Lovehacker: How Do I Stop Gaming From Ruining My Love-Life?

Lovehacker: How Do I Stop Gaming From Ruining My Love-Life?

Dear Lifehacker, I like playing games on my PC, PS3, phone, Xbox 360, tablet, and any other device I can get my hands on. I also work full time and currently have a girlfriend, but I have broken up with three previous girlfriends because of my gaming habit (Aion: The Tower of Eternity was the main culprit). What can I do to help balance my day and night, and keep my girlfriends? Thanks, Played Out

Bored girlfriend picture from Shutterstock

Dear PO,

If you’re willing to give up a loving companion and/or regular sex for an MMORPG about magical dragons, you clearly need to get your priorities in order. Sure, we’ve all crawled into bed at 3am after an epic gaming session — but if you make it regular habit there soon won’t be anyone in there waiting for you.

Our website contains plenty of tips on how to balance your work/life schedule for a healthier lifestyle (just substitute “work” for “gaming” while reading each article.) You can also pick up some general advice from our post about maximising GTA V playing time — such as using the Pomodoro Technique to keep your gaming bouts small and sweet. In short, schedule time in your calendar for playing and stick to it. [related title=”More Lovehacker” tag=”lovehacker” items=”5″]

Alternatively, you could try and get your girlfriend involved as a spectator and occasional co-player. This actually isn’t as impossible as it sounds. There are plenty of video game titles that appeal to non-gamers — the trick is to find something story-orientated with interesting, mature cut scenes and minimal repetition. Mindless action is best avoided, which gets boring fast.

Some recent games that fit the bill include Beyond: Two Souls (a nonlinear drama featuring the voice and mo-capped likeness of Ellen Page and Willem DaFoe) The Last Of Us (a post-apocalyptic tale of survival that puts the player’s emotions at the forefront), and even Grand Theft Auto V (provided you stick to the main missions and keep the random carnage to a minimum). We also hear that Little Big Planet 2 is a big hit with the ladies — so stick the controller in her hand and see if it sticks.

Failing that, our advice is to find yourself a girlfriend who actually likes gaming! These days they’re not too hard to find (just be aware that this can create its own set of problems, such as who’s turn it is to be in charge of the controls).

We also sent your query to ex-Kotaku editor Mark Serrels, who had this to add:

Okay, I am going to give you the slimmest shred of sympathy here. It comes in the form of this awkward hug. Will you receive this awkward hug? WILL YOU? [hugs] Alright. Good. Now it’s time for some brutal honesty.



Really? Video games have caused you to break up with your last three girlfriends? I have a wife. I have a nine month old kid. I have a super busy job. I play video games. It’s not a ‘one or the other’ type ultimatum.

This whole thing is about two issues: priorities and time management. And also self discipline. That’s three things, but I digress: when video games start to infiltrate and ruin your personal relationships with others, that is the point where you have to take a step back and ask yourself a few hard questions.

  • Is this game worth it. [Hint: the answer is ‘no’]
  • Should I be managing my spare time better? [Hint: the answer is ‘yes’]
  • Are real life people more important than video games? [Hint: the answer is, again, ‘yes’]
  • Video games are great, but it sounds like you have either a) not met the right girl yet or, b) spend an unhealthy amount of time in virtual worlds. The key is balance. If you’re playing video games to the detriment of your personal or business life I think you need to make a lifestyle change. And this comes from someone who writes about video games for a living.

Have any of our readers ever ‘converted’ a non-gaming partner? Share your brain-washing tactics with PO in the comments section below.

Lovehacker is a weekly relationship and sex column where our resident Agony Aunt answers your questions. Need help? Drop a comment below or email [email protected].

This story has been updated since its original publication.


  • It’s entirely possible that this individual is having more of his psychological needs met through playing video games, and he may not be able to maintain a significant relationship until he is able to accurately assess his psychological priorities and the way in which his needs are met by both video games and his relationships.
    Human beings have a tendency to gravitate towards the instant gratification of needs such as affirmations of competency and autonomy where available; these simply won’t be able to be met in the same way by a significant other in the short term.
    Jamie Madigan at the Psychology of Games has a fascinating write up of why violent video games in particular are so appealing; it’s definitely worth a look.

    Personally, I’ve had to cut back on the gaming at home almost entirely. This is simply because I now see it as time that could be better spent with my wife and children who I do not get to see during the day as I’m working and studying full-time.
    As a result, I now do most of my gaming (and reading) while on the train or commuting.

      • i usually just pretend gaming doesn’t exist. Living with somebody you’ve obviously gotta have your own time at some point. But in any other situation 90% of the time i would never mention video games. Followed that rule for 7 years and its done me lots of favors. Get a nice futon, couch that transforms into a bed is perhaps the greatest thing ever.

  • Why not settle on a games night? We have Friday nights where I get to play my games and she get’s to watch her chick flicks or you know, do whatever.

    But seriously, if you can’t control your gaming, to the point where you lose out on sex, then I’m not sure any advice here is going to make a difference to you as you seem to be way too self involved.

  • I know this is not the case; but if that were your girlfriend in the reference pic this would be a no brainer. If you cannot reduce the amount you play, the only real option above is ‘find a gaming partner’. All the rest will fail at some point when you still refuse to put the controller down after a multi-hour session.

  • I don’t understand how you can be that hooked when there’s barely any good games to play these days
    The 90s was the golden age, it’s all downhill now with a few exceptions

    Real life is the best videogame

  • Mark pretty much hit it on the head.

    Especially with MMO’s you have to ask yourself, what are you getting out of them. You play for four plus hours to help the guild out so they can help you get vaguely better equipment so you can repeat the cycle again. There isn’t a huge positive gain from them for your lifestyle.

  • My tricks:

    Stop playing multiplayer, save it for the occasional LAN or tee up specific online sessions with mates ahead of time. The gaming ‘high’ when playing against other people makes it much harder to keep a session short. Playing ‘with’ other people (e.g. guilds, clans) makes it even more difficult.

    Make sure both of you get ‘me’ time. If your other half is out shopping, or watching a movie, reading a book, or partaking in whatever their hobby is, they have no reason to feel left out by you gaming at the same time.

    Limit late night gaming sessions. Lack of sleep catches up on you, and sleep ins don’t do a whole lot to help.

    I’ve gone from spending 2-8 hours per day gaming, to 4-10 hours per week, and you know what, I don’t miss it that much (and I’m buying less games, saving me money).

    The other trick is to limit the amount of gaming media you consume. It’s easy to get all excited about the upcoming ‘must-play’ games, and to read article after article leading up to launch. But most of the time you’ll find that no matter how great the game, the anticipation was greatly out of proportion.

      • Don’t get me wrong, I still consume a fair bit of gaming related media. I just tend to read less of the ‘lets-get-a-raging-hard-on-about-this-yet-to-be-released-game’ type articles.

        I’d like to say I’ve come a long way from the kid who used to spend hours poring over every screenshot in EGM and , imagining what playing the game would be like.

  • I cant say that I have ever been in this exact position but I will say that I have a new girlfriend (about 6 months now) and yes, I am a gamer!

    I have willingly sacrificed almost all of my gaming time when we are together at the start but have just started to introduce it a little at a time so that we can both become accustomed to having gaming as a viable relaxation tool

    I haven’t converted her yet, but I did introduce her to Pokemon Y on my shiny new 3DS, and she actually enjoyed it

    Make gaming something you can do together, even if it just a rare treat, it will be a treat that is all the more sweeter!

  • You have to look at this from the other side too and not be with a girl who demands all of your spare time.

    People do need time for themselves and their own hobbies. As someone who works all day and doesn’t go out drinking or watch much TV I don’t think it’s unreasonable to spend an hour after work playing something, and maybe a few hours on a lazy weekend.

    Just gotta find the correct balance and also be with someone who is reasonable about how much time you need to spend with each other.

    • If you never put the game ahead of your girlfriend then she will never get jealous and “test” your loyalty by demanding all of your spare time.

  • First rule – don’t play MMOs
    Second rule – when the missus says ‘come to bed’ – you run.
    Third rule – play in moderation – schedule time for everything else in your life
    Fourth rule – every so often take a week off
    Finally – IF you follow all those rules and your partner is still not happy it may not be the gaming. I’ve known loads of women that see gaming – any gaming – as a personal affront and are just plain jealous. If your partner is too insecure to deal with a moderate amount of “me” time taken to game then it’s only going to be worse during nights out, gamer nights, etc.

    FYI – my missus hates gaming – but understands my love and we take that time apart as a chance to breath. Even when I’m playing a game just 6 foot from where she’s watching a movie – we have a clear understanding that gaming is not my life – just my favourite hobby.

    • I would echo the first rule, stay away from MMOs.

      Also if you want to set up a long gaming session, either on your own or with buddies, then plan a night for your GF/wife. Call up her friends, make them save a date, make dinner reservations for her and whatever she’d like to do. That way you get a night to yourself and your GF/wife is out having fun as well, neither of you will have to worry. I think this is a good option simply because some people might not be able to find a girl who loves video games. Don’t get me wrong, they’re out there but they’re not that abundant.

  • Find a girl who also likes gaming. That’s what I did with my last long-term relationship. It also helps if she likes some different games. I used to play the Xbox mostly while my GF would play WOW so there were never any issues with sharing. That relationship still didn’t work out but our mutual love of gaming was one the good things about it.

  • My solution was to give up games entirely, I found it easier than trying to put limits on it. It gives you a lot more time to waste on other things.

    My suggestion would be to stick to console games, and only have ONE TV in the house. This will mean that if your girlfriend wants to watch TV then your game will need to be off.

  • I feel this needs a bit of input from the other side. My boyfriend loooves gaming, mostly on the PS3 but also on his phone. I don’t mind when he spends time doing it but there are two things I hate. One is the days when I get home from work at 5.30-6pm and he has been home since two or three and made no attempt to cook dinner or do anything housework related. The other is when we make plans to go out for tea and it’s ‘just this next bit’. While I understand the compulsion (I read books by ‘just this chapter’), the prioritisation is selfish. When it happens sometimes that’s ok but if it happens every time a game comes out or he finds a new app then it’s too much.

  • I think it’s more that PO hasn’t found the right person. If she were worth it, then you’d drop the games the instant you felt her pulling away.

    The general advice here is right though – find the happy medium. I for instance moved my gaming rig into the lounge room so that my wife and I could still talk at night after our son went to bed – she’s watching television, I’m playing games. I no longer play RTS’ during these times because I get too drawn in and can’t maintain a conversation.

    Also, I met my wife on World of Warcraft, so I have an easier sell on game time. But when she wants to watch a movie with me, I do so, because I love her and she’s worth having to wait a day to get that level or finish that mission or whatever.

  • I gotta be honest, there have been a few girls I’ve \half-heartedly dated who have asked if I’d like to go out somewhere or come over for… non-specific activity (yup, so basically sex) and my subconscious has told me, internally, “Actually, I’d rather hang with my buddies in a MMO, to be honest.”

    It’s a bad sign if I’d rather hole up somewhere in imagination land than go out/stay in with a date. In all those circumstances upon realizing I was wasting their time and mine, I ended it.

    Not because I wanted more time to game, but because I realized that I was so blasé about their company that gaming appealed more.

    • Everyone has different priorities. If you’d prefer to stay in and game than have sex, there’s nothing wrong with that. The whole ‘you have to have a girlfriend/wife and have sex all the time or you’re not a functional male human’ thing society has going on is stupid, we’re not all built the same. I have a gaming girlfriend, fortunately, but there are plenty of times I’d rather just have some time on my own. It’s not a sign that your priorities are wrong, it’s just that they’re different to those of the douchebag who’s judging you.

      And frankly, fuck that douchebag. He should worry about his own life, not yours.

  • Laughing at a lot of these ‘just stop gaming’ posts.

    Yep, totally a good idea and a stable relationship foundation to drop all your hobbies / interests etc instead of finding ways to make them work.

    I’ve been in a healthy relationship for a couple of years now, quite often play MMOs at launch. You’re doing it wrong.

    • Exactly. It’s always a balance, but you have to true to yourself before you can be in a relationship. Changing who you are to be with someone else is not a desirable thing, it’s a horrible thing. Finding a partner who doesn’t mind you gaming a lot is just another criteria for a workable relationship, same as other people have ‘finding a partner who doesn’t smoke’ or ‘finding a partner who is intelligent’ or whatever else. They’re out there, you just have to go through incompatible ones to find them.

  • Maybe you shouldnt have a girlfriend until youve grown up some more, eased off your gaming addiction and want to pursue some other interests. . . like getting a girlfriend.
    Any and every true gamer has been through this same period in their lives. Im not saying its a bad thing, but eventually you will think to yourself “WTF am I doing?”
    Its up to you when that is.

    • Oh, and don’t quit games because she wants you to, or she tells you to. Most importantly it needs to be your decision. Like any hobby or interest. If you stop it because she tells you to then you will only resent her.
      You have to make the decision yourself when your ready.
      Right now youre not ready. You want to do what you want to do, that’s fair enough. But don’t waste their time.

  • Articles like this remind me just how fortunate I am to have a long term partner who is as much into games as I am. I honestly feel bad for the guys and girls out there in relationships with people who don’t share their interests.
    Different strokes for different folks I guess.

  • For starters, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with wanting to play games over spending time with your girlfriend or friends.
    That being said, you have recognized that you have a problem, because clearly you are asking for help, so obviously you’re not happy.
    The first thing you should be asking yourself though isn’t how to fix the problem, but rather why you think you have a problem, and what is the underlying cause. There’s no point treating symptoms.
    You need to figure out why you turn to gaming instead of your girlfriend.
    Once you figure that out, your problem will be much easier to deal with, if it’s still there.

  • Well, my situation is pretty flipped over then. I’m a gamer. But my partner is not. He hates gaming – thinks they are for losers who sit in their underwear, wear thick spectacles and amble around like socially awkward nerd/twits because they don’t have a life or anything productive to do. Just for the record I don’t agree with that, obviously. But he happily puts up with my gaming sessions – its not pretty, it has stretched for days – my longest streak was 3 days, non-stop gaming (adult time, of course when I was a kid it was longer.) .
    I guess its a bit of a give and take. He likes watching tv (whereas I hate watching most television shows unless its a documentary, nature show, horror/thriller/psy movie, news, discussions panels – etc), particularly drama series which I find nauseating to sit through. When he does, I sometimes accompany him when the mood strikes, or I sit with my laptop and do my work. When I’m playing video games, he’s on his laptop. During the VERY RARE occasion, he actually sits for a little while and asks me questions like, “Why do you like playing these things?” or even better – “HEY ZOMBIE/BAD GUY OVER THERE SHOOT HIM!” Once in a very blue moon I even manage to goad him into picking up a controller and play multiplayer/co-op games with me. He sucks at it of course, but hey, anything for bonding.

    I think many women sort of see gaming as a relic of a guy who ‘hasn’t grown up yet’ and don’t realise like any hobby/obsession she has, it pretty much is the same thing with a guy.

    In the end, its about give and take and if you’re ignoring your partner/girlfriend/boyfriend in favour of playing video games without thinking of their needs as well, you should think twice about your ability and perhaps maturity to handle a committed relationship and the responsibilities that go along with it, because if you replace gaming with any other ‘obsession’/’hobby’ and it pretty much boils down to selfishness.
    Not to mention, a matter of time management and priorities. I work, study and balance making room for gaming while ensuring the house is clean, meals are cooked and quality time is spent with my significant other.

  • Its all about compromise. My lady doesn’t like games at all but she still respects my need for my alone time – as long as your partner knows they come first there should be no issues with it unless they are being selfish.

  • Dear OP,
    Are you 16? Are your “Girlfriends” 16?
    Sounds like you need a woman and not a girl. You know, one that respects your hobbies. On that note are you even looking for a relationship? if not just stay single and fuck around. There’s no rule saying you have to be in a relationship. This way you can fuck and play whenever you bloody well want. You say you’d rather game then well your probably not really looking for a partner/companion. Think about this before you lead another poor girl on. GG

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