Partners of Gamers, imagine this:
Your partner is spending less and less time hanging out with you, and more and more time glued to their stupid game. They’re just going through a phase… it’s just a new game, right? You’ve been waiting it out, trying to play the cool, understanding partner. Surely they’re going to snap out of it soon enough and be right back at your side like when you first started dating… but it’s already been days.. weeks.. months. You’ve made little jokes about it here and there, telling your partner how much you hate their games but also packing on the sarcasm so you can pass it off as a joke in case they don’t take it well. But sarcasm or not, you’ve told them. Surely you shouldn’t need to have to say it much clearly than that. After all, it’s just a silly game. But what if they never change? You know you’re going to snap if you don’t talk to them about it properly, but you know they’re not going to take it well.
Sound familiar? If you are in a relationship with a gamer, particularly if you are a non-gamer, it’s likely that at some stage in your relationship, their hobby will become the spotlight of one or more arguments between the two of you. Before long, you will need to address that humongous elephant in the room (the humongous gaming elephant). To all the Partners of Gamers at near breaking point over your spouse’s gaming, this is for you. In this post, I’m sharing some of my communication tips to help you have The Chat. I’ve gathered these tips over the years, some of which I have learnt through observations, others I have learnt the hard way through my own high pressure chats with my gamer (and survived to tell the tale).
When it comes to talking about their gaming and how it affects your relationship, communication is so important. Let your partner know that their behaviour is affecting you, but try to go in with a decent game plan to give yourself and your partner the best chance at working through the situation. It is definitely possible to come to resolution without either party getting angry or upset. Here are some of my tips:
Tip 1: Pick the right time.
Timing is everything. If you pick the wrong time to bring up the issue, the conversation could be a failure before you’ve even gotten your first word in. You know your partner better than I do – try to think about their schedule and try to pick a time when they have minimal distractions and maximum levels of patience, for instance:
- Not mid game
- Not just before bedtime or a meal
- Not as soon as he comes home after a stressful day at work
- Not when either of your emotions are already high
Tip 2: Be clear and honest about what the problem is.
While it may be easy enough to use “video games” as a blanket excuse for all your relationship problems, don’t do it. As well as being a bit of a cop out, it is probably very confusing for your partner. Even if you think your reactions have been very clear, don’t assume they understand exactly how you feel and why.
Before you approach your partner about the problem, take some time to narrow down how their gaming is affecting you. For example, is the problem that you are feeling a lonely because your partner doesn’t spend as much time with you as they used to? Are you frustrated because they go to play video games before helping with their share of the housework? Tell them.
Also be careful not to make assumptions about their gaming and what this means in the context of your relationship, e.g. Don’t say “you choosing gaming over me must mean you don’t like spending time with me”, because it’s likely that your assumption is way off the mark and, if so, could come across as insulting.
Tip 3: Tone down on the aggressive tone.
While I’m sure it may be a very frustrating topic for you, try not to let it show. The more aggressive you are, the more defensive your partner will be and the less you’re going achieve a positive outcome from the conversation. This means:
- Never start with “We need to talk”
- Avoid the A word (Addiction)
- Avoid ‘you’ statements
- Avoid ultimatums, particularly when you are not serious about your threat
Tip 4: Offer suggestions.
So go figure, apparently just saying “STOP PLAYING YOUR GAAAAAMES SOOOO MUCH!!” won’t be enough to convince them to stop. If you’re expecting your partner to stop or reduce their behaviour, your argument will be stronger if you can back it up with some decent alternatives for them to consider.
For instance, say you are trying to convince them to reduce their game time and spend more couples time together, perhaps try to scheduling in regular date nights that fits both your routines. It may be making sure you both enjoy a movie night together at least once a week, or cooking dinner together on Mondays and Wednesdays.
Tip 5: Be ready to compromise.
Just remember, it’s not you vs. them – the two of you are working on this together, and it’s something that affects both of you. When trying to think of a solution, try to consider how each option will affect not only you, but also your partner. For instance, if you intend for them to cut down on your gaming time, this could potentially mean that you’re cutting out their stress reliever or their means for socialising with their friends. Finding a solution is not about coming up with something that gives you the upper hand. Compromise.
When trying to find a way forward, it is likely that none of the ideas will initially make both parties completely happy. Don’t be so quick to reject every suggestion from your partner, and hopefully they won’t be doing the same with your ideas. If you can’t come to an agreement, perhaps trial a few different options, for example, try your idea for one month, then try your partner’s idea and then go from there.
Tip 6: Afterwards, notice the changes.
Once you’ve had your chat, just remember to be patient. Even if your partner completely understands your point of view and fully intends to make some decent changes for the sake of the relationship, it’s not necessarily going to be a smooth transition.
During this time, it can be easy for us to pick out what they aren’t doing right – this is called Selective Attention. We may be subconsciously looking out for all the usual bad behaviours from our partner just so we can catch them out, while at the same time, failing to recognise all the positive changes. Make sure you look out for the occasions where your partner is clearly trying to work on things, and be sure to let them know how much you appreciate it.
Tip 7: At the end of the day, look after yourself.
Always, always remember to look out for y-o-u. As much as I love supporting relationships with gamers, you need to learn to distinguish that fine line between a healthy compromise and just conceding. Sometimes couples can happily work things out with a bit of communication and mutual respect, and other times, it’s just not meant to be and that’s fine too. The point of the communication is to find the best outcome for the two of you, don’t forget that.
I hope these tips are of some use to you couples out there. Good luck and happy communicating :)