a great relationship… until I started watching reality TV. In the end, my obsession with it came close to ending our marriage.
It took up all my downtime. My love for reality TV began innocently enough, with a seasonal obsession with everyone’s gateway drug, The Bachelor. But once I started watching the year-round shows, my life was no longer in my control. I spent every minute of downtime with the Kardashians and Real Housewives. There was always a new episode that needed to be watched. I got so caught up in the lives of people I didn’t know that I completely forgot to pay attention to my actual life.
I started feeling like my life wasn’t good enough. Most reality shows are fantasies built for their audiences to lust over, and the more time I spent steeped in Upper West Side penthouses and 20-carat diamonds, the more my own life started to feel inadequate. No one in their right mind would actually aspire to live like a Real Housewife, but the shows sell their luxury so well that I started to think I needed it in order to be happy.
I kept starting fights to make things interesting. If you’ve ever caught two seconds of pretty much any reality show, you’ll know that they consist predominantly of loud, melodramatic arguments over petty things. After my obsession started, I began to think my marriage was boring because of how well my husband and I got along. Needless to say, the unnecessary fights I instigated did nothing to help our relationship.
My husband didn’t understand the attraction and kind of looked down on me for it. My husband’s taste in pop culture is relentlessly highbrow, and the minute I started watching The Bachelor, I could see a teeny bit of light drain from his eyes. I tried to get him to watch it with me—and I remain convinced that if he’d given it a shot, he would’ve ended up just as obsessed as me—but instead, he stuck to his guns, and it was obvious every time I turned on the TV that he was judging me.
It made me selfish. Let’s just be real here: there are no role models in reality TV land. Most of the characters are self-absorbed and shallow, and their main goals include money, fame, and the fountain of youth. And yet this attitude, however repulsive, rubs off on you—or at least it did for me. I started to feel like I deserved nothing but pampering and “me time,” which must have made me a pretty insufferable spouse for a while.
I started looking at my marriage in a less favorable light. Reality TV is nothing if not highly polished and edited. It can make the most mundane of conversations seem like the climax of a thriller, and it somehow manages to make even the most dysfunctional of relationships look like the stuff of a romantic’s dreams. My husband and I have always had great chemistry, but after seeing the high drama and romantic gestures of The Bachelor and other shows, I couldn’t help but feel that my marriage was stagnant and uninspired.
It made me insecure. Nothing makes you question your appearance like the perfectly groomed, infinitely wealthy cast of the Real Housewives or the Kardashians. Their skin glows, their boobs burst from every perfectly commissioned designer gown and pantsuit, their cellulite-free legs are miles long beneath their sparkling skirt hems. Even if you never wanted any of the attributes these women possess, the shows sell them so ingeniously that you’re forced to want what you don’t have even if you actually have no desire for them. I’ve always been a confident person, but all the shows I watched made me feel horrible about myself.
He started to feel that he wasn’t able to give me what I wanted. I tried not to let my viewing habits permeate conversations with my husband, but when all you do in your spare time is keep up with the Kardashians of the world, it’s difficult to separate life from your TV screen. My husband ended up hearing about all the things I wished I had—clothes, housewares, exotic dates—and began to feel inadequate for not being able to provide them.
It made me depressed. You’d like to think that reality TV is this benign past time that slips through your consciousness and disappears, but it has serious effects. The combination of jealousy, inadequacy, and disappointment I experienced while obsessed with these shows darkened my outlook on life significantly. I became argumentative, withdrawn, and self-absorbed.
I completely lost sight of the important things. The entire experience made me forget how important my marriage was and how content I was. I have an amazing job, I’m completely in love with my husband, and the life we’ve built together means everything to me. It wasn’t until we sat down and had a conversation about why we were struggling that I decided to leave reality TV behind… mostly.
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