You may be surprised to learn that for those who are addicted to gaming, they may suffer from a medically recognised condition, that of internet gaming disorder. So, what can you do if you are experiencing problems in your relationship as a result of your spouse’s online gaming addiction?
It is becoming more common in recent years for spouses to make reference to the fact that the relationship has broken down, due in part, to one partner’s addiction to technology – often online games. It is also not to be assumed that it is the man who will have the addiction. Recent news reports covered one man from Burnley who had reached breaking point when his wife spent all her time playing games on her mobile phone. The pair, who had been in a relationship for 13 years, divorced with the breakdown blamed on the wife spending her days trawling Facebook and playing Candy Crush. Addiction to gaming can take various forms and affect either spouse (or both).
What can I do to help my gamer addict spouse?
When you are in a relationship with someone who is a gaming addict, it can be difficult to relate to the situation, particularly if you are not a gamer yourself. Here are some steps you can take if you want to try to prevent the marriage ending.
Take the issue of gaming addiction seriously
Whether or not you believe gaming addiction is a thing, during your discussions with your spouse, try to focus more on the feelings they’re experiencing rather than the addiction itself. Otherwise, they may feel alienated and misunderstood, which is only likely to push them further into gaming.
Recognise that gaming feels like a safe place for the gaming addict
Quitting gaming means so much more than simply stopping play. It can also be their safe place where they escape from the stresses and strains of the day. Being able to understand this will help you formulate a way forward.
Understand that gaming probably isn’t the main issue
Although gaming is the activity, the problem is that it fills specific needs for the addict. You should try to identify those needs and find out how these can be fulfilled in alternative ways.
Empathy rather than confrontation
It is extremely easy to fall into a confrontational situation, especially if you don’t understand gaming. Whilst playing, the person feels safe, and it is where they are likely to seek refuge after an argument. Focus instead on rebuilding trust so your spouse knows you are there for them when they are ready to talk about it.
Get out of the house
Try going for a walk or drive to talk. This will create a safe environment where your spouse can focus on the conversation, and it is less likely to lead to an argument if you are somewhere public. During this talk, you can share your experience of the situation, and what you would like to happen. Agree boundaries and suggest alternatives.
Set an example
If you want your spouse to kick their gaming addiction, it is unlikely to be well received if you spend hours on your laptop or in front of the TV, bemoaning it is your escape. Don’t be surprised when your spouse makes a comparison. No one responds well to hypocrisy, and your spouse won’t thank you for it, either.
Depending on the extent of your spouse’s addiction, they will have experienced structural changes to their behaviour. Research suggests it takes around 90 days of detox for people to begin showing signs of recovery. Not only that, but with gaming comes a sense of belonging and community, social relationships, confidence, and self-esteem. Be patient, because replacing these things with new, healthier habits will take time.
Breaking any addiction is not easy, agreeing time away from gaming, and suggesting alternatives are all ways to help your spouse overcome their difficulties. They will need support and encouragement, and although they are unlikely to thank you in the moment, will eventually see that it is the best thing for the relationship to survive.
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