Yesterday one of my favorite bloggers, Sheila Wray Gregoire over at To Love Honor and Vacuum, wrote a post about husbands who play video games all the time. It’s a very relevant post since many young and middle aged men enjoy playing video games. And since most women do not enjoy video games nearly as much or not at all, this can cause problems within a marriage.
My husband enjoys playing video games quite a bit and has been playing them since childhood. I, however, grew up with the love of reading, writing, and education. Video games were never apart of my regular activities and when I did play, I liked the old school games of Mario, Donkey Kong, and the kind where you race around gathering coins and stuff like that. Though I’m sure my husband, at one time, played such games, he tends to like…what are they called??…story games? The kind where you have certain missions and go around killing things? I don’t really know what it is he plays…I just hear things like “Skyrim,” “Xcom,” Far Cry 3,” and something about “boarders and lands?” And I see him wondering around with a gun, killing animals, people, and doing other stuff that makes no sense to me. I see the screen go all whack and I have absolutely NO idea how HE knows what he’s doing. But he enjoys it and plays with his friends and they get all excited and serious about whatever they are doing.
I don’t think I will ever be able to say that I understand his enjoyment of video games. I used to loath video games and think less of the people who played them. But then I married a guy who loves them and so therein lies the problem. I wouldn’t say that he’s addicted and he does spend far less time with them now that his job and family takes up most of his available time. But it used to really bother me when he played and as I read Sheila’s post the reasons for my feelings began to take further shape.
Over the years Kyle and I have been married, I have learned to deal with my feelings about video games and Kyle using some of his time to play them. My attitude towards it was that it was a waste of time, time he could be spending with me. And I felt like I was competing for his attention. It wasn’t that Kyle never spent time with me and was always playing his video games, it was that the time he spent with his games could be spent with me. But I didn’t have a plan or a suggestion for what we could do together, I just didn’t want him playing his games; I wanted his attention. I didn’t like so much of his attention and focus to be on his games and with his friends because I knew when he started up a game it was going to be, not for half an hour or even an hour, but for many hours. And that left me with nothing to do or finding something else to do when all I really wanted was to be spending time with Kyle. Kyle’s solution for this was for me to sit and watch him play but that just insulted me and put even more bitterness in my heart. Because that’s what it was – bitterness. It was bitterness, anger, and probably a little bit of fear that caused me to hate video games, and the fact that Kyle loved to play them, so much. So every time Kyle went to play a game, my heart filled with bitterness and anger, and I felt like he was telling me, “I don’t care about you or spending time with you, I just want to play my game.” I believed it too.
Over time he spent less time playing video games because our lives got busier and he could see how upset it made me. When our lives started to kinda settle down and a new game came out Kyle really wanted to play, he started to play again and that bitterness returned. And now we had a baby so the fact that he was choosing to spend time with his game told me that he didn’t care about me or the baby, that he didn’t want to spend time with us. In truth and reality, it wasn’t that Kyle was being a jerk but about how I was perceiving his actions. There are reasons why I perceived his actions a certain way. It wasn’t that Kyle didn’t care about us or didn’t want to spend time with us. It wasn’t that he wasn’t a loving husband or a good father. It was about my perception, how it made me feel, and that I chose to believe that my perception was true. When I came to this realization I communicated with Kyle and I agreed to let him have his down time and not feel bitter about it. When I thought about it rationally I saw that there were times that he could play his game when it wouldn’t make me feel left out because I would be busy putting Grayson to bed, taking a shower, reading, ect. And once I was done, Kyle agreed to get off his game and then we would spend time together. He also confessed to me that he didn’t know what quality time meant or what it looked like. It never occurred to me that when I said, “I want to spend quality time with you,” that he wouldn’t know what I was talking about. It seemed simple to me because quality time is one of my love languages but it isn’t one of his. It has taken two years for us to figure this out and even now that bitterness can still creep into my heart and Kyle can still get lost on the meaning of quality time. But now that my perception has changed, some boundaries have been set, and I communicated with Kyle, things are better.
Sheila’s post was about video game addiction so if that applies to you then please go read it. My husband isn’t addicted but his game playing still caused issues for me and our marriage. If that applies to you more then here is my advice to you:
1. Examine your perception. Are the feelings you have legitimate because your husband does have a real problem or are you believing a lie? I believed that my husband didn’t want to spend time with me but that wasn’t true. He just enjoys playing video games, it’s a way he relaxes and unwinds, just like reading does for me. And just because I didn’t think it a valid form of relaxation doesn’t mean that it’s not. I still have to fight to have this perception but there just simply isn’t anything wrong with my husband spending a few hours on the weekend playing video games when we don’t have anything else more important to do.
2. Discover the reasons for your perception. The reason for my perception actually had nothing to do with Kyle but I was projecting it onto him, believing he meant to be the jerk I believed he was. My reason was fear. I was afraid that Kyle would start to not care about me or want to spend time with me. I was afraid he would become uninvolved. Kyle never gave me a reason to have this fear, it was one I was already holding, one I brought into the marriage. I didn’t realize it at first but once I discovered it, I realized the problem was more with me and not with Kyle or how he chose to spend his free time.
3. Communicate with your husband. Whatever you are feeling for whatever reason, you need to talk to your husband and explain to him how his playing video games makes you feel and why you respond the way you do. Don’t speak with anger or bitterness and don’t nag, that won’t help, but go to him genuinely wanting to understand, expressing your feelings, and working towards a compromise.
4. Create boundaries. Figure out what best works for you and your family and set aside a specific amount of time each week for your husband to spend playing video games. Or if that sounds too strict, come up with prerequisites, stuff that has to be done or not happening in order for him to have time to dedicate to playing. For instance, there are no chores to be done, the children aren’t being a hassle, you don’t have anywhere to go, ect. Hobbies should never overtake what is necessary because then the hobby becomes an addiction. So if it’s not an addiction then your husband shouldn’t have a problem being willing to better organize and prioritize his time so that he can meet responsibilities, spend some time playing, and have time to spend with you.
I think the main thing for me and my husband was for me to adjust my perception of video games, my husbands relation with them, and for us to be more intentional with our time. Like I’ve said, it’s not an addiction, it’s just something that was never apart of my life that I had to figure out how to accept and work into my expectation of what my married life would be like. Maybe this applies to you about something other than video games. Whatever it is, love is caring about the person you are married to more than yourself and working to create peace where there is tension. As long as your husband isn’t sinning or addicted and your struggling with your feelings towards him and how he spends his free time then you need to examine yourself, deal with your feelings, communicate with your husband, and work to create peace.