I'm not an obsessive gamer, but I am a life long gamer, and my wife has always understood this and accepted it. Until one night, to my surprise, she didn't.
One night, I was in bed playing "Toy Defense" on my iPhone. She rolled over from her side of the bed and asked me, "Are you bored?"
I paused the game. "What do you mean, 'Am I bored?'"
She replied, "With me, are you bored with me?"
I didn't see that one coming. We've been happily together nearly three years, and even more happily married for over eleven months now, with our big ceremony only a few months past.
"I'm not bored, why do you say that?"
"You've been playing a lot of video games."
I didn't think I'd been playing nearly as much since we married, and this was never an issue while we were dating. We even had long gaming sessions together on lazy Saturdays playing "Plants vs. Zombies," "Red Dead Revolver," and "Zombie Apocalypse." But maybe I was wrong. The first rule of being a good husband is to always admit you might be wrong.
My wife and I playing Xbox together.
"I'm not bored, let's talk about this. Do you really think I've been playing too many games lately? I've barely turned on my Xbox since 'Skyrim' over Christmas."
"I don't know. It just seems like when we're in bed, you're playing games on the iPhone a lot."
I realized something. "Before we were married, we never used to watch so much TV."
We both agreed, talked some more and made a pact: Time to power off Time Warner Cable together.
Turns out video games weren't the problem, and television was. We had been watching a lot more television the last few months. It took both of us to recognize that. I didn't have to power off my gaming habit permanently to maintain a happy marriage, even through I was prepared to do so, as I love my wife very much.
After my experience, I wondered if other married gamers have had to flip the off switch, so I reached out to some of my married gamer buddies to ask them if video games caused problems with their marriages.
For 37-year-old Jeramy Skidmore, of Seattle, Wash., video games aren't an issue in married and family life. Jeramy is mostly a solitary gamer who plays with his two kids from time to time while he says his wife tolerates it. "Diablo 3" is his current "time waster."
When asked if any conflicts have arisen because of his solitary gaming habits Jeramy responded, "Not really. I get fussed at on occasion for impulse buying games, but it's a legitimate gripe."
But not so for divorced gamer Rob Morris of Phoenix, Arizona, a former systems engineer and Senior Editor at gaming and entertainment website Flesheatingzipper.com. Rob was married for 10 years and never played video games together with his former wife.
"Gaming created quite a bit of turmoil in my marriage because I am not a TV watcher and she was."
Did the 10 to 12 hours he spent a week playing video games ultimately cause the marriage to fail? "I can't say that video games had nothing to do with it because I am certain that her resentment of my time in gamer-land pushed things along but I knew the marriage was going to end anyway."
Rob places emphasis on how his future girlfriend or spouse must be perfectly OK with his gaming hobby.
"I'm actually very clear with potential partners and let them know up front that I am an avid gamer. I tell them I need my gaming time and that I'm not willing to give it up for the sake of a relationship. If they're not OK with that, I can't pursue things with them."
Thirty-three-year-old product manager "Jim" (asked that his real name not be used) of New York City is a gamer and has been married for one and a half years. Jim plays about 10 to 20 hours a week on both PC and consoles, with PC gaming being more solitary and console gaming more social, or as he calls his PC time his personal "meditation."
He says his new wife wishes he didn't play video games so much, but that there hasn't really been any conflict as a result. Jim hasn't had any problems in previous relationships because of video games either and explains, "You just have to keep a good balance. Not just gaming and relationships, but also fitness, work, creativity, etc. But people who do nothing but game can get really weird. I have one friend 'online' who plays like 12 to 15 hours every day. I can't imagine what it's like. He's not married, but he does have a dog, if that tells you anything..."
Forty-year-old long time gamer, fashion designer and columnist Jonathan Stephens from Los Angeles has been married for 17 years and says that gaming has had a generally positive influence on his marriage, even if he currently only plays games less than 10 hours a week.
Jonathan attributes that positive influence mostly to his wife. She "made room in our relationship for video games. Even though I don't play games much anymore, in the early years of our marriage it was a big hobby of mine and my wife never complained. She had hobbies of her own, and we both felt that leaving room for our individual interests was a good way to keep conflict out of the marriage. Just so long as I didn't spend too much time gaming, that is..."
The common thread throughout is that letting an activity or hobby -- any activity or hobby -- get in the way of connecting with a significant other is what can cause problems, not necessarily video games themselves. Spend quality time with your significant other, play your games, enjoy your hobby, but understand your spouse comes first when it comes down to it. Don't be afraid to push that power button when you have to.
It doesn't matter if it's video games or television coming between spouses, it only matters that each partner understands it is a two-way street and you're both driving down that Forza/Gran Turismo road together.
Sometimes he has to pull over so she can have a pee break, and sometimes she has to realize he's going to race at the next red light.
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