How much gaming is too much gaming?
May 10, 2020 8:14 AM   Subscribe

I enjoy playing video games and it’s my main, if not only, hobby. My partner generally dislikes them but has been more or less tolerant of my gaming, until I discovered a new game during quarantine.

Now my SO is suddenly complaining that I’m spending all my free time playing and expressing concern that I may be overdoing it and may have a problem. Except, I don’t feel like my net playing time has increased when compared to before this game. Me trying to explain this rationally just leads to more arguments and I can’t figure out why.

During the coronapocalypse we’ve both been lucky to be allowed working from home, and since we both had very long commutes before, this has added a lot of time to our days that wasn’t available before. A dear friend of mine (we’re both women) finally has the means and time to play online with me and they introduced me to a game I didn’t play before, which I’m really into. So for the past few days I’ve been playing with her, however, because of reasons, she can only play at specific times, which is late at night, around midnight.

I explained this limitation to my SO, so the first night, after we had dinner together and hung out, I started playing with my friend around 11 pm. My partner went to their bedroom, watched a movie and fell asleep. I was up playing around 3 am (was off work the following morning) when he woke up to go to the restroom and saw I was still playing. He got really upset that I was up at 3 am playing and hadn’t gotten to bed yet so I eventually closed the game and went to sleep.

The next morning we had a discussion and I explained that I’m thrilled I finally have a friend to play with and the reason I have to play late is because of where they live and the limitations on internet speeds during usual busy hours means that they only have enough bandwidth to play quite late at night. His objection was that because I now have more free time, he knows I’m susceptible to overdoing it with video games and is worried that I’ll just spend all my free time gaming. I explained that I do not intend to do that and I only play after I’ve finished work and other things I need to do so we seemed to end the convo in agreement.

We hung out that afternoon( Friday) and watched a movie. The movie ended around midnight and my friend contacted me to ask if I want to play. I told my SO that I’m going to go play for a bit if he doesn’t want to watch anything else and he said he wants to go to sleep, which he did.

The next day, which was a Saturday, I asked if they wanted to go for a jog or hike which he really enjoys doing but because it was rainy we could not. he started reading news on his laptop when I went to play for a while, since there’s not much else to do right now on a weekend. He got again really upset and a few hours later came in to tell me that I’m doing exactly what I told him I wouldn’t do. We started talking and he basically said he feels like games are my priority when it comes to my free time, he doesn’t feel like a priority and he feels like if I had to choose between hanging out with him or gaming I would choose gaming. I explained that this is not true and whenever he feels like doing something with me, he just needs to ask or let me know and we’ll do it but he says this makes him feel like a child asking for playtime and he finds it offensive that he needs to ask.

Like I said, this is my main hobby and I enjoy it and I don’t feel like I’m overdoing it. I play for more than 2 hours whenever play, but given the game missions etc. I don’t think that is excessive because you can’t accomplish much game-wise in just one hour.

Before this specific game, I used to play another one and I more or less dedicated the same amount of time to it, but he didn’t seem to mind as much. He says that me having to adjust my schedule for a game, playing at midnight and not going to bed etc. is ridiculous and makes me look like I’m addicted to video games enough where I’m willing to do this, despite me explaining over and over my friend’s time limitations.

During the last argument I got upset and told him that I’m going to play games in my free time because I like them; I’m not going to ignore any of the things I need to take care of but I won’t stop gaming when I have the free time to do that. After that he shut down and we’ve been talking very little since and mainly staying in different rooms.

I don’t want him to be upset and to me, there is no doubt that he’s a priority over my games of course but I don’t know how to have this discussion and make this clear to him. I‘m a very responsible person and I’d never ignore any of my work and other duties but he seems to think that I rationalize it a lot and I’m already ignoring things in order to play.

He also asked me to define what I mean by “free time” and how much do I intend to play on a daily basis, which I can’t predict and I find it a ridiculous question to begin with, which in turn makes him think that I’m basically saying all my free time will go to games.Any suggestions on how to frame it? Am I being excessive or selfish here? Please share your thoughts!
posted by ariadne_88 to Human Relations (36 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Before you started playing this game did you and your partner usually go to bed at the same time?
posted by phunniemee at 8:21 AM on May 10 [6 favorites]

Phunniemee, yes we did and we do have our routine before bed which we follow together but that hasn’t changed, I just get up to go to the living room now instead of falling asleep.
posted by ariadne_88 at 8:23 AM on May 10

Speaking as a life-long video game fan who sometimes (a) gets deep into a game when it's really hitting the mark for me and (b) coordinates with friends in other timezones in a way that can collide with my evening routines with my wife: it can be complicated to find a balance on this stuff. You're not being selfish for liking playing games and wanting to carve out the time for them; your partner isn't unusual in feeling frustrated by the perception that you are defaulting to playing at the expense of time with them. It's a mush of several things all colliding, and the way out is going to be sorting through that mush and giving a bit on both ends.

I can get in that same space of "no, you can just let me know if you want to do a thing"'s not great! Like it's a totally rational solution, but your partner's justified I think in being frustrated by that requirement to become the imposition or the interruption. Especially since games can sometimes be pretty immersive or inconvenient to interrupt and there can be a social element to it that can feel exclusionary on the outside of the co-op gaming dynamic.

So taking stock on your end and trying to actively build in interruptions yourself where you stop playing, check in, initiate social time—especially during daytime periods when you're both awake and would spend time together—is a big thing you can do to find a compromise on this. Prioritize being able to do the gaming you enjoy, but also prioritize finding time with your partner and let them feel like you're doing that rather than just ceding what you feel should be gaming time.

Talking it out and finding boundaries that will help both him and you feel better may take some work. You both have reasonable wants and needs here.
posted by cortex at 8:26 AM on May 10 [26 favorites]

(And yeah while I don't think there's anything inherently weird about not going to bed or being asleep at the same time and during the same hours, tacking away from a habit of doing that could easily be very disruptive, both physically and emotionally, for your partner. Again, not a "you're doing something wrong" thing, but very much a "this is a change that can be hard to roll with" thing regardless.)
posted by cortex at 8:29 AM on May 10 [12 favorites]

A lot of people get really attached to their routines with a partner, and a disruption to that is often seen as a disruption to the relationship. I think that there are people who will see "I'm doing a thing at a weird hour with my friend" as a prelude to cheating, even when that's completely impossible. I can also see where someone would interpret "yes, I've flipped my sleep schedule to do a thing I love" as a warning sign for addiction, even when (as here) it's completely valid and about when your friend can use the internet.

Try to talk it out, and get your partner to articulate why this bothers them, and why they're unwilling to accept your explanations for why you're doing this thing. Do they know your friend? Would it be different if you were reading or doing something alone? What if it were a bigger group (thinking of my old RPG group, which would stay up super late every Friday night)? What if it were your internet that was terrible? Why isn't he excited for you to have this time with your friend, even if it's at a weird time?
posted by bile and syntax at 8:51 AM on May 10 [8 favorites]

my thought, since the discussions are going in circles about the same points, is that you might be able to take gaming out of it entirely and just focus on the fact that he's feeling neglected. do you want to do anything about that?
posted by gaybobbie at 8:54 AM on May 10 [28 favorites]

This has been a huge issue with me and my husband. One of the problems I had with my husband's gaming is that when he's playing, if I wanna just chat with him for a bit or whatever, he's just not available at all for that. It's basically like he's not in the house when he's gaming. And it felt like I lived with a roommate I never saw who would come out for the bare minimum to take care of chores and then would disappear back into his office again. Even if he says I'm free to come in and talk to him - it's obvious that I am an interruption. And when he's really into a game - his offer of asking do I want to do x or whatever before he starts gaming comes across to me as him trying to get his to do list done to get back to what he really wants to do which is gaming.

I also had a really really hard time getting him to understand how big of a problem this was for me. Because to him it was just me getting angry over him playing a game- from my point of view it felt like he didn't care about our relationship at all and his new relationship was with the computer.

The only way we really fixed it was by setting a schedule for his gaming to make sure he had a few days a week where he didn't do any gaming at all and it helped me a lot to know exactly when he'd be unavailable.
posted by ilovewinter at 8:54 AM on May 10 [50 favorites]

Does your gaming platform keep track of how much time you spend playing so you can quantify how much time you're spending gaming now compared to before?
posted by Candleman at 9:02 AM on May 10

...he knows I’m susceptible to overdoing it with video games and is worried that I’ll just spend all my free time gaming. I explained that I do not intend to do that and I only play after I’ve finished work and other things I need to do so we seemed to end the convo in agreement.

You did actually end in agreement, but not the way you think. He said "will all your free time go to this game?" and you said "well, the time after I fulfill my responsibilities will go to this game." That's why he asked for a definition of "free time," because "time that's left after responsibilities are fulfilled" would be a pretty reasonable definition! He's not asking "will you neglect responsibilities to play," which is the question you answered. Your (effective) non-answer makes it seem like the answer to his actual question might well be, "yes, I am prepared to spend all of the time I don't need for my responsibilities on playing this game," and that's the situation he doesn't want. He also probably doesn't/wouldn't like the idea of being regarded as a "responsibility," which is kind of what you're regulating him to. What you're saying could easily come off as "Of course I'd stop playing if there were something I had to do, like the dishes or taxes or talking to you." Now, I know you don't mean it that way! But that might be what he's feeling when you say he can just tell you he wants to spend time together. I do think he's probably being excessively reactive at this point, like implying you're addicted to the game, but it's likely coming from a place of feeling isolated because it's a pandemic and you have your game and friend and he doesn't even have a slot on the schedule. Maybe on the Saturday he just wanted to be in proximity and maybe low-key gripe about the news, not do some specific Activity, you know? But since it doesn't always occur to people to say "just be with me," especially if they think/believe/worry the other person is going to be wishing they didn't have to be so they could go do something else, it's coming out in this squabbling and feels unfair to both of you.
posted by teremala at 9:02 AM on May 10 [42 favorites]

You could make a point of more proactively asking your SO to spend time with you. It seems that's the sore spot for him. If you have downtime you don't seek him out. I can totally understand not wanting to beg your partner for attention. Is there a system you could set up so you regularly seek out your partner when you are both free, so that he is not feeling your absence as much? I also agree with teremala that you aren't making it clear to your SO that time with them is still a priority for you. And maybe it isn't? But you can imagine how hurtful that might be for your SO.
posted by crunchy potato at 9:08 AM on May 10 [2 favorites]

To put my bias on the table, I'm the partner in your relationship.

My husband has immersed in different activities, including gaming. Here's why gaming is different in a lot of ways (not all): other activities have end points. The deck is finished. The martial arts studio is closed. The meditation retreat comes to an end.

Additionally, some other activities can co-exist with sharing as a couple. I was clearing out the front garden beds this week and my husband was having a coffee on the porch and we had a few words, not many, but it felt like we were together.

But gaming is on 24/7, and it completely takes the gamer's headspace out of the present. As the gamer, you probably think you are responsive when you're interrupted or that you're present if you're in the same room. But as the non-gamer, I can tell you that's not my experience...yes I can totally interrupt my husband or kids if they are gaming but it is much much harder to get their attention and focus - because games are designed to not just soak that up, but to put them in a feedback loop where the game's input is sparking their responses and adrenaline.

All that said, I do support my family in enjoying gaming. But when not in quarantine, my ask that there be at least one weekday and one weekend day where there is zero gaming, to "reset" their brains and to have a day that I would characterize as one where there can be normal interaction...that is, where we can run into each other in the hallway, overhear the same songs on the radio, get bored, get crabby, clear out the dishwasher, without having to compete with a game or make a case for why our joint life is valuable.

This line in our sand which may or may not work for you, gives 5/7 of the week as more loose time, which to me seems more than fair. So this might be something you might propose and stick to.

That said, I have a significant other a timezone away and we spend one late night together a week, and it has gone as late as 2:30 or 3 am, and I am very sympathetic to that and I think that should not be the measure, as long as you can function the next day.
posted by warriorqueen at 9:11 AM on May 10 [50 favorites]

I explained that this is not true and whenever he feels like doing something with me, he just needs to ask or let me know and we’ll do it but he says this makes him feel like a child asking for playtime and he finds it offensive that he needs to ask.

Is this a pattern? Are you usually the one suggesting things to do and is he usually expecting you to anticipate his needs for entertainment? It's equally childish to expect mind-reading from other people when he doesn't communicate his needs.

If my partner suggested a hike and I had to shoot him down because the weather forecast for the afternoon was bad, I might come back with "but how about [cooking project] or [bad movie we can riff on together] or [crafty undertaking]?" if I wanted to spend some time together. If I just shrugged and shot it down and turned back to my solitary internet activities, that's a pretty clear signal for my partner to go get his own alone-gaming time, right?

It might be a little stressful in the moment to interrupt you from your Gaming Immersion, but that shouldn't mean that the activity is forbidden, it should mean that if your partner's uncomfortable doing that once in a while, he should be able to express his wants ahead of time.
posted by fountainofdoubt at 9:15 AM on May 10 [6 favorites]

A problem that recently cropped up at home for me was that my wife went from having stuff to do 4-5 nights a week to trying to get all her social interaction from me. So it might not be a matter of you becoming less available as him needing you more.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 9:27 AM on May 10 [15 favorites]

Sounds like your SO needs a hobby to entertain him/her during this time at home. You have one. They HAD one - your attention - and now they want it back.

One of the things I expect to see as a result of all this time at home is an overall increase in co-dependent behavior by people who are using other people as their primary form of entertainment... and I imagine that's going to make for some messy relationships when we eventually proceed back to normal behavior.
posted by stormyteal at 9:38 AM on May 10 [6 favorites]

I think you need to have a conversation about this with him without defensiveness and without offering solutions. Just a conversation where you try to understand where his feelings are coming from.

For example, it's possible that sleeping alongside his partner is really important to him emotionally. The intimacy, the security of knowing you'll be there if he wakes up at night - who knows. He might not have complete insight into his reactions either, but it's worth trying to understand what your routines together mean to him and what it means to change them. If you get to a point where you both understand the feelings involved, hopefully you'll have a better chance of figuring out how to meet both your needs.
posted by trig at 9:41 AM on May 10 [9 favorites]

Hi! I'm your partner in your relationship, but I have a totally different perspective from him and others in this thread who have expressed frustration with their partner's gaming. I think a lot of that has to do with how my partner and I have set things up.

First, the comment on "interrupting." This is a problem for any hobby that requires some amount of focus. The same thing happens if I'm reading or sewing or listening to a podcast. Maybe neurotypical people don't experience this but being caught up in a craft project can be just as all-consuming as playing a video game. The solution my partner use is to do a lot of our communication over a chat system (they game, so we use Discord because it'll show up in the game), so that we're not demanding each other's attention RIGHT NOW THIS VERY INSTANT. I drop a message and when they're done with their 5 minute multiplayer battle they can respond, and sometimes I'll come in and talk to them in person now that I know they're not in the middle of something. Similarly, they'll drop a message and when I'm finished reading this very exciting scene, I'll respond to them.

Maybe could you connect with your partner more like this when you're gaming? Obviously not during the super late times, but other ones? That can help them feel more connected and also like you're not All Consumed by gaming, which I suspect you're not. Non-gamers sometimes get this perspective that gaming is always 24/7 every second totally consuming and absolutely non-stop action. Most games are not like that. There's downtime, there's shop menus, there's waiting for other people to get online, there's a break between matches, etc. The problem is, coming in at any random point is a high likelihood you'll catch someone at a point where they are in the middle of a high-focus point, and then people get upset that the gamer doesn't drop everything they're doing and pay attention to them right that second. Except, if they came in two minutes later, you might be perfectly able to hold an attentive conversation. We use the chat a lot, but sometimes I like to just come in and talk to my partner, and they always let me know if they can't give me their full attention and give me an estimate of when they'll be free. I wander off and clean up for a few minutes or grab a snack, and then I come back and they're finished and they take off their headphones and turn off their mic and talk to me. It works well because we both understand the pattern and are willing to be open and communicate about it. They do the same thing for me when I'm in the middle of a craft or watching a video or whatever and really focused.

Second, my partner frequently says, "Hey, can we watch a movie?" or "Hey, can I come in there and play Animal Crossing?" or "Let's bake something" or "Want to listen to a podcast together?" These are things they offer up without me asking, either before or after their gaming time, or sometimes in the middle: "I'm gonna take a break, want to do x?" I never feel neglected for their gaming because they frequently ask to do things with me. This happens at least once a day, and actually sometimes they spend so much time with me that I feel like I didn't get enough time on my own hobbies! But they also still game every day. And that's not a problem. It never feels like them "checking off a list." Maybe offering more things and at different times? So not just "hey do you want to do this before I game?" but also after you game or when you want to take a break. On the other hand, if you're offering things and being turned down without your partner offering alternatives, I think it's totally reasonable for you to go and game--if they don't want to put in effort, it's not your responsibility to drag it out of them. There's some give and take, which is why it shouldn't always be your partner asking you to spend time with them, but if you offer and they say no, end conversation, that's not your fault.

Third, we do a lot of "being together" while they game. It's super, super easy to just sit in the same room with them and work on a craft or draw or whatever while they game. We chat, I talk about what I'm doing, they talk about what they're doing, we just co-exist. One thing we do a lot is listen to a podcast while they game. They turn down game sounds and I play a podcast from my Bluetooth speaker in the same room. Sometimes I just hang out in a weird position on the couch, other times I'll draw or knit while we listen together. Gaming isn't any different from any other hobby you might have that your partner doesn't share--it has its own quirks, which means you have to adjust co-existing a little differently, but the same is true for all hobbies. We can't cuddle while I'm knitting, for example, but we can watch something together. Do you game in a different room from your partner? Maybe invite them to hang out in there more?

Finally, my partner's gaming time isn't limited in any way. That actually makes it less addictive and makes them easier to interrupt because they aren't feeling like this is their One And Only Special Gaming Time. I talked to them about this thread and they said, "Speaking from experience, I definitely get sick of video games eventually and want companionship." We also talked about how they definitely get bored quicker if I'm not interrupting them--days when I'm busy/focused on something in the other room and don't chat with them much, they get bored much quicker and come in like, "Hey wanna do something together??" People who have healthy emotional lives and relationships don't have their lives get taken over by video games because it does, in fact, get boring, unless you're using it to distract yourself from something or have hyperfocus problems (which, by the way, my partner does--they have ADHD, and can get really sucked into video games, but they still get bored and want companionship daily). Can you have a conversation with your partner about why you play video games, and your emotional health? Maybe also talk about this as a hobby of yours, and ask if they would try to limit or be so concerned about any other hobby? If they say no, ask them why. Work from there to figure out what their actually displeasure/fear is. If you spent all of your time reading, would it be a problem? If you had a 2am book club because your friends live in another time zone, would he be upset? What actually is the problem with using all your free time gaming? Are they worried it's an indicator of poor mental health? Without knowing the answer to that, I don't think you'll be able to reassure your partner.
posted by brook horse at 9:54 AM on May 10 [24 favorites]

He says that me having to adjust my schedule for a game, playing at midnight and not going to bed etc. is ridiculous and makes me look like I’m addicted to video games enough where I’m willing to do this, despite me explaining over and over my friend’s time limitations.

Your partner may be having a hard time communicating what may be a larger-than-expected disruption from you two not going to bed (and staying in bed) together. I don't know your life so I don't know how much of a thing it would be. In my relationship, we go to bed at separate times when we're together but we still wind-down together and we're not communicating with other people after our wind-down. I don't know if that would matter to me but it might.

The thing that jumped out at me from your post is that you talk about your friend's many restrictions being the thing that is driving you towards the schedule you've adopted, but you and your partner (kinda) already had a schedule of things you do that is not taking priority. If this were my relationship, showing that you could prioritize my concerns as a partner (like deciding that only some nights are gaming nights and on other nights you'll tell your friend "Hey no I am going to bed with partner") would be a good first start.
posted by jessamyn at 9:58 AM on May 10 [19 favorites]

Oh, also, do you sleep in later because of staying up late gaming? I personally struggle a lot with getting up and getting going in the mornings if I'm the only one awake. When my partner sleeps in, I end up lying in bed for hours and it's super frustrating. But that's on me, not my partner. Having a conversation about it and acknowledging that them sleeping in made it harder for me helped. So did them being willing to occasionally get up without getting enough sleep (and nap later) if I really felt like I needed to get going that morning and needed them awake too to make that happen.
posted by brook horse at 10:03 AM on May 10 [2 favorites]

I've been the partner in this scenario a couple times now, in various ways. It sounds like your partner's needs or wants aren't being met in some way. I can think of some ways from my own experience that this might be the case.

As others have noted, I hate being told that if I want to do something with you as my partner, I should just say something and you'll do it. I would like my partner to actively seek out time with me to enjoy things together, just as you would. My partner doesn't have to read my mind about what things I might enjoy, but I would prefer my partner to come to the table with ideas for things to do together (or even just food to make or order together) as an equal partner in the relationship. That goes for even if things in the relationship aren't equal, such as who's bringing in money; for me, even when my partner is not making money, I want them to share their ideas with me about things they'd like to do together that would be fun, even if those things cost money. I guess I'm very Ask Culture that way.

I would also like it if some of those ideas weren't just platonic; I would prefer some of the ideas to be romantic in nature in some way, and I would prefer to spend time together in bed or even just with our bodies close to each other regularly (not forcing sexual activity if we're not feeling it, but just experiencing each other's warmth and touch). Otherwise, it starts to feel like we're only roommates or friends. Obviously we would make accommodations if we weren't physically in the same place, a situation many people find themselves in now, but you are physically in the same place, and I can say from experience that it hurts to feel like despite being in the same place, you can't fully connect with your partner.

To me, romantic relationships aren't just about having positive regard and acceptance for each other or supporting each other in household duties. To me, that would be a friendship or roommate situation. Romantic relationships, to me, should include action and regular expressions of desire or even just bids for connection with each other. You should both be making bids for connection with each other, or the relationship can start to feel uneven and transactional. Bids for connection don't need to be sexual or overtly romantic to still maintain romance in your relationship. For me, a romantic relationship also includes shared imagination or narrative, imagining the path of the relationship into being together to create shared meaning. Even if you can't do everything you want to be able to do together right now, it's important to try to do small things together, and not just let go of the opportunity to connect if something falls through (which might happen a lot right now). The world is full of disappointment, and it hurts to feel like one's relationship is too.

Things right now in the world can seem fundamentally hopeless, and it can be hard to envision a future beyond the immediate. But it's important for couples to be able to hope and dream or even just joke together or otherwise connect about a lack of ability to hope and dream. If I were your partner (and I've been in two relationships with scenarios very much like what it feels like your partner might be experiencing), I'd want to be receiving bids for connection from you regularly, as well as ideas for what we might do together that aren't just things like eating, chores, or hiking/running in the outdoors. I'd also want to be able to plan when we'd be doing our own respective hobbies or hanging out with friends versus doing things together, to know that I'm still a priority in my partner's life during a time that feels like it's changing all of our norms and habits.

Otherwise, I start to become afraid that we're fading into just friends or roommates. Wanting that reassurance may be a little codependent or the result of my insecurities, but I don't think it's bad to help reassure our partners right now. This is a situation that's bringing out everyone's insecurities. Also, at a time when partners are in each other's space all the time, 24/7, I think arranging time to do things separately requires more vocal coordination, not just assuming you're on the same page about when and for how much time it'll happen. It's possible that your partner is experiencing these changes in your habits, schedule, and behavior with alarm because they're insecure, but it's also possible that they've had experiences in past relationships where those behaviors heralded, as others have mentioned above, cheating, addiction, or manic phases. So experiencing those behaviors in your relationship now might make them feel on edge in ways they don't even know how to articulate. I know that's been the case for me. For a lot of us, our sensors for danger are on high alert right now, and changes to anything can feel disproportionately scary.

As others have noted, it can be awesome to spend time together in the same space, playing at various things (your respective hobbies), but not actually playing together. That's parallel play, and it's an important way even young humans connect with each other. If that's not what's happening, though, and your partner either doesn't have other hobbies or doesn't feel like they can do those hobbies near you while you're playing video games (or that it's like you're basically on an hours-long chat or phone call without them while you're playing), then it can feel like you're basically not even there for long, unpredictable stretches of time. Or, worse, that not only are you not there, they also can't interrupt to talk to you to make plans, ask for a second of your time for an opinion or bid for connection, or make noise doing something they like. It can feel like they're being held hostage by your schedule and your immersion in the game.

I'm not saying you're doing this, but for instance, I used to have a partner who would bark at me and huff if I interrupted their gameplay, which they would do for hours in our shared living room. In our new living space, one concession was that they would take their gameplay into their own office space, rather than the shared space, so we could be in the shared space to enjoy things together or side-by-side. Unfortunately, that didn't entirely solve the problem, because I was still unable to even stop by their office to talk to or ask my partner about things like planning dinner without fear of breaking their concentration, ruining their game, and putting them into sulking mode for hours thereafter. And they were by themselves in the office for hours playing the game, while I ended up finding other things to do, but resented it, because all of this meant we almost entirely stopped connecting with each other in the shared space to do things like watching TV shows together. Meanwhile, for other reasons, we weren't connecting physically at all, either. All of it drove a wedge between us in ways that, along with other stresses, ultimately became irreparable.

All of that is to say, I just want to caution you that seemingly small changes like this can have a big impact. I think it's important, if you care for your partner, to find ways to express that and connect with them regularly, without prompting; to connect with them in good faith to explore what might be making them feel insecure right now, and take steps to correct anything about your behavior that's contributing to it; and to plan and dream together, even just for what your days might look like in a given week. I'm facing challenges like this currently, and I think a lot of us are. I also think it's fixable. But you need to take it seriously. You can't make your partner feel a certain way, but your partner's feelings about these changes are also not just your partner's problem.
posted by limeonaire at 10:16 AM on May 10 [19 favorites]

I‘m a very responsible person and I’d never ignore any of my work and other duties but he seems to think that I rationalize it a lot and I’m already ignoring things in order to play.

He also asked me to define what I mean by “free time” and how much do I intend to play on a daily basis, which I can’t predict and I find it a ridiculous question to begin with

This is a pretty immature response. Every successful couple (hell, every well-functioning person, in a couple or not) I know has clearly pre-defined set calendarized times for extracurricular activities in order to create healthy boundaries around those activities and extend the courtesy to their partner/other people to not make them guess what time they might be allowed to presume will be available to them. These extracurricular sessions are usually twice a week at most, maybe three if there's no kids, and it's only stuff that doesn't suck additional time and energy out of the relationship, which I think is where you are failing to do the math here.

These games are not designed for people with responsibilities, it's not nearly as much fun to play them as a grownup, they are meant to be all-consuming. But even my friends who work AT game companies and often play WITH their SOs set times to play, and make sure that's not the only thing they're doing. And that's in part because they helped make these games addictive in the first place.

Adults can't give up 3+ hours of sleep and function at normal levels the next day, especially not several nights a week; there's no way that's not affecting your work. You're phoning in to your relationship and running off "okay byeeeee" the second you find a loophole to go be with someone else instead. You're pretending you have no control over where your time goes and it's "ridiculous" to expect you to exert some. But that's what adults DO.

Your partner is upset and your priority seems only to be to justify doing what you want. Your partner already feels you're letting down the team, and you want to tell him he isn't allowed to feel that way instead of looking for ways to get to have some amount but maybe not the maximum amount of your fun but also make sure he feels supported. If you're this determined to be right, understand that you will eventually be right and not with him anymore.

It's really easy, when you're having fun, to want to hoard the fun and divert extra resources to it to just keep getting that dopamine hit, especially in times of stress. It's not sustainable, though, and it's likely that your partner is a more viable long-term relationship than this other person and the game, so even if it feels like a bummer for a second to put the game aside to re-focus on your partner and relationship and overall balanced lifestyle, you may have to just suck up the disappointment for a second so it can fade and you can see the appeal in the rest of your life.

Every relationship is going to have to find its own tolerance levels, but I can tell you that most of the couples I know in 10-year-plus relationships (and who work traditional office type hours) generally have one weeknight thing they do separately, maybe one weeknight thing done out of the house together, and 4-6 usually non-continuous hours of weekend time that is fully unplugged from each other plus maybe another 4-6 that's not Specifically Doing Things Together but is in the same orbit (this is usually chores and maybe asynchronous entertainment, like one person reading and the other watching TV; it is not generally social gaming with a headset cutting them off from the environment, it's maybe Animal Crossing or puzzle games at best). Generally the "best" hours (like in my relationship, that's dinnertime through bedtime) are reserved for each other and/or joint socialization/activities. These schedules are pretty well-known in advance, if it's not totally firm it's at least reviewed first thing in the day or the night before.

Pretty much every one of those couples has made at least one significant trade-off between something they'd really like to do but it eats too much time/energy/money. I know two couples who gave up doing extremely time-consuming sports together because the marriage was literally nothing but work and sport anymore and sacrifices needed to be made. I know a couple of people who gave up gaming specifically because they couldn't appropriately manage their time and still enjoy the game, and one that still games but only single-player because his partner feels that the line between social gaming and an emotional affair is too thin, and also she observed and he agreed he was far more likely to over-play, sacrificing things like sleep and hygeine, in social play. And then, of course, you give up pretty much all of it for young children.

You could solve much of this problem by saying, "I am going to schedule sessions with Buddy at X, Y, Z times going forward. We're not going to play other times and if there's a problem we're just going to skip that session rather than do make-up times because I want you to be able to rely on my availability. I'm sorry if I've been a little over-consumed with this, it was shiny and new and the world is a dumpster fire and it was a relief to escape into. Will that kind of schedule work for you?" And if he says no, listen instead of defending yourself. Find out what the issue is and don't immediately insist he's wrong. See if the problems are solveable instead of negating them. If he's a good partner, he's not trying to make it so you never have any fun ever, but would like to not spend his life watching you do it elsewhere without him.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:35 AM on May 10 [30 favorites]

Take gaming out of the equation. You're spending time that might be spent with your partner in couple-y, intimate ways (bedtime, having a shared routine), staying up with another person. You're more sensitive to this other person's needs and routines than- it seems- your partner's.

I would encourage you to really try to get into your partner's headspace and try to empathise with why they are feeling hurt, and really try to see how your behaviour is contributing to that hurt. And then that's a good space to come to a compromise. Maybe you have 3 nights a week that are dedicated to this game but the rest of the time you go to bed and wake up together. But having some ground rules will I think help both of you know where you stand and stop these cyclical stand-offs.
posted by Balthamos at 10:56 AM on May 10 [5 favorites]

[comment removed - please answer the question being asked don't just argue with other commenters.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:07 AM on May 10

I'm a female gamer too, and I get it-- gaming is one of my higher priorities too. But gaming has evolved so much lately. No longer can you pause and pick it up as easy as you left off. Some games, sure. But some games are designed that you have to complete the whole dungeon lest it be reset on you. And so much of it is matches where you can't pause and can't stop lest you lose and let down your team-mates. Let's not even talk about MMOs. It's so incredibly engaging and kinda designed to tune you out of life-- of everything but the game. I know, deep down, when I stay up past midnight to play (even if its for a good reason, like that friends are in a different timezone) that it's not a healthy thing-- even if it is the weekend.

I get that because of reasons she can only play those times, but... unfortunately that means that you don't always get to play with her. Because concurrently staying up til 3am to play isn't ideal. And I say this as someone who has stayed up late gaming a lot of my life-- I totally get you. But any time I've ever done that with a game, even for a good reason-- for example, my SO and I were long distance, and one of the ways we spent time together was playing MMOs, I still knew that staying up til 3 or whatever wasn't great for me, and tried to keep it to a minimum-- like once or twice a month. And that was to spend time with the love of my life, ya know?

And as a gamer, like, we all get excited about the new shiny games that really push our buttons. Like, how many times have I rushed home with the new game on my mind? Too many to count. And I get it. I get you're excited to keep playing the new shiny with the friend. But I really think you oughta pump the brakes a bit with this game. Changing your bed time is a change of habit, even if you think it's 'justified' because of reasons, it still changes the dynamic (bedtime routine) between him and you. I can understand him being perturbed by it.

In my case, I'm not taking time away from him and 'us' time to game, unless it's a game one of us doesn't like (which does happen). But at least a few times a week, we game. It's part of us time, after the other stuff is done, chores, work etc. I get that's how you feel about it too-- but I'm not sure. Because in your case, your 'other stuff' isn't done-- spending time with him is part of the 'other stuff'. I get you get this, but just like how the other stuff are 'things you need to do' so is finding time together.

From what you've written, it seems like you are turning your back on his wants. Do you ever find yourself hoping he'll occupy himself so you can go back to your game? Do you secretly hope he won't come up with something to do together so you don't have to stop playing? No? Maybe not, but I have before. And it's a bit of a yellow flag, honestly. It's a sign I'm getting way too invested in distraction... only you know if you are too but... I have a feeling you might be.

So if he really takes priority then... make him a priority? It seems you're saying that games mean a lot to you and to give them up would mean that you would suffer excessively, which is why you don't want to give them up. Which is fair enough. Again I totally get it. But he's not asking you to give them up at all. Instead, it seems that he's trying to come up with compromises which you keep shooting down, which kinda feels like... you don't wanna give up anything at all, even though your behavior is actively hurting your partner.

If you love him and want to be with him, then you have to make an effort to at least try and meet each others needs if at all possible. Otherwise you may as well just go your separate ways. So if you want to continue the relationship, then I would apologize and try to meet him halfway. Yeah, you haven't done anything wrong, and you don't think you're being neglectful. But that doesn't matter, because he thinks you are being neglectful. And yeah, you're both adults and it's not your responsibility to manage his feelings nor entertain him, but when you're in a relationship and someone tells you that 'doing x is making me unhappy,' and your response is 'too bad, because I wanna do it anyway,' then you gotta really think about why. Because if it 'goes without saying' he takes priority, why is he clearly saying he thinks he doesn't? Even if it isn't true, you are acting like it is.

As someone who games A LOT, this stuck out to me: "and how much do I intend to play on a daily basis, which I can’t predict and I find it a ridiculous question to begin with," Yeah. I'm sorry but this just isn't fair. Like, I get it, I play games with missions that can span hours to complete too with friends in time-zones far removed from mine, but I still know deep down the average time I can set aside for it. I can still set aside a 3h window give or take 30 minutes. 'I can't predict it' is a cop out. What you're really saying is, 'I don't want to predict it, or set actual time aside to play, cuz I want to play whenever I feel like it.'

So if you don't want to make him a priority, then don't. Just break up. Because all of the above seems to me an excuse to not budge on anything that makes you feel good, even at the expense of his feelings. Because it's not that hard to plan your gaming time. It's not that hard to find time. It's not that hard to meet him halfway. If it is that hard then maybe this just isn't the relationship for you.

Do you really need to play spontaneously every day with no routine? If you can co-ordinate texts with your gaming friend, surely you can figure out a day once a week to play with her?

And so what if you plan your routines and days? It sounds unromantic, but honestly, it really helps to set your expectations together. He might not be ok with you slipping away in quiet moments to go play for two hours at 2am, but if you schedule a day a week where you *plan* to stay up, you then both agree that's the day you stay up, etc, then he might be more ok with it?

I remember seeing a similar question on Reddit, where the update said that the couple sat down together and mapped out how many hours per week the gamer partner gamed, compared to doing everything else. Then they asked their partner to list their life priorities and found that even though gaming was third or forth after family, work, chores, relationships etc-- the amount of gaming they were actually doing made up the vast majority of their free time.

Maybe you could do a similar thing, map out how you spend your time doing what-- which would give you a concrete number as to how much you actually game vs how much time you spend with him? Then you could come up with a more even spread-- maybe that the hours you spend with him have to equal or outnumber your gaming hours.

If you don't wanna do that, then your statement, "there is no doubt that he’s a priority over my games of course," just seems untrue to me.
posted by Dimes at 12:10 PM on May 10 [23 favorites]

I am struck by your view that you're only doing this after you've fulfilled your responsibilities. For an adult co-running a household, responsibilities never really end. The chores each person might have agreed to do daily or weekly are one thing; the true needs of the household are broader. Are there things that need fixing, returning, researching, deep-cleaning, organizing? You should be contributing to these kinds of work at least as much as your partner.
posted by lakeroon at 12:14 PM on May 10 [5 favorites]

As long as your routine isn’t going below the minimum us-time, according to your partner, your health is fine and your bills are being paid etc., play as much as you want. YOU determine how your free time is spent, as long as it’s not some deviant activity.
posted by kinoeye at 12:41 PM on May 10 [1 favorite]

I've been on both sides of this... and I think you are both in the wrong.

If you are playing video games for three to four hours every night and then also playing for several hours during the day, I'm struggling to see how you aren't actually doing exactly what your partner is saying you're doing -- spending all of your free time playing video games. You're score keeping (we watched a movie together/I asked him if he wanted to do something together) and being really dismissive of what I think is a fairly basic request (to quantify how much time you will spend playing each day).

I think your partner is taking the wrong tack here, which is probably why you are coming across as being so defensive. He is not communicating effectively; rather it comes across as attacking. He didn't really articulate a need (I need you to prioritize spending time with me) so much as tell you how he feels (that you aren't).

The reason you keep having this argument, in part, as neither of you seems to be actually listening to the other and coming up with solutions together. Instead, you're both digging your heels in.
posted by sm1tten at 1:29 PM on May 10 [13 favorites]

Yeah, my husband and I are both gamers, and the secret at the moment is definitely scheduling. I have a standing appointment to play with some folks online every day, from 5 till 7. Of course, sometimes I take days off, or we play at a different time instead, but I tell my husband this so he knows in advance. Every morning we discuss what we'd like to do that day - so I know he's doing some work stuff till 1, then he'd like to go for a walk together, then in the evening he wants the tv to play videogames. There's no real reason you can't designate "videogame time" and "partner time" in advance.

In addition, neither of us have a problem straight up saying "hey, I want some attention, when you're done with that level can we do something together?" It's healthy in a relationship to ask for what you need. His mistake is making this whole thing about 'your videogame problem' instead of the actual needs of his that aren't getting met.

Basically to me it doesn't sound like you're being excessive at all, but maybe scheduling some specific partner time every day might help.

(I used to read for many hours a day, way more than I have ever gamed, and yet what are the chances of being told I have a reading addiction? There's definitely activity bias)
posted by stillnocturnal at 2:52 PM on May 10 [9 favorites]

Your actions don’t match your words. You say your partner is a priority but openly admit that any spare time you have, you want to spend gaming. It honestly sounds like you came here with this question to better help you better formulate an argument that allows you to get your partner to agree that you’re right with regards to gaming time.

I feel pretty bad for your partner. If I were them, at this point even if I did convince you to watch a movie or go for a walk, I’d think that the whole time you were just clock watching until the activity was over so you could go back to what you really wanting to do all along. I’ve been the partner in this situation and it’s a really shitty feeling to want to be with someone who always has something else they’d rather be doing and just hangs out with you to shut you up.

So yes, I think you’re actively damaging your relationship. I think you know this but I also don’t think you really care (which is your prerogative!) because you have an activity you love more than them. They know this too and life is all about choices. You’re making your choice, every day, about how you spend your time. Eventually don’t be surprised if your partner makes a choice of their own, that they’d rather leave and find someone who wants to be with them. And you know, I don’t think that’s a bad outcome for you either. You want to spend your time differently and that’s ok. You’re just not compatible.
posted by Jubey at 5:21 PM on May 10 [11 favorites]

I am not a gamer, others have said why gaming is different from any other hobbies, which seems to have significance.

For all we know, your guy is needy and unreasonable, but to address you question--

No matter what the hobby, I find your position stubborn. You could be skyping your cousin in Israel, or playing on-line poker with someone in California, it is something that is disrupting your home life.

Of course, you certainly can do whatever you want, but generally, I’d say the relationship should take precedence.

One solution is to accept this activity is not compatible with your life, and limit it or pass altogether. Yes, you love to play, but it is a game. Find another game that fits into your life. Wouldn’t you want him to do the same for you?

This may or may not apply, but, as a comparison, my partner does not like that I smoke weed. He has no good reason—I am a productive, successful person, and fuck it --if I want to smoke a jay I will. But, I care enough to not smoke around him, and don't ask him to accommodate to my habit, etc.. I like to smoke, actually love it, but it is not his thing, so I am cool keeping it aside.

Hope this is helpful.
posted by rhonzo at 6:41 PM on May 10 [3 favorites]

For what it's worth, I have a friend whose marriage ended because of very excessive gaming by her partner. So sometimes this sort of immersive gaming can open rifts that can't be healed. I guess the rift could have been caused by anything that detracts from couple-hood, but gaming seems (to a non-gamer) to be aggressively solitary and immersive, and addictive, particularly when done in the wee hours of the morning when you would otherwise be sleeping with your partner. Gaming can seem very alienating to a non-gamer, in ways that late-night reading, or writing, or knitting, seem not to be. This is not to judge you particularly, just to let you know what conclusions a non-gamer might jump to.
posted by citygirl at 7:12 PM on May 10 [11 favorites]

he wants to be your main hobby, not gaming. he doesn't want to be a responsible adult priority for you where you have planned activities at regular intervals, playdates as he says; he wants you to think: oh boy, work is done, we don't have any chores to do--NOW'S the time when I get to go lie around on the couch with what's-his-name and just BE with him for a few hours, my favorite thing in this world.

and instead, when you have a little free time, you feel that way about gaming.

and that doesn't mean you don't love him passionately (although it does kind of suggest it, just slightly) and it doesn't mean he's being reasonable in his expression of his hurt. he cannot order you to find his company more pleasant than some other fun thing. but it's absolutely, completely comprehensible to me that he would feel this way. you are not doing anything "wrong" as such, but it sounds like you are more secure with him than he is with you, and he understands this security as boredom. that is not a wild leap, even if it is not true in your case.

he is also being a bit of a prick because isolation with just one other person makes everyone more aggravating to live with. you aren't gaming too much in the way a person can drink too much, but he doesn't love this one thing about you and he's got to get over it, along with whatever he thinks it represents. he may be able to do that, but it isn't such a little thing.
posted by queenofbithynia at 9:15 PM on May 10 [2 favorites]

My partner and I don't really like to plan our evenings so much in advance. It's hard to know what energy levels we'll really have until we get there. But we've been doing something really good which is touching base with "what would your ideal evening (or day, if it's the weekend) look like?" So I'm not surprised if he's spending all day putting in new garden beds, and he's not surprised if I'm totally immersed up to my eyeballs in a new video game.

And then if we're both just kind of knocking around after work with no plans, we both have the expectation set early in the day that says, we should get some cuddle time in, and have a pleasant dinner together, and watch an episode of that new series, and the rest of the evening we can do whatever. So I chat with friends for a bit and when I get a break I go, "hey, that TV show?" And he lets me know he'd love to watch it in five minutes, or maybe that he's really tired now and wants to just read (he always apologizes for messing up our plans but it is always fine, I am happy to read or surf the web an hour). Or vice versa.

The important thing is checking in and making our plans *together*, and actively consulting each other.
posted by Lady Li at 11:27 PM on May 10 [2 favorites]

Poster, I recognize this situation as being very similar to one I've experienced before with a live-in SO. In my case, the activity in question was creative rather than gaming. If I stayed up late because I was in a flow state with my creative work, he would be incredibly nasty, and punish me for it later without labeling it as such. He had no interest in how happy my creative activity was making me. It wasn't that he wanted to do something with me (he would be sleeping, and like you, notice I was still up when he got up to go to the bathroom).

When I read your post, I flashed back to that relationship. I suspect that your partner views you as a resource, a thing whose time should properly belong to him rather than a human being with her own interests and passions. I'm pretty freaked out that so many in this thread feel that's an appropriate expectation.

Was your partner happy for you when you said you were thrilled that you had a friend to game with? It sure doesn't sound like it. Someone who loves you should be happy for you when you find an activity you love to engage in. They should be happy for you that you are bonding with your friend. Your partner can of course legitimately have concerns on top of that, but if he's not even happy for you as part of the mix, that is not a good sign.

From the description, this really has nothing to do with disrupting a routine or with wanting more attention per se, since your partner complains even on an afternoon when nothing was planned, no existing routine was being interrupted, and in fact he himself initiated a solitary activity by deciding to open his laptop and read the news.

My guess is that he has control freak tendencies which are being inflamed by being stuck at home more than usual. I also believe that even if you stopped gaming altogether, the partner would find something else to try to control. This might be a good test, actually. Stop gaming for a few days and see what else he complains about.

Another question I'd ask is, if he doesn't want you to game as much, what does he want you to do? What would have been an acceptable activity while he read the newspaper? And why was it ok for him to unilaterally decide what to do with his time (read the paper), but you need to get approval from him for what you want to do?
posted by nirblegee at 12:31 AM on May 11 [12 favorites]

There's a lot of talk here about the give and take of relationships, which is good to keep in mind, but the key thing for me here is the anger OP's partner had about OP gaming *when he was asleep*.

That's not a healthy response. That's controlling and weird. Nirblegee kind of nails it.
Another question I'd ask is, if he doesn't want you to game as much, what does he want you to do? What would have been an acceptable activity while he read the newspaper? And why was it ok for him to unilaterally decide what to do with his time (read the paper), but you need to get approval from him for what you want to do?
posted by uberchet at 7:15 AM on May 11 [1 favorite]

I am luckily to be with another gamer, but in the past for non-gamer/light gamer partners what can really help is another "something you do together and both love" - dinners and movie nights and occasional hiking don't count, it should be something more... and it can change and morph but if its missing then things tend to not go well and all sorts of odd complaints and attempted constraints will pop up.
I also think your partner might be a bit jealous of both your friend and that you can sleep in which is a different problem, you could try introduce them a bit better (share a virtual meal and chat?) and discuss if having different bedtimes can be improved (specific nights each week so its more planned, if its after X you get the couch so you don't wake them etc).
Keep in mind that the pandemic has everyone very rattled and many people cling to routines and loved ones right now so try to be the kindest you can.
posted by meepmeow at 11:29 AM on May 11

I genuinely can not believe what I am reading in these comments. If OP's boyfriend pitched a fit because OP was reading quietly at night or had a new crafting friend, would the comments be full of people telling her to do even more emotional labor trying to manage his emotions? I very much doubt it.

OP, I think you have 2 problems.

1) Your SO is communicating badly, tossing insults at you and being controlling. Very possibly it's just upheaval and stress pushing them past their limits and making it harder to deal with disagreements. We are all going through a very rough time. It's still not OK, though.

2) That said, their request for a schedule is reasonable and your response was pretty bad. If you are old enough to be a live-in SO, you are old enough to create and be held to a schedule. You're caught up in a shiny new activity-friend right now, and that happens, but you need to put the brakes on.

IME, a good compromise looks something like this: "Fun time is Mon and Weds from X to Y, Tues and Thurs are household nights, Friday is date night" (or whatever days are good, re-arrange for special events as needed). Both parties use fun time for whatever, household nights cover all the non-daily-chore tasks. Hobby projects like 2 hour gaming missions happen only during fun time. If your games have regular daily checkins or something, those should be a max of half an hour, communicated clearly each day, and the game does not get turned on during other times. Your SO should make a similar schedule. You should both take turns suggesting date nights, both be collaborating on household projects, there needs to be just being-lovey-together time, etc.

That kind of a schedule is how you both show that you are prioritizing each other. Right now, your SO is defaulting to being upset and you're defaulting to being absent, and that's not going to work much longer.
posted by Ahniya at 11:15 PM on May 11 [4 favorites]

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