Games don't break up marriages, people do.

Lately there has been talk in the blogsphere about whether gaming is detrimental to relationships.

Scarybooster bravely asked his ex-wife whether gaming broke up their relationship.   BRK politely answered a rather rude reader question* about whether WoW ended his relationship.   And there’s always grumbling and mumbling about “WoW widows.”

WoW, as a game, is incapable of ending a relationship.   The saying goes: “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”   Overindulging in WoW is a way to strain your relationship.  But ultimately it is up to the gamer to choose gaming habits that work with his/her family life, and up to both individuals to reach a compromise that they are both okay with.

The Stigma of Gaming

Now, gaming may be a hobby just like any other social activity – like a bowling league, book club, scrapbooking club, or whatever… but it’s treated very differently.   Many of the problems that occur with gaming in a relationship are because both the gaming and non-gaming spouse treat gaming differently from any other hobby, which changes the expectations of both parties.

The Gamer

Does Your Gaming Interfere With Your Family?

The gamer is ultimately in control of how much time he or she spends gaming – and when that timeframe occurs (such as after the kids are in bed).   Ask yourself what your family obligations are, and whether you can still meet those obligations while still playing the game.   Are you missing important events?   Routinely missing kid bedtimes?   Eating meals at the computer?

How Much Me-Time is Appropriate?

Every spouse deserves me-time.   Let me say that again: you deserve me-time. Whether it’s shopping, getting a pedicure, going bowling with your league, or yes, god forbid, gaming.   You deserve a certain amount of me-time.   That amount is going to vary from relationship to relationship, and be cut back severely when there are babies involved.

If your me-time with gaming included adds up to be a lot, then there’s a problem.   Cut back on gaming or cut back on other me-time. If your me-time is very limited, and your spouse is upset over the small amount of time you spend gaming, maybe there are other problems… and you need to have a little talky.

Even Though You are “At Home”, It’s still Me-time

Don’t pretend that gaming is any different than any other me-time activity (bowling, shopping, etc) just because you’re technically at home.   You’re occupied with your headset on.   You’re not watching the kids, you’re not doing dishes, you’re not even listening to your spouse talk to you (admit it).   You’re not “there.”   You might as well be at the pub.

Don’t Make it Your Life

Let’s play pretend and say you’re in a scrapbooking club.   Are you going to come home from scrapbooking and bore your spouse to tears with how you found a new acid-free glue?   Of course not!   If your spouse doesn’t play, he doesn’t want to hear about how Arthas is a sissy man, or how one of your guildies made an awesome joke, or how you pulled out that Festergut victory by inches.   Sorry.   Save it for your Wow friends.

Addiction

People can get addicted to all sorts of stuff, and gaming is no exception.   Addiction of any type will put a strain on a relationship.   Addiction should not be an excuse “sorry honey, but I just can’t play less than 4 hours, it’s so addictive.”   If there’s a true addiction, get help.   If not, shut the damn thing off when your me-time has expired.

Turnabout is Fair Play

Remember, folks, if you get your gaming me-time, your spouse should get the same amount of me-time doing whatever the hell he/she wants.   Doesn’t matter what it is.   You watch the kids and STFU. Seriously.   If you get unfettered raiding twice a week but whine about her going shopping with her friends for a whole afternoon, you are making the case for why you don’t deserve that me-time.

The Non-Gamer

Acceptance of Gaming as a Legitimate Activity

Sometimes it’s not that the gamer is spending too much time gaming, or gaming during crucial family time (like missing story time with the kids every night), but that the gamer is doing an activity that the spouse thinks is worthless and that shouldn’t be done at all. To which I say – sorry, but spouses don’t get to choose each other’s hobbies.

Let’s Pretend It’s Not Gaming

Ok… so the non-gaming spouse objects, and the gaming is not excessive, or interfering with stuff.   Now,   we are going to pretend it’s something that’s not gaming.   It’s a bowling league.   It’s a poker night.   Whatever.   The point is, remove the dreaded “gaming” from the equation and let’s see where we end up. Ask whether your family obligations would allow your spouse to do one of these activities 1-2 nights a week.   Maybe the answer is no!   Maybe there is just no time.   But if the answer is yes, then gaming should be no different. By analogy: this is an activity that is done with friends.   This means that if the gamer doesn’t show up, or shows up late, real people are inconvenienced.

Turnabout is Fair Play

If you want your spouse to watch the kids while you’re off doing whatever on your me-time, you’d better not interrupt the gaming-time set aside.   You couldn’t interrupt bowling league or poker night – or if you did, you’d be a jerk.   Put gaming on an equal footing with any other hobby.

The Couple

You need to make time for each other.  Schedule a date night, or do activities together that you both like.  You know, stuff you did together when you were first dating.  There must be activities you like doing together, or you wouldn’t be together in the first place.

Now, this can be difficult when kids are involved, but you can still do stuff together.  You can watch a movie or play a board game after the kids go to bed.  You can do something fun as a family with the kids.  Or you can employ ye olde babysitter.

Make a date, and then put your date on the calendar, just like you put any other hobby on the calendar… and don’t you DARE reschedule for a raid or book club. Come on.  I shouldn’t need to tell you this.  I feel like Captain Obvious.  This is Marriage 101 stuff.  Make time for each other.  Duh.

Conclusion

Personal responsibility goes a long way for any hobby in a relationship.   So does understanding, or at least acceptance, of the other spouse’s hobbies.   Take control of your relationship if gaming is causing a rift. Understand why the rift is occurring – whether because of the amount of playtime, unequal me-time between the spouses, or a lack of acceptance of gaming as a legitimate hobby.   And then try to patch it with communication and compromise – same as with anything else in a marriage.

(*Edited because the original sentence may have been unclear.  BRK was not rude.  The question itself prying into his personal life was rude.)

Comments

Games don't break up marriages, people do. — 12 Comments

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  2. Good post. I’m not sure how rude it was to really ask that of BRK given that he blogged about it freely before he quit WoW last time — I mean, I could see why a reader might think it was something he was open to discussing.

  3. I really enjoyed reading this.  While the hubby and I are both gamers, we have had definite differences of opinion on the appropriate amount of game-time (and responsibilities–no more GM’ing for me).
    However, I had a girlfriend who just COULD NOT understand why her SO would enjoy playing a game AT ALL.  To her, anything doing with computer was equated with playing solitaire.  When I figured that out, it clicked, but sheesh, I promise, this MMO stuff is WAY better than solitaire.

  4. WERD.
    You know, I think my wife started playing simply to get a handle on the stuff I was always babbling about. It never occurred to me that that might be something that might bother her. It makes perfect sense in retrospect.
    Don’t get me wrong; I’m glad she’s playing now. I get to drag her through instances and show her around the place. It’s a lot of fun. So things seemed to have worked out. But they might not have. Scary. O.o
    I also second the comment about setting time aside to be together as a couple. Sometimes it takes effort, but let’s face it – this is not a trivial thing, and is well worth the effort one puts into it.
     

    • “I also second the comment about setting time aside to be together as a couple. Sometimes it takes effort, but let’s face it – this is not a trivial thing, and is well worth the effort one puts into it.”

      Well you are the one who suggested I add that section!

  5. As part of a gamer couple, I’m very thankful not to have most of these issues. WoW is our dominant social activity and we enjoy it together. How lucky!  It has started getting harder as our baby turned into a toddler. She isn’t as happy just hanging out with us and the days of healing raids with Nomster on my lap are pretty much over. ( “Baby Wipes the Raid” makes a catchy jingle but unhappy other people)
    I would suggest that the gamer tries to show the non-gamer what it is about the game that appeals to him/her. Not necessarily force the issue, but many “Wow Widows” might be potential Wow partners…
    Reversion wrote up some tips about getting your SO to play Wow a while back: http://looking4more.wordpress.com/2010/02/18/how-to-get-you…fe-to-play-wow/
     
     

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