Dating & Marriage

My husband’s gaming addiction is affecting our family

For more than 20 years of marriage, my husband has struggled with addictions of different kinds. Currently (and for the most prolonged period), he is addicted to a mobile game that results in him having a device in front of him, at work, during meals or family game time. Even though he claims that the game is just “running in the background”, I feel it makes him less “present” and is affecting his ability to keep up with conversations in the household. It makes the children and me feel less valued. How can I help him to break this addiction without being a nag?

Gamer’s wife

At The Well

Benny says

Dear Gamer’s wife,

Being perceived as a nag is the least of your problems. You and the family have long felt secondary to your husband’s interests and needs. His continued preoccupation can prove a threat to his job productivity and stability. Finally, you mentioned your husband had years of various “addictions of different kinds” which leaves me to wonder if he has some psychological challenges that need to be diagnosed. Addictive patterns tend to take various forms and when one ends, another arises to replace it.

As with most habitual behaviour, its existence serves to meet some need for that individual. Trying to end the habitual behaviour requires addressing the need(s) that are met by it. The needs can range from boredom to a compelling need to escape from feelings of loneliness, personal inadequacy, fears, etc. So they are solving one problem with another “more manageable” behaviour.

Stopping the habitual behaviour invariably involves acknowledging the costs of the addiction. This is often experienced more so by others around them than themselves. Your family may have to agree to confront your husband about his behaviour that has grown out of proportion. Be prepared to list in detail how his behaviour has affected the family in terms of family happiness, functioning and even its finances.

It may also be necessary for your husband to seek counselling. The counsellor should also work closely with the family to monitor his behaviour because such behaviour exists and persists because of a pattern of denial and minimisation of its negative effects.