This is a guest post by Xenu01. Xenu secretly imagines she is married to Jimmy Stewart. In the past. Which totally could happen. She also wishes she could speak every language, including bird and cat.
I am married to a gaming addict. He works in IT (obviously) and works on computers 40+ hours a week, then spends nearly all of his free time playing computer games, from the moment he wakes up until he goes to work, and after work until he goes to bed. On the weekends he plays just about all the time, 8-10 hours a day probably. He’ll play anything. Even solitaire if there are no other choices. He really can’t stop. I knew he really liked to play computer games going into the marriage, and for the most part since I was in grad school I wasn’t doing much of anything else either so it wasn’t a huge deal. And then we had kids. He still spends 80% of his free time gaming. He does do some chores around the house, and takes care of some kid duties, but I’m really upset about the amount of time that he obviously isn’t devoting his attention to them (or me). They will go over to talk to him and he always says he’s busy and makes them wait. When he’s away from the computer, he takes his phone so he can play something while he gives the kids a bath And he sets a very bad example for our son (gaming addict in training) who has a time limit on his own computer usage but doesn’t understand why his dad doesn’t. I feel like I never have his complete attention because he’s in the corner in his cave playing some game ALL THE TIME. He has no other hobbies and does nothing else for fun.
I have talked to him about this before, more than a few times, and each time he has “reduced” his gaming time for a couple of weeks, and then it’s back to normal. I don’t think he has gone a single day without gaming in 25 years. Since atari, probably. He is VERY defensive when I try to talk about this, as he says his work is hard and he hates dealing with people and games are his “escape,” but I think it’s really an addiction. He’s pretty introverted and not very socially astute (obviously, again). How can I get him to really, really understand how much this is a problem for our family? I really think even though I’ve talked to him several times over the years that he doesn’t get it. I really want him to think of it like an addiction, not just something he likes to do for fun. I would really like to set up a no-screen weekend but I’m not sure how to go about it without freaking him out. I am willing to forgo my own computer time (mostly social/chatting) also, obviously. I need to stage an intervention. Please advise.
Lost in Angry Birds Space
Hi there, Angry Birds! So gaming addiction is a real thing, but it’s not taken as seriously as other addictions yet, probably? Anyway, I feel you so hard. This is so tough to have to deal with, and you may feel like you are spinning your wheels. I am going to do my best here, but feel free to add on in comments.
I know you aren’t dealing with an alcoholic, but it would not be out of the question for you to attend a real-life Al-Anon meeting or two, or if you don’t feel comfortable with that, to read some of the literature. Sometimes it is helpful to talk to others who are going through something, or just to hear what it is they are going through so you do not feel so alone. Here is a link (http://www.al-anon.alateen.org/) to their website, and you should be able to find information or a meeting there. Whether or not what he has an addiction, it can be hard to be a Fixer in a relationship with someone who Refuses to Be or Stay Fixed (trust me, I know! I am a chronic Fixer in recovery, and I still slip up), and so it might help to address some of your feelings in that vein.
The most frustrating thing about being in a relationship with someone who has a problem is that you are not going to be able to fix them. It does not matter how many times you talk to him about the thing that is bothering you- he will always return to his old behavior unless he sees there is a problem and isn’t just to appease you temporarily until you forget about it. Along these lines, it might be helpful for you to take things one day at a time and to start with clear and delineated boundaries. Tonight you might sit him down privately once the kids have gone to bed and suggest that tomorrow night from 6-8 PM is family time, and you are both free to do whatever you want after 8?
There is a certain element of thoughtlessness inherent in such a massive amount of video gaming, but- well- for me, massive amounts of video games, neglecting duties, maybe sleeping too much or not enough, neglecting friends and spouse- I hear you also say that he hates his job. Maybe he is suffering from some malaise and depression right now. He might be fighting some burnout issues. Maybe this would be a time to open up discussions around possible job change (again, kids- I know it might not be possible)? Maybe via a neutral third party, like a couples counselor?
Lastly, for your own peace of mind, you might think about taking a night off for your own damn self on a regular basis. Call it anti-date night. Could be once a month or once a week. Hire a babysitter, say, “See ya!” to your husband and take yourself to the movies or out to dinner. Go to a club. Go to a concert. Join a sci-fi book club or learn the art of soldering. Whatever you do, have fun and don’t worry about what he is doing, which I assume will be video games. You should do this Just Because.
Have at it, commentariat! I know someone in here will have some kind words for the letter writer.