She told me she felt alone.
Even though her boyfriend was home every night, instead of out at the bars like her friend’s partners, she had the sense that he was millions of miles away.
Her boyfriend was playing video games.
She’d come home late from work or the gym and he’d be locked in their apartment’s spare bedroom muttering below his breath and tapping away at the controller. I’d only asked my childhood friend “how have you been?” and that somehow ended with “All my boyfriend does is play video games”.
Neither she nor I said it directly. But she painted a picture of obsession. She implied that her boyfriend was addicted to video games.
He is not the only one.
Currently, there are over 2.5 billion, active gamers in the world. That’s more than any country on Earth. It’s about the population of North America, Europe, and Africa… Combined. And all of these gamers, on average, are playing for more than an hour a day, according to Forbes.
Do you and your boyfriend do anything together for an hour every day?
Remember, You Are Not Alone.
Each of the 2.5 billion gamers has some ties to someone else. Many of these gamers are fathers, brothers, sons, colleagues, friends, and significant others of people who belong to the non-gaming, 5 billion strong populace.
The group that doesn’t engage in video games is nearly double that of those who play. And they’re connected.
A quick Internet search will reveal countless forums and support groups for spouses and children of gamers. The number of members in these groups is only growing.
Your boyfriend is still in there somewhere.
When I told my friend this, she joked that it was only because she had really good WiFi. In jest, I could see how insecure she felt in the situation.
She was left thinking “my boyfriend plays video games and ignores me”.
But he was still doing the task of sticking around. Addiction rewires the brain so, to him, he probably didn’t even realize how she felt or that he was neglecting their relationship.
In Robert Greene’s book, “The Laws of Human Nature” he lays out the thought process of your boyfriend’s addiction:
“…because of the pleasure principle and its unconscious influence, we manage to find the evidence that confirms what we want to believe.”“The Laws of Human Nature” by Robert Greene
Due to his enjoyment of playing and her not voicing her concerns, he might have convinced himself that he’s a dutiful boyfriend who has earned the right to continue playing.
How Can You Determine If Your Boyfriend is Addicted to Video Games?
Here is a quick, simple relationship audit (answer “yes” or “no” and then tally the answers) you can do to assess the level of video game dependency and obsession:
- My boyfriend plays video games instead of talking to me
- My boyfriend plays video games the majority of nights during the week
- My boyfriend spends more time playing video games than activities we do together
- My boyfriend locks themselves in a room to play video games
- My boyfriend chooses video games over being intimate with me
- My boyfriend no longer participates in non-video game activities he once loved
- My boyfriend no longer takes breaks to eat meals and continues to play while eating
While there is no definitive number of “yes” answers that indicate a clinical diagnosis, the higher number of “yes” answers suggests an unhealthy relationship.
Recommendations To Get Your Boyfriend Back From The Screen
Avoid the “A” word.
The formal idea of video games being an activity which can be habit-forming is relatively new. It wasn’t until 2018 that the World Health Organization even recognized Gaming Disorder as a disease. As this is still a relatively new field, using the word “addiction” may put your boyfriend in a defensive position making further conversation difficult.
It Takes A Village.
Reach out to his family and friends and see if they also notice his problematic relationship with video games. The greater the severity in the affliction, more likely they are also on board with wanting to help your boyfriend. Remember, they are missing him, too.
His friends want their buddy back.
His parents want their son back.
Working as a team can share the burden and increase the effectiveness as your boyfriend is hearing feedback from a variety of people he loves and respects. Don’t be afraid to involve a relationship therapist, if needed.
Choose Your Battles.
You can’t expect him to quit cold turkey. The brain rewires and adapts to the endorphins and other gratification he gets from gaming and that will have to be slowly tapered off to avoid negative reactions (i.e. arguments, emotional unavailability, etc.). Make a plan as to when you want to have “couple time” and when it is ok for him to play video games.
FOMO over Fortnite.
This will require a bit of creativity on your part. Plan activities to do together that are really fun and engaging to replace the pleasure of video games.
Does he like video games with puzzles?Take him to an Escape Room.
Does he like action games? Take him to play paintball.
Does he like games with expansive maps? Take him on a walking tour of a city or park.
The important thing is that, whatever you choose, it’s mutually enjoyable. Make him look forward to the next outing more than the next game.
Should I Stay or Should I Go?
If you feel you have exhausted every option and/or you have reached your limit to what you can do, you should consider the future of the relationship. No one should be in a situation where they don’t feel valued and prioritized by their partner.
But remember, this is YOUR choice.
You can’t give your partner an ultimatum because, if you’ve reached this stage, they have already chosen video games.
Every relationship is unique, but they all share a common bond of mutual respect and commitment. When your boyfriend places a preference for video games over maintaining those principles, it can do lasting damage to your relationship.
Having the feeling that “my boyfriend would rather play video games than be with me” is not fun nor something you have to allow. Taking steps to address the issue sooner, rather than later, is vital because avoiding or ignoring it won’t make it go away.