Reader Gaming Widow writes,
I am pregnant and I am worried about my husband's gaming issue. I am not someone who buys into "after kids people will be totally different." I fear that it's too deep of a behavior pattern or addiction for anything to break it up.
The first year we were together, he didn't play games when I was around because he was afraid I'd judge him. Those were very good times. Then he started playing them again but it was kept to mostly the evenings and usually after we had spent some time together. Then he got back into what I understand was his norm -- if he isn't working or sleeping he is gaming.
He doesn't think he plays near as much as does. I want to write down how much he plays so I can show him, but I haven't actually done that yet, mainly because I forget until I get mad. Then I am not sure if this will make things worse. He never writes down how long I rest or how long I watch Netflix... and he never says a word if for three days I "take off" and lay around. This may be because he is a nice person allowing me to be human or is it because he wants the same deal?
He is the main income for us now, I am working part time. He does hardly any house work. If he does it I have to nag. He isn't good at housework and I would say he doesn't even try or care. Even when I worked 40 hours and commuted 5 hours to that job I was still supposed to cook and clean and keep things going, or things will never ever get done until we run out of everything. Lately he has tried to help me more and he will do about 5-10 minutes or something and then he goes to his computer and clicks around for a bit and adjusts things on his games or even plays a game (30-60min). It's like a cigarette addiction: has to have a game break every hour or more.
He tells me to get a hobby so it won't just be him with one. I often don't feel like starting a hobby because I am too overwhelmed with house stuff... that is probably something I need to work on though because I do need to learn to have some fun or me time that isn't Netflix or Facebook. There is no amount of talking about games that doesn't infuriate him. No amount of decreasing his playing time is acceptable... he turns it into "well I just won't play at all then" which isn't what I want because I am sure that will cause resentment.
I am also worried about his health. It is not rare for him to stay up until 1:00-3:00 a.m. playing games even if he has to work at 7:00-10:00 a.m. the next day. He stays up late the night before his days off too which sometimes means he is too sleepy to function at all the next day and that bothers me.
He works to provide everything for us, minus the home but he does pay all the bills for the home. Last year he had an intensely stressful job requiring 60 hours of work a week. He made a lot of money but he was miserable. When he was having the hardest weeks at work I never said a word about the games. He would come home say hi, kiss me on the cheek and go right to his computer until he came to bed. I'd cook dinner and bring it to him. He was in a bad, bad place and I felt I was supporting him. He never remembers that or didn't even realize. He never notices when I don't say a word about games. I can leave it alone for days and then I mention it and that's all he sees. By the way, he will now be at a new job, only 40 hours per week, much less money but hopefully better for us as a family.
This makes him seem "bad"... I can write out 10 paragraphs about his good qualities and his great qualities and for those I am super thankful. But I am worried that this will get worse after kids and drive a wedge between us.
I see so many couples with this issue. I guess it is the equivalent of going out drinking with the guys or watching sports all Sunday, so it's not like a new phenomenon for women to feel that their husbands don't spend enough time at home. But this sounds more like an addiction, because your husband cannot stop, gets angry and defensive about it, and not engaging with you much at all. It seems he is either working or gaming.
You are correct that your husband likely plays a lot more than he thinks he does, and it's likely way more than you think he does also, because all of these little gaming breaks add up. Every addictive behavior is hard, but the issue that makes gaming unique is that, as you said, it's something that can be done literally every second of every day, in drips and drabs, from his phone, computer, tablet, anything. You also right to make the analogy between smoking breaks and gaming breaks, because gaming is just as addictive. You can read about video game addiction here.) It is interesting that your husband says that he either has to continue gaming as he is, or quit entirely. Like any other addiction, it is usually very hard to just scale back, which is why the Alcoholics Anonymous model is total abstinence.
It sounds like your husband's addiction got worse when he was overwhelmed at work, and now that he is changing to a job with better hours, he is still stuck in the same pattern. And to complicate matters, there is a baby on the way, an idea which is probably stressing you both out. When people are anxious or depressed, addictive behaviors usually ramp up. It is also possible that your husband is depressed and the only thing that makes him feel better is gaming. Gaming and other high-stimulation addictive activities tend to hijack the brain's capacity to find pleasure in other, more normal activities. Gaming, or whatever the addiction is, becomes the only way that the person can experience the release of dopamine that signifies happiness or excitement.
Some people do quit their addictive substances or behaviors when a child is born. They rethink their priorities and who they want to be as a person. But if your husband will not tolerate any discussion about gaming, then it would have to be a pretty big epiphany to make him stop, or at least recognize that this is a problem, upon the birth of your child. I suggest that you sit down with your husband, tell him that you love him, but that you are concerned that he is depressed and withdrawing only into gaming. Say that you fear that his gaming has gone beyond hobby into addiction. Tell him that you are worried about your relationship and you feel disconnected due to the amount of time he spends gaming, and that you are also concerned about how involved he will be as a parent if gaming continues to take hours per day. If at all possible, ask him to see a therapist with you to discuss this, as couples counseling may allow you two to communicate about this issue in a more productive and safer way, as it would be mediated and less likely to devolve into screaming.
You are not the only spouse facing this problem, unfortunately. Here, I give advice to a man whose wife retreats into social media rather than engaging with him. I am hoping that if your husband speaks with a counselor, he may see how this behavior is removing him from family life, and also may be able to see if depression is an issue as well. Good luck and keep me posted. Till we meet again, I remain, The Blogapist Who Says, He May Be Nice, But He Also Wants You To Get A "Hobby" Because Then He'll Have More Time To Game In Peace.
This post was originally published here on Dr. Psych Mom. Follow Dr. Rodman on Dr. Psych Mom, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. Order her book, How to Talk to Your Kids about Your Divorce: Healthy, Effective Communication Techniques for Your Changing Family. Learn about Dr. Rodman's private practice, including therapy, coaching, and consultation here. This blog is not intended as diagnosis, assessment, or treatment, and should not replace consultation with your medical provider.