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My boyfriend's spending all his time playing video games and pays no attention to me. How can I get him back?
By Cait Robinson
Have a question? Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters may be edited for length, content, and clarity.
Dear Miss Information,
My boyfriend and I have been together for three years. I thought that he might be the one, but lately we've grown apart because he has become totally obsessed with video games. Every night when he gets home from work, all he wants to do is play video games, and he stays up until two or three a.m. every night to play, instead of coming to bed with me. It is killing our relationship and our sex life. I love him, but he seems unwilling to give up on his games even though I've voiced my displeasure. I don't want to dump him, but it's seeming increasingly like that's the only solution. What can I do?
— The Legend of Zelda
This is actually a common problem. The video games in this situation are almost immaterial; they're placeholders, a kind of numbing mechanism. So many of us have mechanisms like that. Sitting down in front of marathons of Queer as Folk or falling asleep with your face in the blue glow of Netflix: these are distractions to keep us from our own mental processes. It's human. It happens. But hopefully, it doesn't cause us to self-destruct or push away our loved ones.
The good news is that your boyfriend's gaming isn't by any means unusual. The real question is its extremity: why does he prioritize games over his relationships? It may be that he's going through trouble at work, and the achievement-based linearity of video games makes him feel better about himself. It may be that his self-esteem is fragile and, rather than live in his head, he wants something to distract him. It may also be that video games help him unwind, and he gets so absorbed that he doesn't think of the harm they're doing.
You say that this is a "recent" change, which bodes well; it may be a simple phase, rather than some disagreeable new shift in priorities. In figuring out what's really going on, a conversation can do wonders. So ask him about it. Start by telling him that you feel neglected and that the distance is harming your relationship. Tell him you want him back in the concrete, non-magical world. Then listen and support, but hold him to it.
While excessive gaming seems like a silly reason to break off a three-year-old union, if he's unable or unwilling to shift his energies back into the relationship, then the issue is bigger than just Dead Rising. Kindly and non-judgmentally remind him that there are castles in the real-world that need securing, too.
Dear Miss Info,
I've been on-and-off dating a girl for a little over a year now. She's younger than me and still in school, whereas I graduated a few years ago and am now living in New York City. I know I love her, but she's got two more years left of school before she graduates. Meanwhile I've got a career, friends my own age, and places to go on weekends. It seems wrong to break up when everything is going well, but the next two years of her life will be spent on a campus, and that life is behind me. Every time I visit her, I feel like I'm regressing, and I think she can sense it. Is the fact that I'm older and want to experience new things reason enough to break up with her?
Far be it from me to tell you whether to break up — people certainly have made trickier situations work. But, relationships can only work when they support your growth, not hinder it. The last two years of college are fairly intensely formative years, and so are the young-professional-in-a-new-town years, as I'm sure you're well aware.
In general, I'm a pretty big advocate of the Airplane Emergency approach to relationships: stabilize yourself first, then help the person closest to you. (Note: Bag may not inflate, even though oxygen is flowing.) Your admission that you "want to experience new things" is the most telling part here. While a collegiate/post-collegiate romance is certainly possible, it sounds like your dedication to the idea is wavering. Which is fine! But that's a voice you should listen to. It brings us back to the idea of not sacrificing yourself at the altar of "making a relationship work" If you know you want new experiences, but you suppress that so as not to rock the boat, it will only work for so long before those desires fester into resentment.
Do some soul-searching and see what feels most honest to you. Ultimately, the most honest choice is the best choice for this relationship. And in fact, your girlfriend may be feeling some version of these concerns, too. Talk to her and see where things go.