Carolyn Hax: Spouse is behaving like an addict

Carolyn Hax:

August 19, 2013 

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: My spouse recently started playing a computer game again. I really don’t mind my spouse playing these games, but I feel like it is starting to interfere with our life and my happiness (I know that sounds selfish). The playing starts sometimes right after dinner and when I try to ask for help with bath/bedtime for our three young children, I get snippy replies back. When one of our kids tries to get attention, the kids get an equally snippy response.

The gaming goes on sometimes until 1 or 2 a.m., and then when morning rolls around and we are both trying to get to work, I am the one who dresses and feeds the kids.

I talked about it one evening and said I thought the game was more important than me, and things got better for a few days, but now it’s back to the same old routine.

I don’t want to be a nag, I know we all need our “me” time, but aside from deciding to leave since I basically do it all on my own anyway, I am at a loss as to where to start this conversation again.

SPOUSE

“I really don’t mind my spouse playing these games”; “(I know that sounds selfish)”; I try to ask for help”; “I don’t want to be a nag, I know we all need our ‘me’ time”?!?!?!?

Oh my goodness.

Please find a good, reputable therapist to help you figure out why you’ve shouldered two adult workloads and you’re the one feeling apologetic.

At the same time, you need to have a sit-down, kids-are-with-a-sitter conversation: The game must go. You will not stand for being the only one who cares about and for the kids.

Spouse is behaving like an addict, so you need to proceed accordingly. Assuming Spouse otherwise has a history of being good to you, you can offer a last chance: “Prove to me you want to limit this to an hour a day, after the kids are in bed, and I’ll back off.” If Spouse can’t do that, then it’s time to recognize that Spouse is not entitled to bring this life-wrecker into the home you share. Period.

Email tellme@washpost.com. Chat online at 10 a.m. Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.

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