Written by Aaron & April Jacob
Gaming. It's a sensitive topic, and unfortunately something that has a negative impact on far too many marriages.
Of course gaming on it's own won't necessarily ruin your marriage, but if it takes precedence over your spouse or other responsibilities, it might be time to re-evaluate the role gaming plays in your life.
If we're being blunt, this article is about growing up. About maturing. About learning to live a meaningful life outside of a game. About taking responsibility for your life. About stepping it up as a spouse, employee, and member of society.
That being said, we're not gaming-haters. We're not suggesting that you get rid of your Xbox, PlayStation, or whatever else. We simply want to encourage you in your efforts to nurture your marriage. We've heard far too many stories of one spouse (usually it's the wife) feeling neglected and hurt because the other spouse spends inordinate amounts of time glued to a game.
Gaming may not be hurting your marriage at all. Maybe it's not a distraction you or your spouse face. Or, maybe there are a few games you enjoy playing together. If that's the case, great. However, if you have felt distant from your spouse, or are constantly getting nagged about your gaming habit by your significant other, it's probably time to hit the pause button and think about the impact gaming might be having on your marriage.
Here are three questions to help you evaluate if gaming is having a negative influence on your marriage.
1) Is gaming distorting your sense of reality?
When you spend half of your day in a game, you run the risk of getting caught up in a virtual reality - one that can quickly escalate to the point where it may feel like your actual reality. You may begin to eat, drink, and sleep in the confines of a certain game. Your thoughts may be consumed by your game, and your every desire may be to spend time on your game.
But it's not reality. It's a game. And while your virtual reality pretends to exist, actual reality is passing you by.
Life is too short to spend inordinate amounts of time in front of a screen, especially at the expense of ignoring other priorities and responsibilities (like your spouse!). When was the last time you took your spouse by the hand, went for a walk around the block, and enjoyed a lovely sunset? Or when was the last time you had a conversation with your spouse about something meaningful to them - a conversation where you really listened without any distractions? Or when was the last time you had a really intimate night together?
It's time to be a little more present in your reality - in your marriage, in your family, in your community, in your work, etc. Virtual reality will always be there, but it will never yield the satisfaction of succeeding in your actual reality.
2) Is gaming distancing you from the love of your life?
As with anything that can become all-consuming, gaming can get a little out-of-hand and distance you from your spouse. It's sad to say, but we've seen how gamers can essentially become "married" to their games, instead of to their spouse.
An obsession with a game has even lead some people to completely disconnect from their spouse and others that care about them. In extreme cases, gamers may be so engrossed that they lose their job, quit school, rarely step outside their rooms, and end up sacrificing things that truly matter. All for a game.
So, how do you know if your gaming "hobby" or "down-time" has gone too far? Consider these questions: Do you zone out during family time? Do you rarely look up from your game while someone is speaking to you? Do you stay up late at night to continue playing? Are your work or other responsibilities taking a back seat? Do you completely ignore your spouse and his or her needs, along with what is going on in their life?
If you start to notice some of these symptoms, then simply recognize it for what it is and don't let yourself get caught in a trap. If your husband or wife is in the other room feeling lonely, then take that as a wake up call. Set the controller down and go give him or her some attention. Give them the same devotion, interest, commitment, and excitement as you give to your games.
3) Is gaming changing the way you think about and treat your spouse?
The third question to consider in determining whether or not gaming may be negatively influencing your marriage has to do with the types of games you play, and the influence they have on you.
Games these days come in all shapes and sizes. There are so many genres and types of games. Some are totally harmless, while others can be extremely violent and sensual. The constant exposure to violence, sexuality, and harsh language has an influence on you, even if you don't recognize it right now.
If you have found that video games are negatively impacting the way you think, feel, or act, then take note and course correct. Have you become more easily agitated? Do you snap at your spouse? Have you become less patient and caring? It's easy to think that the games you choose to play have no impact on you, but that's simply not the case.
What You Can Do
In all of this, we aren't saying that gaming is innately bad, or that all gamers are poor spouses. That's obviously not true. Who doesn't enjoy a little Wii time?! What we are saying is that gaming, like many other things, can become all-consuming, distorting, and damaging to your marriage. If left unchecked, it can distract from the most wonderful and valuable relationships in life.
If you have become a little too caught-up in gaming, then it's time to face that fact and make some changes. Set a time limit for how long you play, or how often you play, and choose to not let gaming become your only reality.
If your spouse is a little too caught up in gaming, try not to be discouraged. Rather, do what you can to help them know how much you want them in your reality, and how you love when they're really present. Decide on gaming limits together so that you can both achieve a healthy balance.
Choose to live in actual reality and give your spouse the gift of your presence. It will make all the difference in your marriage, and will lead to the greatest success and achievement. No doubt, focusing the majority of your time and energy into your marriage and family will bring incredible joy and far greater fulfillment and meaning than any game ever could.
"What counts in making a happy marriage is not so much how compatible you are, but how you deal with incompatibility."
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