Tooned Out

Suburban mommy talks about kicking her online gaming habit.

Location: Redmond, Washington, United States

Just another face in line at the grocery store...

Monday, July 25, 2005

My Much, Much Better Half

I'm pretty stressed today over my son's predicament, but a thread that's been going on over at OLGA has prompted me to write a bit about my husband and how he dealt with my gaming. First off, let me say that my husband is not perfect. He's a fallible human being just like everyone else. He did, however, manage to fluke off the perfect way (in my opinion) of dealing with my gaming addiction. So here's what he did (and didn't) do.

He did not plead, argue, or bargain. He did not overtly criticize me, threaten, or give me an ultimatum. He did not enable me. He did not pick up the slack as far as the household chores or looking after the children went. I should add here that I did not play my game when the children were around, and I did my best to keep the house in order and make sure that the shopping and the laundry were relatively under control. Toward the end, I also did not play my game at all on the weekends, which were our designated "family time." In other words, in some ways I was not as far gone as some of the online game addicts out there, so his method may not work for very severe cases.

Ok, so here's what he did do. He did consistently ask me if I wanted to spend time with him. Every night, in fact, for months, he would ask me if I wanted to do something together. Of course I'd always put him off with "give me an hour," or "maybe later," and much more often than not he'd end up going to bed alone while I'd still be up playing my game. Finally, the guilt of putting him off every night irritated me so much that we agreed that I would ask him if I wanted to do something together. I never did want to, but a funny thing happened once he stopped asking. Instead of being relieved that I could play without the pressure of knowing he was waiting for me, I missed him asking me and felt just as guilty. Even worse (and this is really petty) I was miffed when he went and did things on his own without asking me if I wanted to join him.

He did some other things that helped. He listened to my anecdotes about the game and the people I knew in it. He tried hard to understand what the game was about and what the attraction was. Although he must have resented my game, he never went off into a rant about how stupid it was, or what a waste of time it was. In fact, he pointed out that there were much worse things I could be doing with my time. He also made a point of reminding me of the other positive things I could be doing, like going to college, or taking a class, or spending time with my real life friends. He kept telling me what a talented, intelligent person he thought I was.

He ended up using exactly the aspects of the situation that were the most likely to help me win my freedom from my mental prison. He subtly (perhaps even inadvertently) reinforced the guilt I felt at neglecting my marriage and my family, the two things that are the most precious to me, but at the same time he bolstered my self-esteem, which tends to be shaky. When I talked to him the other night about the wonderful way he had dealt with it, he told me that it wasn't a strategy that he had devised, or anything like that. He was just being himself. It's only now, a year and a half after the whole thing started, that I realize just how patient and understanding he has been.