Am I being unreasonable?
January 12, 2017 9:31 PM   Subscribe

There's a recurring theme of frustration between my husband and I and I don't know how to tell if I have unrealistic expectations, if I'm being unfair, or if this is actually OK to be frustrated about. Or how, practically, to start on making any of it better.

We live in a small space. One-bedroom apartment with only a frosted glass barn-door type sliding door between the living space and bedroom.

I feel like I never have any time I can concentrate! It's almost impossible for me to get any time alone with my brain. It's hard enough to find with all the digital distractions there are, but I feel like my husband is making it harder.

He plays a ridiculous amount of his MMO. he's put in literally thousands of hours, he has multiple weekly scheduled games with friends, and he plays for a large chunk of the evening every day of the week. In general, I don't care what he does with his leisure time, but when he's playing games, there's basically no option where he's not completely dominating the sonic environment. If he's not wearing headphones, the house is full of the sound of explosions and the shouting NPCs. If he is wearing headphones, he almost inevitably gets in a party with all his friends and then I'm listening to one-sided conversations with lots of urgent shouting from a voice I'm cued in to pay attention to. I'm pretty sure that part is unreasonable. I'm no closer to solving it, but I'm not feeling conflicted about it.

What I do feel conflicted about is that the few times he's not playing, when I've finally got a bit of quiet time to think, he's continually interrupting me. He sees some funny thing on the internet, mumbles something about it I can't quite hear, I ask him to repeat himself, and he launches into a 10 minute monologue about the funny thing his friend said about which kind of gun is better for this boss. It makes me want to pretend not to hear him so I don't have wait through it so I can get back to whatever I'm trying to work on. I don't mind much if I'm just browsing MeFi, but if I'm trying to write or program or concentrate at all, and then I've inevitably completely lost my train of thought by the time he's done.

I feel like an asshole for wanting to ignore my husband when he talks to me, especially since I think we're kind of struggling to stay connected these days. But I feel like he doesn't respect my need for time to think, or respect my concentration. When he's playing games or doing something that requires concentration, I try not to interrupt him. I interrupt to share things when he's (for instance) reading Twitter, but I share things because I think he'll like them, not when they're something I know he isn't interested in.

To up the irony on all of this, we both work in open floor-plan offices, and he loves to rant about how much he hates the constant, distracting background noise and people walking around. He just can't even think at all or follow a basic conversation in a restaurant if there's a TV on.

Sometimes I feel like I just don't register as a being with needs on his radar.

So, where's the question in all this? Is it OK for me to ask him not to interrupt me while I'm writing? There's so little time he's available. I don't want this relationship to crash and burn. And so I feel like I need to be available and receptive whenever he feels like paying attention, and like I'd be a jerk to ask him not to interrupt me sometimes. But... his unavailability is his choice. He's playing a game. Granted, playing with friends is most of his social outlet, which is why I don't feel OK just asking him to stop playing. But what can I ask for here? I don't know how to ask for ... empty space. But that's what I want.

I know the first thing to do is talk to him about it, but I don't know where to start. I feel like I've been letting the million little annoyances build up for too long, and now I don't know how to let any of it out without exploding. And any kind of fraught or emotional conversation between us just goes bad so quickly and then everybody feels worse.

posted by a sock with a monkey on it to Human Relations (68 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I think you want to ask for two things
1 - I need some quiet time in the house to think. During my quiet time, I need to be focused - no interruptions. (in working out the details, you want to think about some very specific rules and limitations that you both agree on. When he breaks the rules, don't answer the interruption directly (even if it is an easy question, just ask "is this an emergency?" and if not, say "ask me again in z minutes"
2. we need more "us" time - when I can get your focused attention and you can get mine

Of course, he also has needs (to play his MMO, to unwind etc.) but his needs don't automatically trump yours - you need to work together to figure out how EVERYONE (me, you and us) gets at least some of their needs met
posted by metahawk at 9:39 PM on January 12, 2017 [15 favorites]

And this:
And so I feel like I need to be available and receptive whenever he feels like paying attention, and like I'd be a jerk to ask him not to interrupt me sometimes. But... his unavailability is his choice.
is a trap. Why do you have to be available whenever he wants you and he doesn't need to be available for your needs?

But just because you are sensitive enough to try to interrupt him thoughtfully, don't assume that he can read your mind and sense out your secrets longings. You two really need to talk about this - if he can't understand why you need quiet time (and also "us" time) AND he isn't willing to try just because you say you need it (even if he doesn't fully understand) then you have to question the relationship. But you have ask first...
posted by metahawk at 9:43 PM on January 12, 2017 [6 favorites]

1) You should feel free to talk this through with him, just like you would with a roommate. My current philosophy with roommates doing things that bother me is: either decide that you can live with it, or communicate about it respectfully but openly. I have almost never found a roommate who wasn't either cleaner than me or less clean, or who never gets on my nerves. It is all about realizing that things are never going to be perfect, and picking your battles. This one sounds like a battle (or a bout of open, respectful communication) that is with it for you.

2) Ear plugs? Of the rubbery variety, not the foamy variety. I am sensitive to noise myself. I have found that while ear plugs are not perfect at keeping the noise out, they can dull it a great amount. The foamy kind sucks in my experience, but the rubbery kind are golden. Maybe a combination of ear plugs, quiet times, and your husband keeping the volume down a bit is the solution?
posted by knownfossils at 9:50 PM on January 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

Move out. Life's too short.

You need a room of your own.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:05 PM on January 12, 2017 [41 favorites]

I interrupt to share things when he's (for instance) reading Twitter, but I share things because I think he'll like them, not when they're something I know he isn't interested in.

Isn't that the same reason he's "interrupting" you? In his mind, anyway.

I think you've sort of got him stuck between a rock and a hard place here. He can't very well hold a conversation with you while he's playing a game online, and when he's not playing, that's your quiet time and he shouldn't talk to you. Could you put on noise cancelling headphones when he's playing his games? That way your quiet time and his play time might coincide or overlap a bit, and there may be some "us" time when you're both done doing whatever. I think it's reasonable that you should both be able to have your space and time to do alone things, without resentment.

If he is wearing headphones, he almost inevitably gets in a party with all his friends and then I'm listening to one-sided conversations with lots of urgent shouting from a voice I'm cued in to pay attention to.

Yeah well, there's a third option. He puts on the headphones and doesn't join a party. He can do this and he should do this. Not every time he plays, but sometimes. For you.

Also, I do not think it unfair to ask someone who is playing games for hours and hours daily to limit their time occasionally. And I say this as a huge gamer myself, and also as someone who is very sensitive to noise. If you're living in close quarters with someone who dominates a space with sound for so many hours a day, it can really feel overwhelming and almost violating; that relentless noise that you can't escape from. Talk to him about setting aside some daily or almost daily quiet time. Hopefully he will understand how you feel since he apparently feels the same way at his workplace.

So have a discussion with him about how much the noise bothers and inhibits you. He may be very receptive to your needs.... only one way to find out. Also I may be off base but I suspect that the amount of time he spends playing these games bothers you, there being less couple time because of it, and if so that's something else that needs to be addressed.
posted by the webmistress at 10:05 PM on January 12, 2017 [41 favorites]

Your husband is dominating your shared space.

First of all, his wearing headphones whenever he's gaming should be non-negotiable. You shouldn't have to feel like you're in a war zone in your own house.

Secondly, I suggest setting up a nice little zone in the bedroom, or wherever he's not doing his gaming, where you go when you don't want to be interrupted. Specify explicitly that when you're in that chair or whatever, you don't want to be interrupted, and you won't be responding to questions, comments, etc. Soundproof the barn door with some dense foam or other material, and put a draft stopper at the bottom of it. Turn on a white noise machine and wear noise-canceling headphones, with earplugs inside of them if you must.

Third, if you feel disconnected, schedule some quality time outside of the apartment. Listening to him half-mumble random stuff is not quality time, in my opinion. Have dinner outside the apartment, go on walks a few times a week, etc. Maybe have regularly-scheduled date nights, even if it's as simple as "we go to our favorite coffee shop on Tuesday nights." Leave the devices out of sight. He should plan 50% of these occasions, btw. You shouldn't be the sole social organizer for the two of you.
posted by delight at 10:05 PM on January 12, 2017 [21 favorites]

I would solve this problem by some combination of:

-scheduling nightly "quiet time" of 1-2 hrs for both of you. He can play games with headphones, you write with headphones, you both leave each other alone. Also schedule some kind of "hanging out connecting" period where you cook together, talk about your day, or whatever.
-having my husband schedule "gaming with noise" only certain nights, preferably the nights when I am going out to exercise class or writing group, and treat those as sacrosanct- he always gets to yell and shout and turn the volume up on those nights.
-scheduling my own quiet time in the apartment that is sacrosanct- he can't interrupt me, join a war party with audio, or whatever.
-scheduling date nights that don't involve either of your hobbies or devices at least once a week.
-wearing headphones/ear plugs at other times

That way you aren't asking him to neeeeeever enjoy his videogame again, just to enjoy it in a way that makes it possible for you to also enjoy the apartment. This also keeps you from having to litigate every hour of gaming every night. There's no "but this war party..." or "but I've been sooooo quiet for like an hour!" or "Sure, I'll be quiet" followed by the volume creeping back up. Is it Wednesday night between 6 and 8? Then the game is quiet. Is it Thursday between 9 and 11? Then he can get his war on. Is it Saturday morning between 9 and 12? Then you are each working on your own shit and will leave for lunch together at 12:15.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 10:18 PM on January 12, 2017 [17 favorites]

My husband of 37 years (anniversary today! Yeah!!) is in his man-cave as we speak. I can see him through the open French doors, playing Minecraft. With his headphones on (but I can hear the *bup, bup, bup* of whatever that is).

So, how were you each raised? Lots of family members, lots of noise, few areas off-limits? Or single child, room to stretch out and get lost in, quiet at the dinner table?
How did this shared spaces / silent spaces scenario pan out as adults? Hot and cold running roommates and all their friends, all over the place at all hours of the day? Or shutting the bedroom door and locking it, safe for another ten hours of blissful me-time?

Yes, you have this old mom's permission to express a wish for me-time, devoid of your SO's running commentary.
It will be bumpy. You may need a code word, or "I'm wearing my red hat. See this hat? Remember what that means?"
This is extinguishing a bad habit: "My SO's quiet time -- what is that?" And replacing it with a good habit: "My SO's quiet time makes her happy, which makes me happy." (I'll add the addendum, "And if my wife isn't happy, I'd better get busy finding out why not!")

A little gentle push back is perfectly reasonable. You live there, too. Give him two reasonable choices. Here is the problem (too much noise and distraction) and two solutions (he can go to the friend's house or he can pipe it down). Next time the choices are (you have to go to a quiet location or he can pipe it down). Reasonable. You might be gone until 2 am, and he might be worried, but it was his choice not to pipe it down, right? Reasonable.

At this point a "come to Jesus" talk about how his running commentary is literally running you out of your own house -- your own house -- is in order. At this point he may start taking it, and you, seriously.

If he doesn't notice that you were out until 2 am or doesn't really care, time to have that "come to Jesus" talk anyway, since there is more going on than just him being in his own little world, dominating the space.
posted by TrishaU at 10:24 PM on January 12, 2017 [6 favorites]

Some of this sounds like it would be hard for anyone to live with, but some of it makes me think that you are, at least in part, introverted? If so, maybe you can begin the conversation by sending your husband a link to one of those "how to take care of your introvert" guides. E.g., here, here, and here.

You could use one of these as a "hook" to get the difficult conversation started.
posted by Halo in reverse at 10:26 PM on January 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

Back to say -- oops. It's our 36th anniversary. My how time flies!
And before the man-cave was fixed up this year, my SO was in the living room, slaughtering zombies with his headphones on in collusion with our youngest daughter at her home, while I sat on the couch reading or doing crochet. *Swoosh... squish... splatter...!*

It's so much quieter now.
posted by TrishaU at 10:42 PM on January 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

I've seen a lot of NOOOOOOOOPES on here and this is one of them. This sounds like pure torture. I don't know the best way to fix it - I want to scream LEAVE NOW but that's up to you. But if you're asking if this is ok the answer is no. Not one bit of this is ok. Why not leave? It doesn't seem like you'd miss each other very much.
posted by bleep at 10:47 PM on January 12, 2017 [10 favorites]

I think YOU want headphones, and a rule that if you are wearing them, you are not to be interrupted. Then wear them whenever you are writing or doing something that needs concentration and leave them off when you are browsing metafilter or whatever.
posted by lollusc at 10:56 PM on January 12, 2017 [25 favorites]

I want to say that it sounds like he spends way more time on his game than he spends thinking about you, and that's a problem. A very similar situation was a big factor in the end of my marriage. See if he's willing to spend less game time and more you time, and if he's not, think really hard about how that makes you feel and what you are going to do about it.
posted by possibilityleft at 11:22 PM on January 12, 2017 [29 favorites]

I read this whole thing thinking "why...can't...SHE wear headphones?" assuming it'd build to some explanation of why you're avoiding this obvious and simple solution.
posted by kelseyq at 11:28 PM on January 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

You need your own headphones and to leave the apartment more.
posted by heyjude at 11:30 PM on January 12, 2017 [4 favorites]

No, you're definitely not being unreasonable.
posted by Sebmojo at 11:37 PM on January 12, 2017 [4 favorites]

I want to say that it sounds like he spends way more time on his game than he spends thinking about you, and that's a problem. A very similar situation was a big factor in the end of my marriage. See if he's willing to spend less game time and more you time, and if he's not, think really hard about how that makes you feel and what you are going to do about it.

So much this. This is such a common occurrence that there's a term for it: computer widow (or gamer widow, or WoW widow).

And here's a forum:

You're not being unreasonable at all.
posted by mochapickle at 11:57 PM on January 12, 2017 [6 favorites]

Even if your relationship were better, your home would still be too small to be livable.
posted by w0mbat at 12:15 AM on January 13, 2017 [9 favorites]

You are not being unreasonable! I have a house with two stories and my ladyfriend and I sleep in separate bedrooms but we still have a LOT of negotiations over space. Specifically, I am an extreme introvert and home is my sacred space. I can't be productive (cleaning, working, cooking) with another person around and I am learning that it's okay to ask for that. It is a huge, almost daily challenge and I'm sometimes not sure if we're going to survive it, but it helps a lot that my girlfriend is willing to talk to me about it so we can continue to refine what works for us.

Wearing headphones is not comfortable for many sensitive people, so for those asking why the OP doesn't wear them, I'd offer that as a reason. They also chain you to one spot in some ways. You shouldn't have to hole up in your bedroom in a specific place to get quiet time. You shouldn't have to wear ear plugs, FFS. This is not your problem alone to fix. Your husband, if he is a good partner, will not want to make you feel the way you are feeling now. I am annoyed with your husband on your behalf that he doesn't get this already, but there's no way to know if he is a thoughtless jerk or just clueless (both annoying but the latter can be forgivable).

You are prioritizing being nice above your own sanity. You are not a bad person for wanting some peace and quiet time without interruptions. It doesn't make you less loving if you don't want to be the one your husband talks aloud to when it's obvious he really doesn't care what you think about whatever he wants to talk about. (My girlfriend does this too. I have told her point blank: "I don't care. I don't have room in my brain for this random fact. It's okay that you're talking out loud, but it's not fair to make me part of this conversation when I have no place in it." It feels really good to be honest with her — remember, there was an act of thoughtlessness that is leading to the need for a conversation like this. You didn't cause this.) Don't worry so much about asking for what you need in a perfect, completely non-emotional way. I started the conversation with my girlfriend by freaking out during a bad bout of PMS when I sobbed that I didn't want to share every meal I made with her because I want to be able to cook and eat alone most of the times. It wasn't ideal, for sure; in fact, that's a dick thing to say! But it got us talking and I am deeply touched that she was open to it and very interested in working to solve it. You can survive some hurt feelings and anger at first to figure this out! The way your husband reacts to this conversation will tell you a lot.

Also, leaving the house more isn't going to solve this problem. It's just another way to put this problem on you and not your husband (and it inconveniences you and rewards him.) You two can agree that both of you can leave the house a certain number of days a week (alone or together), but you not leaving the house is not the problem here.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 12:19 AM on January 13, 2017 [27 favorites]

And any kind of fraught or emotional conversation between us just goes bad so quickly and then everybody feels worse.

This is the real issue here, isn't it? Much of the wise advice above is predicated on the ability to have a constructive discussion on a challenging topic. But if any such attempt turns into an express train to Bummerville, that's a sign that the two of you need to up your skills in the communication department. I recommend a good couples counselor.
posted by ottereroticist at 12:25 AM on January 13, 2017 [27 favorites]

I don't want this relationship to crash and burn. And so I feel like I need to be available and receptive whenever he feels like paying attention

That is not how relationships work.

Good points above 're quality time not being him reading you stuff off the internet and asking him to wear headphones. Personally I couldn't live within someone like this for a day, I can't stand non stop tv noise. And I would be willing to wear headphones at home all the time.

Honestly it sounds like you both need to get out of the house a lot more. Can you find a writing space nearby? Make more friends and schedule dates with your husband that do not involve browsing the internet or playing games. Hobbies, nice dinners, theatre, hiking, farmers markets. If he's unwilling to do that then you have a bigger problem.
posted by fshgrl at 12:55 AM on January 13, 2017 [5 favorites]

Count me as someone who was neglected because of World of Warcraft. My ex has an all around awful partner, but that was a huge glaring flashing flag. The game (and friends in the game) came before me. He left dates to go play a game.

This is your space too, and part of being in a relationship is compromising on space and alone time. The people suggesting "headphones" may not understand the extent that you need less distractions and just how"in their own world" people can be while playing these games. So, would headphones help? Sure, but it doesn't get to the heart of the matter.

You need to feel like you can ask for some quiet time and get it. Just as he can ask for some video game time and get it. But right now he's getting all the time. Does he ignore other things you request? Do his needs always come first?

So, you need to talk about it. If he doesn't want to budge or you set up time and he slowly starts taking over it, then you've got big issues. You need to schedule time and/or be able to say "Hey, do you think you can be done in an hour so I can have some quiet time?"

I also do suggest getting out of the house when you can, but again, that just avoids the issue which is that he's not giving you breathing room.

My husband and I each need our alone time. When he's working (because he has ADHD) he has to be REALLY focused, and can actually get kinda snippy if I interrupt him. He always always apologizes after but if you interrupt his train of thought, he can't get it back. He also interrupts me (again, ADHD) when it would seem clear that I'm working or focusing.

So we have a rule to just calmly tell each other. I've got a good playful side eye when he interrupts me working and I say slyly "uhhhh.... babe... clearly working on something!" And he goes "Oh! Sorry!" So what happens in the same scenario in your house? When he interrupts are you able to stop him at all?

I'm trying very hard to give constructive advice, because my personal experience with this type of person makes me want to just tell you to RUN. To me, the video games above all else was a symptom of really bad personality traits and neglect in my relationship. However, my husband and I have had to do our own negotiating over the years to give each other space. It's an evolving process.

So start somewhere. Start asking for what you need and making a plan. If he's unable to make a plan and you hit a roadblock, then start therapy while going to work at the coffee shop more, because that's a big problem. (ETA, my husband and I both play games and that's also a time consideration we make with each other.)
posted by Crystalinne at 1:45 AM on January 13, 2017 [14 favorites]

Hey, I think this teeny living space might actually save your marriage if you take action now.

You've probably lived long enough to see plenty of marriages turn into friendships with no real romance left. Most of the time they end up in divorce, or estrangement, I'd guess. If you guys lived in a bigger house I think you'd feel a lot less irritated, but you might feel a whole lot more lonely. Or, just as bad, you'd get used to basically being on your own in the relationship until something big shook it up (affairs often happen this way). The confined space is basically forcing you to face up to things not being right, and I reckon you can do something about that if you don't leave it too long.

It might feel like I'm overdramatising your situation when you've only asked a question about basically getting him to cut down his gaming and noise and poorly-timed interruptions. But underneath all that you also said this:

I feel like I've been letting the million little annoyances build up for too long, and now I don't know how to let any of it out without exploding. And any kind of fraught or emotional conversation between us just goes bad so quickly and then everybody feels worse.

I'd say that's because you've both let your communication skills go rusty - if the only time you spend together, one of you is engaged in doing something, that's not quality time. Communication happens when two people really listen to each other, without doing anything else. And romance comes most often from little moments, small actions, shared experiences - how do you find those if you're all in each other's space all the time, but with no real quality interaction?

I think you'll need ground rules, and to each get a hobby that takes you out of the house at least one night a week. You should probably also think about marriage counselling, or reading a book about it together, to try and re-establish for each other the importance of time together, and really valuing it. No-one gets that totally right all the time (I have to catch myself for being on my phone while me and my partner are hanging out) but I think you guys can both do better.
posted by greenish at 3:37 AM on January 13, 2017 [5 favorites]

I had this problem with my ex - he didn't understand that gaming or loudly playing a musical instrument for 40 hours a week (so, every evening after FT work as well as on the weekends) was dominating our shared space in a 1bdrm apartment, even though I'd tried to explain that to him. He was raised in a much larger house than I was and never had to think about these things. He did get wireless headphones, but only after I had to explain to him that maybe I needed some quiet time to focus on coursework. So exhausting.

I got blamed for being the difficult and antisocial one because I ended up needing to spend more time outside of our home, or cooped up in our bedroom to focus on my own hobbies and school. Using the living room for exercise or watching Netflix on my own? Heh, not unless I scrambled to do that when he wasn't around. I was frustrated that he didn't get that there was something off about him being the "default" living room user. He didn't understand that he was putting me in the position of being a nag when I wanted to use my own damn space.

This is why I'm single now, and possibly permanently, unless I can find someone with social skills who doesn't have an obsessive personality when it comes to hobbies. Maybe other people are willing to live through decades of headphones and earplugs and intercepting mancaves, but not me.
posted by blerghamot at 4:04 AM on January 13, 2017 [30 favorites]

I don't think you're being unreasonable at all! I think he needs to do some of his gaming outside of the house, for starters. One night a week would be great.

I know I need time to myself, in my own home, and my fiancé and I have a similarly open-plan apartment. I've actually been having trouble getting that time to myself lately because he was between jobs for a while. As much as I love him and appreciate our together time, I am really excited that he's going to leave the house before me and get home later than me sometimes now.
posted by mskyle at 4:16 AM on January 13, 2017

Your husband sounds like an addict. And like most addicts, his choice of addiction will come before pretty much everything else, until he comes to terms with the fact that he has a problem and addresses it. That requires some not very much fun conversations. I don't envy you and personally, as an introvert, I would have run way before this.
posted by Jubey at 4:18 AM on January 13, 2017 [6 favorites]

I don't think you're being unreasonable. But I don't know that the very active and loud MMO-ing is something you can really get him to change. He's not deliberately "dominating the space"; he's just doing what he wants to do, and it happens to be in a very small space that he and you both occupy. I'd recommend comfortable noise-cancelling headphones for now (they really do work). And I don't know how feasible this is, or when it will be feasible, but you really need a larger place, one that would allow you to have your own dedicated office (possibly with a lockable door).

The interruptions--now, that's something you can (and should) address. But I think that ultimately more space, and the ability for you to withdraw when necessary, would really help improve your relationship.
posted by tully_monster at 4:31 AM on January 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

This would drive me up the wall. Your home needs to be a place where you can feel comfortable being yourself, and it's hard to do that when someone else is sprawling all over the space - via physical presence, clutter, media consumption, whatever. There are people who freely sprawl over shared spaces (e.g. your husband) and people who can only get comfortable in an undisturbed space (you). When two people with opposite space-taking-up styles share the same space, the default is for the sprawler to continue sprawling while the other person shrinks into an ever-smaller corner. The shrinker resents the sprawler, and the sprawler has no idea because he considers the shrinker equally free to sprawl.

Which, of course, means the only way through this is to communicate with him. He probably has no idea you don't feel at ease in your home. He probably does not have an accurate perception of how much time and space is being allotted to him, you, and the two of you as a couple. These are things that get away from us all, and we periodically need to recalibrate, and reminders from our partners are the best and sometimes only way to get that rolling.

It's normal to feel frustrated by this, but the conversation does not have to be one of frustration. Try thinking of it as a boring living-space-logistics discussion, just hammering out an optimal schedule. There are three things you want to accommodate in your home - loud him-time, quiet you-time, and together-time (which doesn't always have to be quality time; alone-together time when you're doing your own things but free to interrupt each other is important too). Don't frame it as his fault, but don't think of it as entirely your problem to solve. Enter the discussion with a few proposed solutions in mind.

I'd advise against your wearing headphones - at least, not all the time. It's not going to make you comfortable, it's just going to feel like further shrinking. (Especially if you have to play music to drown him out. Maybe you just want a quiet space, you know?)

The classic solution is to get a space big enough to let him sprawl while leaving you some undisturbed space, and if that's logistically and financially possible it should be in the plans. But it's no substitute for talking this through. You need to be able to approach each other with problems
and work them out together. You can't just shrink and resent.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:47 AM on January 13, 2017 [6 favorites]

This would drive me bonkers. You are well within your rights to bring these issues up. There is absolutely a productive dialogue to be had about solutions if you're both committed to honest, open, good-faith conversations.
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:15 AM on January 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

My husband and I had an issue similar to this: Think slightly larger apartment and him dominating the living room with constant Madden (which to some degree he used to escape feeling physically ill a lot, but to some degree he just used to escape everything, including me). He would get upset when I'd walk through, try to talk to him, want to use that space for even something mundane like folding laundry while watching Netflix, etc.

Then I started to work from home and he got seriously ill and was home almost constantly for months at a time. I never left my bedroom, which I also worked from, and I felt like he'd taken ownership of the other two-thirds of the apartment, including the living room, sunroom/den, other bedroom, and often kitchen.

The only thing that solved the problem, for some value of solved, was moving to a much bigger space, a house, where he has his own den and I have my own office. It didn't entirely solve the problem of our not interacting, but it gave us each our own spaces, so we weren't living all over each other. It gave me back the living-room couch as a space for reading and resting. It confined the noise and the yelling, which tense me up.

We've been calmer these past 6 months, and I think actually being able to have boundaries and spaces to retreat to (both introverts who need to recharge) has helped us more willingly connect. It's still not perfect, but it's better than it was.

So that's my recommendation for you, if you have the means: Move to a larger space. Then try some of the other stuff people are recommending.
posted by limeonaire at 6:05 AM on January 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

Lots of good advice. As a male who sometimes plays games in a not-huge apartment with another person, I agree with all the people saying they would go crazy living like this. (On the other hand I tend to afflict my excellent musical taste on my cohabitant more often they would prefer. We have talked about it a lot though and I'm quite sure they would say it's gotten much better.)

One thing other commenters haven't stressed is that MMOs and gaming more generally can be an important social outlet for people, and that this time probably feels important to him not just because he is addicted to some random number generator but rather because of the relationships it sustains. It may be helpful to compare him gaming loudly to him (or you) having lots of loud friends over all the time. Socializing and having friends is great, but you both need to set boundaries and figure out what both of you need from your shared space.
posted by ropeladder at 6:10 AM on January 13, 2017 [9 favorites]

He's simply taking up too much sonic and intellectual space. He's not good at sharing his resources, he thinks of it all as 'his'.

Do you ever dominate the whole house watching movies he doesn't like, with several virtual friends chattering?

Talk to him, you are being reasonable.
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:19 AM on January 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

All I want to say is this: I think he's probably just oblivious to your needs, but I also think that women train men to be oblivious to our needs by not saying anything, from goddamned birth to goddamned death. We make ourselves small and unintrusive, we do the work of "well, am I bothering him?" when he's not doing that same work, and it's awful, and it's one of the ways that sexism steals our lives.

He SHOULD be more aware of the fact that he's kind of being a jerk, but he's not, because nobody's ever trained him to be, because that's how we treat dudes. Unfortunately, that makes it your job to train him to be more sensitive. So tell him, explicitly, what's wrong with his behavior and what you need. Don't let it ride. Please. Or, you know, leave. I honestly feel like those are your options. Don't mouse yourself up in a tiny hole in your bedroom and ask him to let you have that tiny, quiet space to dwell in within your own goddamned house. Your needs are reasonable. Let me repeat: YOUR NEEDS ARE REASONABLE.
posted by hought20 at 6:22 AM on January 13, 2017 [68 favorites]

I'd start with the less emotionally charged discussion.

I'm listening to one-sided conversations with lots of urgent shouting from a voice I'm cued in to pay attention to. I'm pretty sure that part is unreasonable.

It's actually OK for you to find this annoying, even if you think his behavior of perfectly reasonable. It's something that is distracting. While I wouldn't say his behavior is entirely unreasonable (assuming you've never said anything), it's something that you can reasonably ask to modify.

Is he talking at a reasonable volume, or is he shouting constantly? My husband occasionally plays a game with his friends online, and the computer has always been set up so he's facing a wall or window (so his voice isn't directed at me) and he is generally talking at a normal conversation level (is he using a headset with a good mic?). He has always checked in to see if whatever set up he has is distracting to me.

If the above are already in place or aren't feasible, then it'd be reasonable to ask for sometime when he's mostly not talking so you can concentrate on your project. that's something you can negotiate together. It could be some time every evening or large chunks a few nights a week, whatever you two can work out. He may also have ideas to make his game playing less distracting if he knows it's a problem.

When you have the conversation about quiet time, also talk about how you need some uninterrupted time in general to focus on tasks. Tie it back to his work environment so he can relate. Obviously emergencies are exceptions, but you'll likely need to be explicit that when it's quiet time he also should leave you alone to focus. If you're generally OK with a few distractions but occasionally need to be uninterrupted, you could specifically let him know as needed(I'm going to program, let me know if the apartment is burning down, otherwise I'll see you in a few hours), or get a do not disturb sign (I would discuss the sign first).

Also, it's totally OK to learn to tune out his voice. If he wants to talk to you, he can walk into the room you're in and get your attention. His voice is not a signal to drop everything and pay attention to him.

If this goes well, then you can start talking about the more emotionally charged stuff. Pick a neutral time and raise how you feel your drifting apart. Make some suggestions and ask for his ideas.

On the one hand it sucks that you feel you don't register as a person with needs. But he's not a mind reader, and at least in this instance it's potentially within the realm of reasonable that he has no idea how much of his sound travels through the door if you're generally quiet when off on your own.

Also, when he complains about the open office plan, do you mention how your apartment has a similar set up? Why not? I ask not to admonish you, but because why you're not speaking up can be helpful in determining next steps. If it's because you're pretty sure he'll ignore you or get upset that you've brought up a problem then I'd say it's way past time for therapy, possibly alone first (why have you been Willi to ignore your needs for so long) and then couples. But if it's because you're unsure if you're being reasonable, I'd encourage you to talk more (and maybe consider therapy to help you feel more confident in addressing your needs) about what you want/need. Maybe your husband will pleasantly surprise you.

If working on the noise situation proves fraught, I'd skip to asking for couple's counseling ASAP.
posted by ghost phoneme at 6:37 AM on January 13, 2017

He should find another way to unwind. Gaming every evening is an addiction. It really is. Get him to take a walk with you every evening. Anything to get him to stop his addictive behavior. Ask him to at least limit his gaming time to one hour, period.
posted by JayRwv at 6:39 AM on January 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

Is there really no way for you both to move to a bigger space? Ideally one with a dedicated room for gaming and one for your quiet time needs. The situation you describe would be maddening to me (and I used to game a lot and my husband more than I did) but it would be a function of poor structural boundaries causing poor relationship boundaries.

Your room, his room, your shared bedroom/living room. They needn't be big but they do need to be private, that way there's a clear signal of 'alone time now' and a clear signal for shared time.
posted by lydhre at 6:57 AM on January 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

In my comment above I meant to say I would not be ok wearing headphones all the time at home. Absolutely not
posted by fshgrl at 7:07 AM on January 13, 2017 [10 favorites]

This would drive me batshit and if he would not compromise then I would consider leaving the relationship. You are not unreasonable. But, to simply propose a logistical solution: does he have a local gamer friend, preferably single, who would welcome him into their house? He goes to friend's house for X hours, can make as much as noise as he wants, and you get your place to yourself.

If he doesn't have a local gamer friend, he can probably find one on or reddit or some forum for his game. I'm guessing this is a pretty common situation.
posted by AFABulous at 7:10 AM on January 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

Sometimes I feel like I just don't register as a being with needs on his radar.

That's because you don't.

His behavior is frankly childish in how inconsiderate it is. And I mean childish as in "fails to conceive of other people as people with needs of their own." I don't know if it's better or worse if this only applies to women or only applies to you, but it would still be absolutely untenable either way.

Unfortunately this is not a communication issue, as others have argued. He's an adult. If he bothered to thinking about it for thirty seconds or simply paid attention to the effect it had on you and cared that it effected you negatively, like an actually emotionally mature adult would, this wouldn't be a problem.

This self-centered myopia would also make honest conversation about emotional or relationship issues difficult or impossible. What happens when you try this?

I'm actually going to suggest that you get some time away by yourself if at all possible. It seems like it would be really, really hard to even have an honest conversation with yourself under these claustrophobic and suffocating circumstances.

I'm serious. Take a solo vacation if you can. And be prepared to have more to talk about than the MMO.
posted by schadenfrau at 7:14 AM on January 13, 2017 [4 favorites]

1. Headphones all the time.

2. Headphones WITH A DECENT MICROPHONE - if it's a crappy one, he may be shouting to get himself heard.

3. One of the markers of ADHD is the tendency for one's voice to gradually creep up from normal talking voice to yelling.

4. If he's getting too loud, go out there and say "you are being too loud" or "I'm trying to do XYZ in here" or "FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD AND HOLY, SHUT UP" (depending on your level of frustration).

5. Some sort of physical signifier that you can have that when he sees it, he should not interrupt you - headphones, sign on the door, special hat - whatever.

6. You don't need to be "cued into" your spouse's voice.

At any rate, the best time to have a discussion about how this is going to be solved is at a neutral time (ie, not when he's mid-game). At dinner, or something like that.
posted by Lucinda at 7:43 AM on January 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

What my husband and I do if it helps at all (though we are slightly different because we both have our own rooms).

Preparing and eating dinner is communal. We connect, talk about our days, funny stuff people said on the internet, vent about work, etc.

After dinner we do our own things. Sometimes we do our own things together (like watch a movie we both want to see) but the vast majority of the time he is in his room playing games online and reading reddit and reading craigslist forums and I'm in my room watching tv and working on a craft project. We then see each other again in bed.

I would say that during the after dinner time you BOTH wear headphones (or you wear ear plugs) since you live in such a small space. But you should also have a conversation about volume levels when he is talking to his friends through the game and you need to be clear about your needs so that he can actually have a chance of meeting them.
posted by magnetsphere at 7:54 AM on January 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

If his only social outlet were playing a face-to-face group game like poker or D&D in your living room, I don't think you would feel this hesitant to set limits on it and say that a few hours once a week was plenty of that kind of socialization.
posted by drlith at 7:56 AM on January 13, 2017 [6 favorites]

He plays a ridiculous amount of his MMO. he's put in literally thousands of hours, he has multiple weekly scheduled games with friends, and he plays for a large chunk of the evening every day of the week

I'm not a gamer, bit this sounds deeply unhealthy and bordering on compulsive behavior. There's a deeper issue here than noise. I would find this level of disconnection from you, from other hobbies, from real friends, from housework, and from physical activity deeply concerning in an adolescent, let alone a grown married man. Gamers will disagree I am sure, but in my view he is just as hooked as any addict and using gaming in an unhealthy way to avoid adult responsibilities and his marriage.

Which is to say: I'd give him an ultimatum to stop gaming so much and spend at least one quality hour focused on you every day. If he can't do it he's got a problem.
posted by spitbull at 7:56 AM on January 13, 2017 [9 favorites]

To me the red flag in this is how little time the two of you desire to spend together invested in each other. Your question is basically his solo activities conflict w my solo activities and while you have gotten plenty of advice on that, my question to both of you is why are you spending such a large percentage of your week doing activities that don't involve the other? And I would add that if everytime I try to talk to somebody they basically shut me down because they were busy trying to have quiet writing time I would get very frustrated and spend all my time gaming too. On the other hand if my spouse was constantly gaming and ignoring me then I would probably passively aggressively shoo them away when they did take a break to finally talk to me. So I don't know whether you are him started the I want to be alone don't bother me war but it's very sad that both of you want to spend so much of your leisure time in activities that don't involve the other. I think if you don't fix this you're just going to end up being friends who live together and have independent lives.
posted by TestamentToGrace at 7:58 AM on January 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

This doesn't sound like a physical/emotional environment that most any person would find acceptable or enjoyable.

Is the marriage in other ways somehow fulfilling? Because this sounds more akin to a horrible college dorm roommate situation--one where a normal student gets stuck with a spoiled/overly-entitled child who doesn't understand what is and isn't acceptable; that the world doesn't exist simply to revolve around their addictions or childish behaviors and expectations.

Honestly, this doesn't sound like a marriage so much as a single-parent tying to cope with a spoiled, gaming-addicted child. Appeasement and enablement are not any kind of constructive answer.

I would find 2-3 days of this behavior intolerable. The idea that this was an on-going concern would be absolute hell, and I would be running screaming from this "relationship".

You deserve to be with a responsible, caring, aware person--an adult.
posted by blueberry at 8:18 AM on January 13, 2017 [4 favorites]

I really don't think it would be out of line for you to ask your husband to play his game in the bedroom (assuming there is some room there for him to do so). He's immersed in a game, what does he need the whole living room for? His brain isn't there, anyway. If I had to live like that all the time, it would drive me nuts.

I also think it would be perfectly reasonable of you to ask him not to interrupt you when you are clearly trying to concentrate on something. I've asked my wife not to interrupt me while I'm writing. It's a totally, totally reasonable request.

Source: Person who lives with spouse in a small one-bedroom apartment.
posted by breakin' the law at 8:30 AM on January 13, 2017

I like this thought from Jack Cheng's last (news)letter. (worth a read in its entirety)

"Maybe a foundation of an enduring relationship,” a voice says, “is having comfort patterns that don’t conflict"
posted by Thisandthat at 8:36 AM on January 13, 2017 [5 favorites]

1) This sounds so not okay that I would have lost my mind after one week of this behavior. Maybe one day.

2) I think it would help to express your needs clearly to him, and explain how much this is effecting you. If he does not take your feelings seriously, and is unwilling to immediately change his behavior, then I think that sums things up very clearly. You'd have to decide whether you are willing to put up with total disrespect and basically contempt and an admission of your non-worth in his eyes.

3) The idea that you should wear headphones is appalling, absurd, infuriating. How on earth anyone can think this is a fair solution to the issue as described boggles my mind, to the point that I am sorry you even had to read those responses. Maybe I am being insulting to those who suggested that, but seriously, it is beyond the pale to act like this is your issue and your responsibility to take on the emotional labor of working around his insensitivity and blindness to the stress I am sure you are exuding, even if you aren't communicating it in words. The idea of war sounds dominating your living space, and you should block those sounds out? You sound thoughtful, generous, patient, and kind, and shouldn't have to put up with or navigate around boorish behavior.

4) The fact that you don't want to express yourself to avoid the risk of increasing the distance between you, suggests this is a non-supportive relationship, and life is too short to walk on eggshells to the point of letting someone ignore your needs, and shaping yourself around someone else's whims. Good luck with a difficult situation.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 8:40 AM on January 13, 2017 [11 favorites]

I'm not a gamer, bit this sounds deeply unhealthy and bordering on compulsive behavior. There's a deeper issue here than noise. I would find this level of disconnection from you, from other hobbies, from real friends, from housework, and from physical activity deeply concerning in an adolescent, let alone a grown married man. Gamers will disagree I am sure

No they wouldn't.

I know lots of people who play over a dozen hours of video games a week and for whom it is in fact their main hobby, but they don't prioritize it over real-life shit, and they don't spend more time with their games than they do with their wives.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:47 AM on January 13, 2017 [8 favorites]

My wife and I have very different personal communication habits. One thing I've learned is to calmly repeat my requests for her to behave differently. There is a tendency to get increasingly frustrated every time I ask her to do or not do something, but it is helpful to remember that she formed her habits decades before meeting me, and I formed mine decades before meeting her. This is not to say you can't or shouldn't ask your partner to change. I'm saying calm patience (even if you don't feel it) and repetition will make the experience better for both of you.

So, instead of "Why do you keep bothering me with stupid shit?!", it's "I need to focus right now, please don't interrupt me unless its important."

They also sell noise-canceling headphones that don't need input. (They just make the world quieter.) I also find white noise very helpful for concentration. I like the noislii website and app a lot for this purpose.

I also found we had a lot fewer domestic tensions when we moved into a bigger place. Having a dedicated work room with a door that closes helps a lot. Even if a move isn't possible for you, maybe closing the door to the bedroom can be a signal that you are working there?

Good luck.
posted by Cranialtorque at 9:03 AM on January 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm not a gamer, bit this sounds deeply unhealthy and bordering on compulsive behavior

I think this is silly and so is all the addiction talk. it's not a compulsion or addiction, it's worse than that: his primary relationship is with the game and his game friends -- he's a lover, not a prisoner. you prioritize your primary relationship because that's the only way to keep it active, healthy, and thriving. You sacrifice other things and people when necessary and you shrug and don't care when other people are irritated at how much you think and talk about your partner(s), because that's what love means, you don't give up love just because it's annoying to outsiders. OP is living not like a wife but like like the third-wheel roommate of a married couple.

If you don't want to lose the relationship over this, get your own place (or if he moved in with you, throw him out and make him get his own place). easy to say when I don't have to pay the rent but some people are not meant to live together and I would choose poor but free over this. this is a relationship made for two halves of a duplex. There's no reason you'd have to break up in order to live apart and the only thing to be afraid of is what if you move out, stay married, but never see him again because there's never a time when calling you is more immediately appealing than playing his game? But if that happens at least you'll have some peace and quiet to dwell in while you get over it.

the whole reason to live with a partner, aside from saving on the rent, is because you want to be with them as much as possible. he's eliminated the possibility of being with him when he's physically present, but you also can't be by yourself, so what's the point?
posted by queenofbithynia at 9:05 AM on January 13, 2017 [7 favorites]

So, where's the question in all this? Is it OK for me to ask him not to interrupt me while I'm writing? There's so little time he's available. I don't want this relationship to crash and burn. And so I feel like I need to be available and receptive whenever he feels like paying attention, and like I'd be a jerk to ask him not to interrupt me sometimes. But... his unavailability is his choice. He's playing a game. Granted, playing with friends is most of his social outlet, which is why I don't feel OK just asking him to stop playing. But what can I ask for here? I don't know how to ask for ... empty space. But that's what I want.

I delayed answering this question because I have been here, for years. We were mostly more fortunate in our physical space, but the sonic assault (while horrific) is really only one piece of the puzzle here because...there is a solution to that, somewhere, but you can't work it out while you're not a team. And you're not a team on this issue right now. That's what I learned.

So first, you say you don't care about what he does with his leisure time but actually it's partly your family time. His leisure time should not really by default be "every non-working hour." That's true for single people and for married people who have agreed that's how it is but it's definitely not for parents and generally not for couples.*

In terms of practical things to ask, I think it would be entirely fair to ask for 1) one game-free date night a week for you two to reconnect, even if "reconnecting" means sitting in silence together; the idea is that it's not his activity vs. your activity, it's an activity you decide on together in a spirit of love and relationship.

And 2) I think it would also be fair to ask for an entire weekend day including evening with no game noise. How he works out "no game noise" is up to him, whether you both agree that he goes to a friend's house or another spot, uses noise-blocking devices, or, in my biased opinion, preferably just turns the game off, which I think is what is really needed but this is your call as a couple.

3) Then you can work out interruptions, you not having to be "on call" for whenever he happens to decide the game is too boring, etc. Those things suck. But they all stem from a lack of harmonious relating, I think.

My husband and I negotiated something similar to the one evening/one full day/evening off (we had a young child) and here was the result: My husband got obsessive about martial arts instead, but along the way he started to notice things like laundry and dishes and...playing outside (!!!) because...he was not immersed in an alternate reality at every waking moment. He is still the obsessive guy he is who I married but because he broke the habit of the default for every free minute being gaming, we found some things we do together. I totally get what you mean by space. That was exactly what he needed and we, as a family, needed. Space here in the present reality of our lives.

* We are still pretty independent, and my husband is a pretty extreme introvert, so our particular version of couple time is probably way less than other people think is healthy but it works, truly works, for us.
posted by warriorqueen at 9:30 AM on January 13, 2017 [5 favorites]

This sounds insane and I think you are perfectly right to be frustrated. I am similarly in a tiny 1-BR with my husband and I cannot imagine living like you guys currently are! Right now it sounds like you are doing all of the work and compromising and your husband is doing none of it, and that is...not sustainable in any way. I would suggest some combination of the following:

1. Both of you spend more time outside the apartment. I think this is key to making a tiny apartment work. You could sign up for a class, plan a certain evening to do your writing at a cute coffee shop or at the library or whatever, or plan happy hour drinks with a friend every week, or whatever. Get creative -- we have a lovely botanic gardens near us that does memberships and I actually do a lot of writing there. During your times out of the house, your husband can be as loud as he likes; other times, he limits himself. Your husband plans a MINIMUM of one night a week gaming at a friend's place.

2. Plan date nights and non-date together times. Date nights are for getting out of the apartment and doing things! Non-date together times are when you PLAN that you're going to spend quality time together at home--so maybe you have a particular TV show you watch together, or you're both surfing the web and sharing funny things, or you cook dinner together. This is leisure time too -- and it doesn't have to be fancy or cool -- but the key is you plan to do it WITH each other and giving each other your attention.

3. Your husband limits his noisy game time. Yes, sure he gets to use his leisure time how he likes. But that doesn't mean to the point of making your shared home unlivable for you. Imagine if you said "I've decided from now on that I will use my leisure time to run the shower at its hottest temperature until all the hot water is used up, and you will not get to ever take a hot shower again. Sorry! That's just what I like!" or "I've decided to take up the hobby of cooking, but I don't prefer washing dishes, so I will cook until all the dishes in the kitchen are dirty and leave them there until they mold!" No. Hobbies/leisure time doesn't mean no one else gets to enjoy the space ever. Your husband needs to grow up and come to a reasonable compromise.
posted by rainbowbrite at 10:34 AM on January 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

This thread has been bugging me, so I'm going to throw my 2 cents in. First, people who are calling gaming every night an addiction, and that he should just do something else? That's ridiculous. Would they say the same thing if he was reading a book every night? No. What about watching TV every night? Also no. Look - gaming is like any other social hobby except it gets all the judgement all the time which is just crazy to me. I'm a female has played MMOs in the past a fuckload - playing one is highly social, and for me it was basically like hanging out with my friends. You need to understand this and then communicate your needs to him without all the judgement about his hobby. It sounds like, based on your question, that the base issue is that you think he plays a ridiculous amount of games and you really dislike that. Have you ever talked with him about his hobbies, and how they affect you? Have you requested that he give you some quiet time in your home? If you guys can't communicate about this, that's another issue. Is there any way for you to get a larger place? Because, he probably isn't going to stop gaming. If my husband told me he was feeling the way you are, I would try to amend my schedule, but I would never stop gaming, and I'd eventually resent him for hating my hobby and coming between me and my friends.
posted by FireFountain at 11:18 AM on January 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

It sounds like, based on your question, that the base issue is that you think he plays a ridiculous amount of games and you really dislike that.

To me, it sounds like the issue is that he is making a ton of noise in their very small shared living space for hours every night.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:28 AM on January 13, 2017 [20 favorites]

The issue here isn't gaming. There's nothing wrong with gaming. It's that it's all night, every night of the week. And it's loud -- either from the sound of the game or from her husband talking into the headset. If the husband were out with friends all night, every night for months, it would be similar. Or if he were reading all night, every night for months and not interacting with OP. Or spending six hours all night, every night doing woodworking, or bookbinding, or motorcycle repair.

I've spent a lot of time in an MMO (oh, man, I really have, and for years off and on) and it's so easy to get sucked in and lose track of time. And it's genuinely addictive. Lots of hobbies are. But this is a marriage, and why even be married if you're not going to look up from what you're doing and connect with your spouse?

The husband's priorities are way out of balance. And I'm saying this as a legit WoW widow, who lasted about five weeks before somebody had to move out. I'd like OP to have a better outcome.
posted by mochapickle at 11:32 AM on January 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

Can you get a bigger place?

This was my husband and I in our tiny 1 bedroom apartments through the first 6 years of our relationship. It was the most acute in our first place, which had previously been mine alone. I'd come home to him blowing up zombies and just be filled with rage.

He now has his own office in our finished basement and our relationship is 1000% better for it. We have space to pursue both of our interests and our time together is much more intentional and therefore mutually appreciated.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:39 AM on January 13, 2017 [5 favorites]

First, people who are calling gaming every night an addiction, and that he should just do something else? That's ridiculous. Would they say the same thing if he was reading a book every night? No. What about watching TV every night? Also no. Look - gaming is like any other social hobby except it gets all the judgement all the time which is just crazy to me.

My husband and I met on a MUSH so I get gaming. That's exactly why I was so clear both with my spouse -- and it was bad between us, I almost didn't want to think back to answer this question -- that time away from the game, together and apart, was important.

Gaming is a different set of inputs than reading or even most TV or social things. Because it's inviting you to do things and connect with people 24/7 -- local friends tend to do this thing called sleep all around the same time, but online friends are all different time zones. Books and TV shows eventually end even if you binge-watch, but more to the point they do not require constant action back, so you can be more aware if your spouse is looking lonely or shuffling around as opposed to being in the middle of a raid. If your spouse walks in front of the TV you might get annoyed but if your spouse steps in front of the screen in the middle of a fight that is like whoa...because it's different; a game requires more attention and reaction. If you're reading you can hear what's around you.

Gaming also is full of accomplishments. You get gold or gear or points or whatever. It's great fun; don't get me wrong. But there's this constant drip of "winning...winning...winning." And it's also immersive, so your actual mind/thoughts/feelings are often on the game, on the guild, on checking in on gaming friends. So headspace is also consumed by the game.

Building a life together and a marriage not as exciting a lot of the time. A spouse can be cranky or upset and need you there, but it doesn't feel good. There's no instant hit. And that's okay, I mean most people can balance it out but...some people can't. Some people need to get off the action/reward cycle and get their heads back in the marriage/children/life game.

My husband switched his hit to physical activity which comes with endorphins, but a) we do that together and b) the class ends, the gym closes, he gets tired...and so he stops and comes to ask me about my day. When he was gaming that didn't happen. The medium does that. It is almost specifically designed to do that. WoW does it on social axis as well -- can't let the guild down!! -- which makes it really powerful.

I'm not anti-game at all; I think there's room in life for gaming. But I think hard-core gamers do not do themselves a service if they pretend it's just like any other hobby...okay, if it is, then turn the game off. Because most hobbies are not available 24/7, with unlimited social opportunities and requiring a lot of attention and reaction over 5 hours.

All that is before the noise issue, which is another thing too.
posted by warriorqueen at 12:39 PM on January 13, 2017 [13 favorites]

I'm one of the people who suggested headphones (for you and him) above, and I want to emphasize that this is indeed a band-aid solution for preserving your mental health (noise and interruptions absolutely exacerbate my mental health problems). Ideally, you will not be in a defensive posture in your own house.

Your husband is like a manspreader on the subway -- oblivious to how much space he's taking up, and how much people have to shrink their own lives to deal with his whims. (I'm assuming it's obliviousness, and not hostility.) It makes me angry because I could simply not imagine feeling comfortable subjecting my partner (or anyone!) to a sonic onslaught night after night. I would be too self-conscious about it, not to mention that it's just unspeakably rude.
posted by delight at 12:41 PM on January 13, 2017 [8 favorites]

Also, ignore this if it doesn't resonate, but this comment about becoming a bonsai human in a relationship could be interesting if this kind of behavior is prevalent for him.
posted by delight at 1:01 PM on January 13, 2017

Your question is so tentative. You deserve fairness and a pleasant home. you have every right to be undisturbed by loud participation in online games. Your needs and wants are legitimate, and I'm pretty sure somebody is telling you they're not. Nope. You are being very reasonable to him, and you deserve to be more reasonable to yourself.
posted by theora55 at 1:04 PM on January 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

Your expectations are not unreasonable. What is unreasonable is your frustration at those expectations not being met when (if I'm reading your question correctly) you have never articulated them to your husband. Seriously, it's bizarre to me that people in this thread are suggesting divorce over an issue that you haven't had a single conversation about.

So yeah, you're going to have to talk about this, and it will probably be an uncomfortable conversation. Half the battle will be just pushing through that discomfort. Since you asked for help with how to start the conversation, I recommend focusing it on current problems and their possible solutions, rather than the scope of the frustration you've been building up. You need to let him know that what he's been doing isn't working for you, but the focus should be on what can be done differently.

Also, I'm looking at the example you gave:
He sees some funny thing on the internet, mumbles something about it I can't quite hear, I ask him to repeat himself, and he launches into a 10 minute monologue
How representative is that? By which I mean, is the pattern of 'he mumbles, you ask him to repeat himself, he talks a lot' the standard one, or is that just an example that was at the top of your mind. Because if it is representative, it sounds like maybe he's just kinda talking to himself and then you're essentially asking to join the conversation. If you don't want to talk, don't ask him to repeat himself! That's not the same thing as pretending not to hear him, and you should definitely do it.
posted by Ragged Richard at 1:12 PM on January 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

My boyfriend only plays Madden. But that one game was the cause of our first breakup four years ago, because it was constant - even when he wasn't actually physically playing, he'd still be talking to his buddies via group chats in several different leagues, doing hours-long drafts, bringing his Playstation to my house when he stayed over so he could play. I had a loft apartment, so even with his headphones on, the light from the TV screen kept me awake and I absolutely hated that we never went to bed together because he'd always leave after sex to play "one last game" before bed.

After I broke up with him, he realized this needed to change. He wouldn't bring his Playstation over any more, and he wouldn't play if I was over at his place. He turned off his chat notifications so his phone wouldn't vibrate all day long. He still played hours and hours a week, and even though I acknowledged that this was his way of unwinding after work and a mental escape of the sort everyone needs, it still bothered me. However, what was important were all the things he did to accommodate my needs and understand that this bothered me.

Then I got pregnant, and we moved in together. I don't know if it was the stress of the pregnancy, and moving in, and everything happening at once, but he started playing even more. His work hours were different from mine, so there were days that I'd leave the house and he'd be playing the game and I'd come home to him playing the game.

It was rough. It took a lot of arguments, it even took us to therapy - not because I had a problem with the game itself but because of how consuming it was. Through it all though, he was receptive to my concerns.

It's taken years and him becoming a father to truly change his ways. He sometimes will joke when I walk into the living room after putting the baby down, and he's on his headphones talking to his friends, that his parole officer has arrived and he has to go. I don't mind, though, because I know that once he puts his controller away, we have quality time. We even play games together and play-fight over who gets the newer controller.

The point is, though, that we loved each other enough to work through it and truly listen to each other's concerns. His need for an escape and my need for quality time. I worry that in your case, your husband does not acknowledge your needs, as that is the first step to reaching a compromise. To me, noise is a big deal as it directly affects your quality of sleep and psyche and lack of a quiet space has been shown to lead to depression. This is something I would advise the two of you to handle through therapy, because it seems his habits are too entrenched and both of you may need someone to help you disengage and see things from a different perspective.

Also... upon re-reading: are you sure this isn't a symptom of a greater problem? Your disconnectedness from each other seems to run deep. Therapy really is a way to find the root of the problem, and to get you to talk to each other without it devolving into a confrontation.
posted by Everydayville at 1:38 PM on January 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

I wanted to provide a more useful comment that wasn't just scary Crone Island promotional ad copy earlier, but:

You can ask him to use headphones, but he may find this as unreasonable as you do wearing headphones all the time. You can jointly develop a schedule for how you two will spend your time, but don't assume that that won't trigger lingering resentment.

The problem here isn't gaming, so much as it is:
-having an immersive hobby carried out in a way that impacts other people's enjoyment of shared space
-having trouble understanding that adults are expected to be aware of their surroundings and other people's needs
-being unable to relate to another person's discomfort over having to always ask to use shared space
-possible impulse control issues

A partner who has this stuff going on is always going to have trouble living with someone unless they are able to develop empathy and self-regulation.
posted by blerghamot at 1:40 PM on January 13, 2017 [6 favorites]

Ragged Richard: If you don't want to talk, don't ask him to repeat himself! That's not the same thing as pretending not to hear him, and you should definitely do it.

This seems like nitpicking the OP's choice of words without understanding the context. The issue is not that the husband talks out loud. The issue is that, as part of this pattern, the husband is treating a sock with a monkey on it essentially as furniture or a pet. It's rude to direct comments to a spouse if you don't care if they respond or not when they're doing something else. Why should the responsibility be on her to ignore him? It's not too much to ask that he thinks before he speaks and when he does, engages with the OP as an actual person whose time and conversation he values.

As for it being part of a pattern, it's rude in the same way that it's rude to take over the small apartment without considering that it means the other person can't do what they enjoy doing. Considerate people don't do this, so it's entirely reasonable that there's a lot of criticism of the husband doing this. This shouldn't be a wife's job to teach basic human decency but now it is, and that sucks and it's okay to be pissed about it.

The question was, in part, about how to talk to her husband about this. It's not fair to criticize the OP for not doing this when it was stated that is the goal. What I hope the majority of answers here are doing is giving you, sock with a monkey on it, the context that you're not being unreasonable and giving you some concrete examples (e.g., this is not different than if he was hosting a rousing game of poker in the apartment every night) of why this behavior is unreasonable.

OP, there is a theory by big name relationship researchers, Drs Julie and John Gottman, that states that you can predict which marriages will end in divorce or succeed by how often a bid for attention is answered by a spouse. It sounds like your husband is turning away from you more often than he is turning towards you. And because you're frustrated with him and you don't have enough alone time, you're doing the same to him. (Note: this is not to blame you! It's hard to keep reaching out when you know it's not going to be reciprocated.) It's possible when he's talking about something that he doesn't care about that it would mean a lot to him that you indulge him anyway. I make a conscious effort to do this with my girlfriend because I want her to do the same for me — when I'm relating some story about the totally funny thing my dog did today, I know it's pretty boring but it's an attempt to connect with her and it matters if she grunts at me or replies "that's so cute! She really is the best dog ever." It fosters warmth all around to have that indulged but it must be reciprocal. Talking about this with your husband might be a really good way to show what the ideal relationship looks like to you and how his actions are preventing those moments of "turning towards" one another that leads to long-term happiness.

It's a bad cycle: your husband is training you that when he speaks, it's not to connect with you. Between that and the yelling during gameplay you're going to continue to learn to tune him out automatically. You're not getting enough space to do what you need to do in your apartment. As you say, the little things are turning into a bitch eating crackers situation where they start to annoy you far more than they should. It's leading to all sorts of missed chances for connection. So in addition to everything, I think you also want to think about this part of the relationship: how often does he turn towards you when you bid for his attention? How often do you do the same for him? Why and why not?
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 2:10 PM on January 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

I feel like it's those of us who experienced this type of gaming are calling it an addiction. Because it shares exactly the same traits. My ex would have sobbing breakdowns when all I was asking was that he spend time with me when he spent time with me instead of me watching him play video games. He would "relapse" and start doing it again over and over. (Again, a symptom of his overall disfunction as a human.)

Again, I am a gamer. I played games online. I scheduled things with online game friends. However I NEVER ignored my partner because of it or took over a space when it was clearly making my partner uncomfortable. I wouldn't even DREAM of doing that.

Plus, if these are good friends for socializing, then they should be understanding that "Hey, I've gotta get going, talk to you tomorrow!" I have friends "online" that I've known for 10+ years and none of them would give me any shit if I said "Hey, gonna leave now!" or "Husband and I are going to watch a movie." or whatever!

And if he DARES to say anything like "Uhg, my wife told me to get offline." Then you have even more of a horrible man-child situation and I would tell you to get out of there permanently.

So, while we cannot say for sure that this is an addiction, he sure is acting like it. And he sure is acting similar to my ex who for sure had an addiction to the game, the guild, the friends, whatever.
posted by Crystalinne at 2:28 PM on January 13, 2017 [5 favorites]

This seems like nitpicking the OP's choice of words without understanding the context. The issue is not that the husband talks out loud. The issue is that, as part of this pattern, the husband is treating a sock with a monkey on it essentially as furniture or a pet. It's rude to direct comments to a spouse if you don't care if they respond or not when they're doing something else.

That's fair - I guess what I was trying to figure out was whether these comments are directed at the OP. Perhaps I should have provided more of personal context. My wife, whom I love deeply, talks to herself a lot. Or doesn't really talk to herself exactly, so much as talk to the room. So we had exchanges often when we first started living together when she'd say a thing, not directed at me, but just at the world, and I'd assume she was talking to me and ask her to repeat herself, and then we were in a conversation about whatever she had been talking about. I am also free to ignore them - she's not necessarily talking to me. So I was trying to figure out if that's happening here.
posted by Ragged Richard at 4:31 PM on January 13, 2017

I live with two extroverts and I have auditory processing issues. If one of them is home I can sometimes get work done if they are distracted. If they are both home? Not a chance.

What I had to do was get myself a Space. A Room Of My Own* and I did it with a neat little secretary desk in the bedroom I share with my husband. It folds up so floor space is less of an issue and it doesn't dominate sleep space qith work stuff. I use a laptop so that helps. I also made it really really clear that when I am in there I am working and no, you can't go show mummy your art until she comes down on her break, and no you cannot come nag me to eat lunch because I will eat when I want to. I have noise cancelling headphones that work for when we are spending couch time together and I don't want to listen to his game/tv show. But if I am downstairs with the headphones on, it doesn't matter what I say, the interruptions happen. So I take myself away.

The biggest shift was this though - my husband was showing me how much time/effort he wanted to put into himself and his social life and his hobbies. I am matching that. If something needs to change to make the relationship sustainable it cannot come completely out of my time and effort. It has to come from his too. Which has actually led to more evenins spent together than before AND me having more time specifically to work without interruptions. Because even if I only worked while he gamed (impossible because child, but anyway) the interruptions were on his schedule of games being finished and conversations with ither people and so on. Not the natural breaks in my own work.

So mark out your space and claim your own time and enforce it.

*a dudefriend ironically asked me I'd ever read A Room Of One's Own the fourth time my husband interrupted my conversation with him.
posted by geek anachronism at 8:37 PM on January 13, 2017 [6 favorites]

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