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Lynn Coady

My husband is becoming a game addict. What do I do? Add to ...

Group Therapy is a relationship advice column that asks readers to contribute their wisdom. Each week, we offer up a problem for you to weigh in on, then publish the most lively responses, with a final word on the matter delivered by our columnist, Lynn Coady.

A reader writes: I'm convinced that my husband has an iPad gaming addiction. Last night he came to bed at 5:30 a.m. He said he was preparing for a meeting. Actually it was a half hour of meeting prep and five hours of gaming. While on vacation, after he skirted his household and parental duties in favour of Angry Birds, I hid his iPad (perhaps a questionable idea). He literally tore the house apart, like a crack addict searching for his stash.

He doesn't think he has a problem, but it's affecting our marriage and his work and most importantly I feel he's setting a poor example for our school-aged children. What should I do?

Don't hide his toy

Don't be messing with your husband's iPad. You are lonely and frustrated taking care of the kids alone; you need to find friends and activities away from them and divvy up some time taking care of them with your husband. If you need to, get your own iPad and maybe you too will develop a love for Angry Birds, or you can choose a different game, reading books or whatever you want to do with your gadget. He may wind up 50 years old and still enjoying gaming. Rather than trying to hide his iPad, you need to talk, and quickly.

- Patricia MacDonald, North Bay, Ont.

Cut him some slack

Five hours of gaming can sound extreme, but that's only one round of 18 to a golf enthusiast. He's entitled to personal leisure time even if it is video gaming. What you need him to do is focus and mutually agree on when and for how long. If he's cheating and playing more, it's interfering with work, chores and a balanced family life - then it will be apparent and measurable. After that, if he is unable to recognize the problem, then you need to seek professional help as the spouse of an addict and/or marriage counselling.

- Darby Brown, Kitchener

How about guys' night out

My husband is also a gamer, but he cut back after our kids were born. He still plays late some nights, but I don't mind as long as it doesn't interfere with the rest of his life. He's an adult and has to make that decision. In return, I try to make sure that there's time for games - he has a night out a week with his guy friends to play. There definitely has to be some give and take.

- Jeannie Scarfe, Vancouver

The Final Word

It could be you are talking to the wrong person about this. My first reaction after reading your letter was to pump my fist in the air - you've provided me with incontrovertible written documentation that I have no choice but to buy an iPad if I'm to do this job right. How can I competently weigh in on your husband's obsession with Angry Birds until I've clocked at least a good long weekend familiarizing myself with its pleasures? It's the professional thing to do, dammit.

I should say I am not much of a gamer - any more. The reason for this is that I have to make a living and my body requires vitamin D and I've come to value the heady pleasures of human interaction over the temporary exhilaration of reaching the "next level." Moving on from video games represented a kind of "next level" into itself in this Adventure/Strategy/Role-Playing Game we call Adulthood.

That said, your husband has a cool new toy. It sounds like he also has a demanding job and busy family life. Disappearing into a flickering portal of pure entertainment for a few hours is no doubt a huge and easy temptation. And like Darby and Jeannie point out, he's entitled to his leisure time - as are we all.

On the other hand, I know from experience that what people resent most about their gamer spouses is the "disappearance" factor mentioned above. There is something unnerving about a partner who is there and not there all at once. It's not like being absorbed in a book or even slumped in front of the TV - video games absorb one's entire attention, replacing a formerly attentive partner with an unresponsive avatar.

Believe me when I tell you, though, he'll wean himself. The vitamin D deficiency will kick in; he'll fall asleep at work and someone will write something embarrassing on his forehead; he'll start to wonder what his children look like - and the gaming will taper off. But if you think he's not pulling his weight meantime, you need to speak up loud and clear. Like Patricia says, hiding his iPad is how you start a fight, not a dialogue. This issue won't get resolved until at least one of you stops playing games.

Lynn Coady is the award-winning author of the novels Strange Heaven and Mean Boy, with another one currently in the oven.

Next week's question

A few months ago, my daughter discovered my fiancé's Facebook account. On it, we counted 31 very attractive blonde "friends". He did list his status as engaged and had photos of me, but he still refuses to let me on it as a "friend." Two months later, we went to his high-school reunion. On the second night, he connected with an attractive former classmate. This woman was very affectionate with him the entire evening, even stroking his upper thigh and his shoulders as she spoke with him. He did nothing. When I mentioned the disrespect to him on the way home, he became extremely angry at me. The next morning, he said he was going golfing with strangers at his golf course. I went to check up on him. I found him there with the woman from the night before, just the two of them. I had an outburst that was not pretty. He later chastised me for embarrassing him and demanded I apologize to her! The thing is, he has forbidden me, from day one, from seeing any friends of the opposite sex. One on one we have fun - great sex, good conversation, similar interests, etc. Am I being too picky, or should I move on?

Let's hear from you

Do you have an answer to this question or a dilemma of your own? Weigh in at grouptherapy@globeandmail.com. (We will not publish your name if you submit a personal dilemma.)

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