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The Perks of Dating a Film Critic

I married a film critic.

At the height of our dating relationship, this fact was just icing on the cake (the cake being a relationship with a man I absolutely adore). I was the epitome of a broke college student, driving my 1997 Lincoln Continental (it was 2012) and eating boxed noodles like they were going out of style.

So getting to see blockbuster movies before they opened, and for free? Duh.

Regardless if we loved or hated the movie we’d just seen, there was always lively discussion afterwards. It was the best.

What You Didn’t Know About Film Critics

But here’s the thing. Did you know that film critics always have an opinion about television, too? Because I sure didn’t.

My husband keeps a spreadsheet of every episode of every show he’s watched. He gives each episode a rating and notes his impressions. He watches dated, obscure shows with strange, nonsensical storylines. And likes it. He listens to podcasts where people literally just talk about television and movies. That’s actually a thing that people do.

And me? I’d say I have simple tastes when it comes to television. I’m still dedicated to Grey’s Anatomy. I watch reruns of Gilmore Girls because I like it. I couldn’t care less what shows are rolling out in the fall.

The Two Things We’ve Learned

So in five years of marriage, Kip and I have become really good at two things:

  1. Compromising
  2. Spending time alone—and being OK with it!

Because here’s the thing: marriage unites two people’s lives, but it doesn’t unite their brains. The good news is there are definitely ways to make it easy for polar opposites to exist. A bit of trial and error brought Kip and me to a place where we both really enjoy the rhythm we are in for choosing our entertainment.

1. Compromising (a.k.a. Negotiating)

Personally, I think compromise is a word that’s used too much and not understood enough. Giving up things we want can feel like a sacrifice at times. But if you’re resenting your partner in this give and take equation, you’re not doing it right.

For Kip and me, compromise sometimes look like this: “If you really want to watch Brooklyn Nine-Nine right now, you have to rub my feet.” I get a lot of really good foot rubs because of this clause. Sometimes compromising is: “If you let me watch one more episode of Downton Abbey, you don’t have to help me fold the laundry tonight.”

Compromising, or ‘negotiating’ as I like to call it, keeps us happy a lot of the time. But when we can’t agree on the night’s entertainment, there’s a perfectly simple solution: flying solo.

2. Alone-Time is Awesome

Did you know it’s possible to be an introvert—really value your alone time—and still take it personally when someone else wants their own alone time?

My husband didn’t know that! It completely took him by surprise when he said to me one evening, “Is it OK if I go watch something else in the other room?” and I responded with “Why don’t you want to spend time with me?!”

I felt rejected, and he couldn’t fathom why. Truth be told, I’m not sure why I felt rejected, either. Kip regularly sends me off to do things only I would enjoy, sometimes staying behind at home just to wash the dishes. So why was this any different? Why was this suggestion of a mutually beneficial arrangement so shocking to my system?

Here’s the thing: it’s healthy for people to have their own interests. And it’s OK if your spouse doesn’t share them! Wanting alone time doesn’t always equate to rejection. As trite as it might sound, that was just a lesson I had to learn. Now? I love it.

An hour to myself to surf Instagram and watch an episode of The West Wing (again)? Perfect. Successfully dodging every single episode of American Vandal? Priceless time I could have never redeemed. And don’t be fooled, Kip wins here just as much. Because I have an affinity for period films that he just cannot stomach.

Alone Time Requires Compromise, Too

But this, too, requires compromise. Watching television or movies alone is the exception in our marriage—not the rule.

Relationships are investments. They require our time and energy. And if we’re not putting any energy into them, they can start fraying at the edges. So if one of us feels like we’ve been off on our own too much, there’s always the freedom to push the solo time to another day.

Marriage is hard sometimes. Merging two lives, full of their own interests, is complicated. But choosing when to watch, and when, doesn’t have to muddy the waters. Instead, it can be a tool that builds up your relationship, allowing you to practice ‘negotiating,’ and making intentional decisions for the health of your marriage.