Help me with my husband’s addiction to sports on TV

Readers Question Readers Question: (Name changed for privacy)
Stanton Peele Response by: Dr. Stanton Peele
Posted on August 20th, 2011 - Last updated: April 13th, 2023
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Dear Stanton:

My husband just told me that he is “Addicted” to sports. Not playing them, but watching them. Football in its season. Baseball in its season. Basketball… He said tonight that he is happy when his team wins, sad when they loose, and depressed when they blow it. He is guilty whenever he is watching it because, I don’t like to watch sports on TV.

He listens to sports in the radio in the car. Thinks about it all day at work. Probably dreams it at night. Watches at least 15 hours of it a week. Why do baseball games have to be so long?!!

Sports is affecting our relationship. He wont just play with our 2 1/2 year old son. He has one eye and ear glued to the game on TV. When we finally get out of the house on the weekends, he rushes us to get home before the start of a game. No more hiking. No more walks on the beach which is only three blocks from our house! No more exercising together. He even bought a second TV so that he wouldn’t feel too guilty, since our son and I could sit in another room watching a different show…

Is this addiction? Am I assisting in some co-dependent way? Should I take off with or without our son to do the fun outdoors things that we used to do (only alone this time)? When I do go out, with my family or a friend, he gets really depressed.

He probably grew up like this, and just hid it long enough for him to catch me. We are gaining weight on that couch. Our son is getting older. And we don’t have the family memories to keep me happy.

Plus. He promised me over 3 years ago he would quit smoking. I know it must be hard, but he smokes at work. I don’t let him smoke at home, but if he goes to the store (for beer to drink with the game…) he smokes. I’m a high school teacher. He works on a computer all day. We can’t afford his beer and cigarettes.

What can we do?


Dear Heather:

Yes, it is an addiction. It is an extreme emotional cathexis he has invested in sports (although perhaps not that exceptional). And it is good, I think, that he recognizes it as such. You can do as much about it as people can do about other aspects of their relationships.

One key sentence you wrote (and your letter is well-written) is “Sports is affecting our relationship.” And, Heather, the quality of your relationship is affecting his sports viewing. Apparently, in the balance of things, his relationship with you and your son falls a distant second. Did you notice certain tendencies in this direction before sports rose to the central place in his (and your) life that it now occupies? I would believe your comment: “He probably grew up like this, and just hid it long enough for him to catch me.”

For example how did he occupy his time before sports took over totally? Did he really use to hike and engage in other physical activities? Did he ever read? Was he ever involved in community or volunteer activities? Did he ever have good relationships with friends and family? It seems hard to fathom how, if these were important components to his life, how he would so readily throw them overboard.

To start with your last question first: yes, yes, yes continue with your own life — the walking on the beach, hiking, seeing friends, taking your son to activities. In fact, where I live, most people are too consumed (often to the detriment of their own lives) with piloting their children around. In your case, having your son involved in activities such as sports would seem to be a tremendous plus. Would watching his son’s little league or soccer games engage your husband’s attention — let’s hope so.

But at least if you get out you won’t get fatter because your husband won’t budge from the couch (do you know there are women who take drugs just because their mates do but report never having enjoyed them?). And your statement, “When I do go out, with my family or a friend, he gets really depressed,” seems poignant. Is he jealous? Is this a sign that something else does count almost as much as sports for him, and he is afraid to miss it? If this is the case, you have an obligation to make plans and go out (always cheerily asking him if he wants to come along). You know, Heather, if the beach is three blocks from your home, you could walk there yourself with your son. If you find it hard to go places alone, you might try developing this skill.

That your husband’s sports viewing is reinforced by cigarettes and beer is certainly a problem. As you may know, I have nothing against beer. But I like your analysis of the cost of these things. Is your husband aware of your analysis of the impact of his habits on your family’s economics and physical and emotional health? These seem to be extremely good points. What would it mean to you if, knowing these things, your husband sacrificed your son’s future for a second rate baseball game (i.e., one selected not because of its inherent interest, but just because it is the only game on)?

Perhaps you need to embody your analysis with the strength of your feelings. If it makes him depressed that you are going on with your son’s life, then that’s the least of the negative feelings he should experience due to his failure to choose you and the family over his various addictions!

With regards,

Stanton Peele

Dr. Stanton Peele, recognized as one of the world's leading addiction experts, developed the Life Process Program after decades of research, writing, and treatment about and for people with addictions. Dr. Peele is the author of 14 books. His work has been published in leading professional journals and popular publications around the globe.


  • Beth says:

    I’ve been in a relationship for over 30 years and can relate to what everyone has written. Each year it seems he more and more avidly follows the games. But the payoff seems to be that when he is with other men particularly he can talk sports.

  • jf says:

    My husband retired 5 years ago and for the last five years is sitting in front of the TV sometimes all-day watching games and if that is not enough on his phone reading tick tock all day while watching TV. on Sundays it from morning to night eating junk food. am getting my own life and we have not talked for days. sex is out the window and I no longer live my life around him. being disabled I have learned to have my own friends and people who love and take care of me when I need help. we share a house but nothing else for over 30 years. you can survive and be happy leaving him on the couch.

  • Sanya says:

    I have found the perfect man finally at 55. Our interests and beliefs are alike. He makes me laugh and i feel loved. EXCEPT football season started and we have problems. He stated from beginning that he loves football. Ok so did my dad. This is way beyond “normal”. Thursday night. Friday, sat, sun and monday night. I asked for a compromise and was met with a hard NO. We are talking about average 30 hrs week. Says “i could be a guy that goes out with friends to bars every night. But i will be right here with u”. Wants me to learn to love it with him. I work. I want to do other things on wknds. I feel we are doomed. We almost had it all. So heartbroken!!

  • Sports Widow says:

    My husband watches TV sports 3-4 hours a day depending on the season. More if his favorite teams are on TV. and they do overlap. He is into Basketball, Baseball, and Football. He plays pickle ball 3 hours a day 5-days a week, basketball once a week, and golf when he is asked. Today he rushed home from going to a football game to quickly watch a baseball game on TV. I feel like I’m not even married at times. I’ve decided to go on with my life and do the things I love doing. I walk each day and he has walked with me twice. I even take myself out to eat and enjoy it because he eats so fast so he can watch TV usually sports. But now he goes walking a couple hours before I do and then he leaves to play pickle ball, We’re in marriage counseling yet he still spends all this time with sports. He would play them or watch them all day if he could. He rushes through meals together so he can watch sports, comes home from an evening out (where he rushes through going “out” to dinner) and turns on sports. I don’t seem to fit into his life as a partner and it’s been ten years of this and I can see nothing is changing. He will say occasionally, “I didn’t watch my game while I was helping you.” Says that like it’s a favor to me or my fault that he refrained from watching his sports. I seriously do not know what to do about this. He will say, “This is what my dad did.” It’s like I’m a place card to be taken out when needed. We do go to church together but as soon as we’re home – those sports just appear on the TV again. Even when we have friends over he will turn on a sports on TV – like it’s the only thing in life. Between his sports addiction and watching the news addition whenever he isn’t watching sports it doesn’t leave much time of “us”. He does not drink alcohol, or go out with friends, nor does he have a hobby, and he is not abusive physically. But I’d say he is just oblivious to nurturing our relationship. I guess watching playing sports is his hobby. It’s like he is a child who goes out to play or watch his games. He even plops down on the couch and sits like a slouched teenager while watching. I’m in a lonely marriage. I rarely feel he is into our marriage but he is sure into sports. Counseling has helped me refine my own life and be more confident as a person. The marriage counseling has only been happening for a little while and he just doesn’t apply himself to us. He says he is so happy with our life. I listen to that and think, what in the world are you saying?

  • Joalle says:

    We’re retired. My husband is addicted to sports on TV. I make it a habit to do my own thing and keep busy without him. I have tried everything – it didnt work. Here’s the reality…while he may care about you – you are just a compartment in his life. You clean, cook and keep a nice home…you’re an addendum to his lifestyle and only important where it fits in and is good for him. If you’re young – figure a way to get out of this “relationship”. Its not worth continuing in it but realize it may not be better otherwise. The reality is you’re being used – let him rot in front of the goal post.

  • Lhelm says:

    Hello, you are not alone when living with someone who has a love of sports. My husband and I have been together for twenty years and he also has a love for sports. We took an oath to love each other for better or worse, so I feel if you honor your vows you will be accepting to what makes him happy. Having said that, if you truly love him then you will accept his love of sports. All that said, he needs to respect your needs as well. After all you need to come to a compromise in order to make things work. I have twenty years with my husband, and we’re happy together, because we respect each other’s happiness.

  • Lonely Newlywed says:

    I really appreciate all of the previous posts. I have been searching the internet to try to get more information about “sports addiction”, not sports betting or gambling addiction, but instead a true addiction like infatuation with watching sports/consuming sports media. I am only one year into my marriage and I am worried that my husband is too consumed with sports to be apart of a marriage. My spouse is profoundly addicted to watching football games, following sports media on all platforms, and creating sports commentary on his social media accounts and now in his own podcast. My husband has his eyes glued to his devices at all times waiting for “news”. He becomes irritated when his focus is taken from sports. Over the past year, it has become impossible for us to carry on a conversation that does not lap back to something sports related. Our schedule is dominated by his podcasting, tweeting, sports writing, and watching. I begged for some more one on one time during the off season. The “off” season was a joke…he refused to slow down and instead put out weekly podcast with manic ramblings about future sports predictions. Most recently, he has taken on yet another project that will require him to watch at-least six hours of sports film on Saturdays during the season. At this rate both days of the weekend will be devoted and lost to his sports addiction. I think that the worst part of all is how frustrated he gets when the dog wants some attention from him. Heaven forbid that football take a backseat to our poor dog that just wants to be petted and loved. I’m growing resentful of my husband and if something drastic doesn’t change I need to leave. I refuse to bring a child into this mess!

  • Karen says:

    Im also the second (or maybe third, fourth…) priority in my boyfriend’s life. He watches hours and hours of sports every single day. He watches all different kinds, so there’s basically no gap between any of it. Sometimes he watches two at a time.

    I mostly do things alone, whether it’s going out somewhere, going for a walk or the household chores. The furthered he’ll go is a few blocks from our hime to the supermarket because then we can make it back quickly to keep watching sports.

    It takes him days to take out the trash and it stinks by then, because every single waking moment is sports.


  • Teresa. says:

    Oh my God, i thought i was the only one with this problem. I’m a team truck driver with my husband and sports has just about drove me crazy in this truck with him. I cant get away to my self because, it’s a sport for him to call me with in minutes when i leave the house especially when his game is over, and to think he says im addicted to the casino. The casino is my only outlet. Been married 30 year and he still thinks he’s normal.

  • dave says:

    I’ve given up watching professional sports teams 2 years ago and I feel way better off. I used to feel bogged down by the amount that its on. Its always baseball, football, hockey, or basketball season. They intertwine with each other and there is never a break on TV not even a month between any sport. I’m happy that now when I am out at a pub I barely look at the TV screens anymore which is good. I am also trying to get myself off of Cable TV soon. I don’t like commercials and find them an annoyance interrupting my shows.

  • Save Me Jesus says:

    I know sports addiction cost me everything. Just hoping I can pick up the pieces now.

  • Jack says:

    I feel bad for you ladies. I used to be addicted to football and fantasy football. I haven’t watched a game the past 3 seasons and no more fantasy football. Watching sports or tv in general is complete waste of time. Rifht now I feel guilty just for browsing for few minutes a day because again waste of time. It adds no value to my life and doesn’t make me a better person. Trying to figure out how to quit that as well. I know many married guys who are addicted to watching sports and I truly feel bad for their spouses. Go and live your life. It’s not easy but do something small everyday to build the courage to live your life.

  • Mom says:

    Same problem. If you think it’s bad now unmarried, it gets worse when you are married. Consider if you really want to spend your life with someone who did not value family before tv.

  • Help Please... says:

    I have the same problem for 15yrs I feel so STUPID to be with this idiot… who never watch his live and watching sports like bookie and he is a doctor for goodness sake. Please help me…

  • Arun s says:

    Assuming your husband tends to be a couch potato/armchair quarterback I would encourage him to try Pickleball. It’s a sport that’s fastest growing in popularity among all age groups.
    He will gain a deeper appreciation for all the way around. If he does get addicted to it as well that would be a good thing. G’Luck and Cheers!

  • Lost says:

    I have the same problem! Sometimes I wonder if it is worth it although I truly love him. My sympathies.

  • Lost says:

    I have the same problem with a two yr live in boyfriend. I fear baseball is gonna cause this to end. I can’t take it. 3-3 1/2 hrs a day, everyday for all spring n summer. HELP!

  • Sportswidow says:

    I have the same problem. Baseball everyday it is on, hockey, football. I always feel second and it is ruining our 18 month relationship. I am also second to TV shows as well. I almost never go to bed with him at night cause he is still watching the after game stuff #decliningrelationship. We aren’t married…..

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