You have problems, I have advice. This advice isn’t sugar-coated – in fact, it’s sugar-free, and may even be a little bitter. Welcome to Tough Love.
This week we have a newlywed woman whose husband plays way too many video games, and it’s affecting their sex life. Game over?
Note: I’m not a therapist or health professional of any kind. People ask for my advice and I give it to them. End of transaction. If you have a problem with it, feel free to file a formal complaint here. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get on with it.
My husband and I have been married for six months, but the last two months has been miserable. My husband is a gamer (this is a non-issue for me, I respect his hobbies) and has completely put our marriage, and by extension me, as a lower priority than gaming with his buddies. He always games with his long-time gaming friends, often taking up nights from 8 p.m. to long past I have fallen asleep. I would ask him to spend time with me during this time, but that would often to lead to fights and him telling me I never let him have fun or enjoy doing things he likes (ouch). Whenever he is gaming he is short, curt, and very rude to me. I want him to have fun but I also want to be respected and to be a priority.
I no longer ask him to spend time with me or ask if he wants to do things. I tell him what I am doing and leave the door open. However, sex has all but stopped and we fight about it. Up until two months ago we were having sex four to five, sometimes every day of the week in some manner, but now I am feeling unfulfilled in that realm. He says that he finds sex “dull” now, but couldn’t give me any ideas on how to change or improve it. He then said I don’t initiate enough, when I pointed out that when I do he always has an excuse or turns me down.
He always gets mad or upset and his instinct is to push me away. When the prospect of gaming with his buddies comes around, I am suddenly pushed away and am seen as an annoyance. I don’t know what to do. He does not want to see a doctor for depression and refuses to go to a therapist to talk this out. He rarely opens up to me as it is when he is upset.
I want my marriage to be a success, but ugh. Please,
Hey Terrified Newlywed:
He’s definitely taking your marriage for granted, TN. He thinks he’s crossed some imaginary checkpoint in your relationship and doesn’t have to try anymore. You need to make him understand that’s not the case.
However, you’ve also dug yourself into a bit of a hole here. You inadvertently made something else he loves out to be the enemy. You may respect his hobby to some extent, but in his mind, all of your complaints probably make him feel that you don’t like that he plays video games. He thinks you hate something that he feels is a part of who he is; something that allows him to spend time with friends he doesn’t get to see in person anymore. There are probably several layers to his reluctancy to have sex (over-indulgence of escapism and low physical activity being some of them), but it’s almost as if he’s developed a grudge or is withholding sex as some kind of punishment — like he’s mad at you for trying to take his toys away. No bueno.
As a gamer who’s had his own fair share of issues like these in the past, I have a few ideas worth trying. First, do not talk to him about this stuff while he’s gaming, or immediately after. Take the pressure off. It’s clear that whatever it is he’s playing primes him to be easily triggered into anger (all that adrenaline, yo), so save yourself the grief. Also, bringing these issues up while he’s playing is only going to put him on the defensive and further make him feel like this is an attack on his hobby, as opposed to a problem with your relationship. Talk about this stuff when video games are the furthest thing from his mind.
Second, sit him and down and frame this problem in terms of your feelings so he knows this is serious. It’s not “You’re always this…” or “You don’t do that…”, it’s “This makes me feel…” Get it through his thick skull that you’re not being a nag, you’re legitimately unhappy with the lack of intimacy in your relationship, and you’re afraid you’re drifting apart. Express to him that you really do want him to play video games because you know it makes him happy, but that you also want him to show you that you make him happy as well.
Third, see if you can find a way to compromise here. Ask him if he’d be willing to schedule his gaming time on a few specific nights every week, then leave the rest of the nights tentatively open for spending time together. Maybe if he knows he always has Tuesday and Thursday nights or whatever to play games totally uninterrupted and uninhibited, he won’t feel like he has to steal away to get his gaming time in. Dedicated gaming time might lead him to being more open to do other things on non-gaming nights — like have sex.
But — and I can’t stress this enough — it’s important you actually make plans with him ahead of time for those non-gaming nights. It’s never a good idea to wait for him to sit down to play and then ask him if he wants to do something with you. To him, sitting down and starting to play a game with friends is a social commitment. If he was at a friend’s house you wouldn’t interrupt and ask him to come home and hang out with you, would you? Don’t hover around the house doing nothing, waiting for him to come dote on you, then get upset when he decides to sit down and blow off some steam. Plan some fun dates that get him off his arse and out of the house. Help him find the excitement in the real world again. Maybe a little romance will help him remember why he fell in love with you in the first place, and remind him that sex is more fun than playing PUBG with his bros.