Almost immediately after our honeymoon, I encountered a man who was constantly and compulsively connected to his Xbox or computer
I am married to a video game addict. I’ve never been able to say those words out loud and now that I’ve written them, I’m fighting the urge to hit the delete button. No, I am not married to a teenager; I am married to a middle-aged man, and during the course of our decade and a half marriage, I’ve kept this secret hidden well.
The addiction was not apparent to me while we were dating. I had known him for years, and there were no signs pointing to neglect of job or social life. Yet almost immediately after our honeymoon, I encountered a man who was constantly and compulsively connected to his Xbox or computer. My requests for him to accompany me to bed were ignored as he played through the night, and I was crushed as my excitement at finally living with my soul mate was replaced by loneliness, confusion and isolation. Not surprising, during those first six months of marriage I was riddled with night terrors, an anxiety I had never known before, and I developed difficulty sleeping.
I know there are skeptics who don’t believe in video game addiction. Yet many studies compare the attributes of other sorts of addicts to those who excessively play video games: the compulsion, the need to escape from reality, the isolation, failed jobs and marriages, health problems, depression.
I know I am not alone. I can’t be. According to an article published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine in 2009, the average video game enthusiast is a 35-year-old man. The Internet is full of chat rooms for “gaming widows” and 12-step programs for video gamers.
The reality is I am living in the same circle of shame and madness as someone married to an alcoholic. If we have to attend social events or have obligatory family time, like birthdays or outings, and they run too long, my husband becomes irritable and anxious, desperate to return to the battlefield. I am constantly making excuses for why he drove separately and is leaving early, or more commonly, why he didn’t show up at all.
My time at home includes all the household duties, and I am solely responsible for all the bath time, bedtime, snack time, dressing, undressing, boo-boo kissing, cuddling and correcting that comes from having a home full of children. All the while cannons and gunfire are blasting from my basement. When my children were younger, I was uncomfortable leaving the house because time and time again I would return to find them unsupervised, while my husband, wearing gaming headphones, was enthralled with a mission. I have prayed, I have begged, I have bargained. We have been to counselors separately and apart. My circumstances remain unchanged.
Some may ask me why I stay. I stay because I said I would. I stood on an altar and said in sickness and in health. I am actually not that different from you. You may live with a workaholic, an alcoholic, someone who is hopelessly self-serving or someone who just doesn’t get you at all. We all have our crosses. And this is my test: Will I rise above, or will I be sucked into a life of wishing my life was different, making comparisons and falling into despair?
Somewhere between losing my mind and living in denial, I chose to accept my circumstances and not let my husband’s faults take my life too. I have taken control of what I can control: my own happiness. I have found new interests, started running and playing soccer, and I find joy in planning fun outings for my children so I don’t miss what he does — the many little and simple moments that make life fabulous. And with that, I discovered that I have the greatest weapon to self-doubt and misery: my faith.
Because with faith, comes hope. Hope for change, hope for rebirth. With each dawning day I give my family to the Blessed Mother and ask for the strength and perseverance of St. Monica. Although often thought of in light of her role in the conversion of her wayward son, St. Augustine, St. Monica lived with an erratic, unfaithful and verbally abusive husband. Her prayers for him were unrelenting, and eventually successful, as he converted on his deathbed. Because of this the Church has given us to her as the patron saint of difficult marriages and alcoholics. She is the patron saint of my marriage too.
I love my husband. My life is not devoid of great moments. Through faithfulness and prayer, God continues to bless me with glimpses of who I married and reminders of what he could be. My message to those of you in similar challenging and often hidden situations is hope. Because our God is a good and faithful God, he can change the hardest of hearts and can never be outdone in his generosity.
[Editor’s Note: Take the poll – Video Game Addiction — Is This a Real Thing?]