According to Nielsen’s 2015 Cross Platform Report, the 68 million retirees in the U.S. currently spend an average of 49 hours a week watching television.

Watching tv

I shared the startling statistic above with a friend the other day. “What an incredible waste of time,” she said.

My friend is outgoing, an entrepreneur, interested in learning and participates in a wide variety of activities. Her husband retired several years ago and is one of the 68 million retirees in the U.S. that watches an average of 49 hours of television a week. My friend thinks he might watch more than that. In his mind, he replaced his old job with a new job – watching television.

While my friend is not happy with how her husband is spending his time, he is. In his mind he has earned the right to do what he wants to in retirement and what he wants to do is watch television. He is unaware of the effects of his isolation (he wants to go out less and less and finds conversing increasingly tedious). “I heard him talking the other day,” she said. “I went to see who he was talking to and he was talking to the TV.”

She knows that sitting for long periods of time is not good for his health or his waistline. But he is not interested in making any changes to his lifestyle. From his perspective (which is the only perspective that matters to him) he is happy with what he’s doing. So how do they resolve their differences? They both continue to do the things that make them happy. She attends classes, works on her business, socializes, and participates in activities without her husband. Their joint activity: watching television together.

My friend had to let go of her perception of how his retirement should unfold. She imagined them traveling, taking classes together, building her business together and other fantasies. In retrospect, she realizes her husband has always been an introvert. Thinking his personality would change in retirement was wishful thinking.

Couples who have different ideas of what their post-employment experiences should be like have to negotiate, compromise, and eventually accept that this phase of life may be very different than they thought it would be. For some, that’s a bitter pill to swallow.