By Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 8, 2010; 12:00 AM
A little more than a year ago, I married my wonderful husband. Things were great between us, until his mother bought him an Xbox for Christmas.
My 34-year-old husband now spends, literally, every waking moment playing video games. Before, we used to enjoy cooking dinner together in the kitchen; now he plays when he gets home from work while I cook alone. He stays up late and plays while I sleep. He plays instead of doing any kind of chores around the house. He is not the least bit embarrassed to play when friends come over.
I have repeatedly asked him to curtail his game-playing, to no avail. I feel like I married a small child, and that gaming has taken over our marriage. I do not know what to do.
Newlywed No More
Have you been blunt with him, and said that you essentially see your marriage as over?
I have told him, repeatedly, how much his game-playing obsession offends me. It has become a sore topic. Yet he continues to play for hours on end. I refuse to attempt a conversation while he's playing and leave the room if it's on.
At first, I figured it was just a phase. Now, I view it as an addiction consuming our marriage. And his family gave him a gift card for more games! I fear what they will give him this Christmas.
Saying it offends you is different from saying, "I feel like I married a small child," or that you don't feel as if you have a husband anymore.
His neglect will alienate you to the point where you no longer love him or want to remain married; you can plan on it. Often, though, the only thing that wakes spouses up to the possibility of getting dumped is the sight of the other spouse actually leaving, with no interest in coming back.
Part of that planetary alignment can't be simulated: Saying you mean something will never have the same power as showing you mean it.
But while you can't fake being at the precipice when you aren't yet, you can bring yourself to the point of brutal clarity now, while you still feel emotionally invested in the marriage. "I am not ready to give up, because you're wonderful and I love you, but I am approaching the point where I refuse to be in this marriage alone." Don't just ask him to stop. Connect his choices to their eventual cost, as you would any addict.
Stop enabling him, too, by being his cook and housekeeper. Invite him to cook with you, and if he declines, prepare a small meal for yourself. Let him wash his own clothes and dishes.
He still might choose gaming. And you might choose to make an appointment with a (well-vetted) marriage counselor - and, with his full knowledge, to talk to his family. If your husband had developed a drinking problem, you'd ask them to stop buying him Scotch.
He still might choose gaming. But all of these steps give you important information about his willingness to contribute to his own marriage. Again - the time to treat it as a crisis is while you still care. Any later will be too late.
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