Three Ways to Avoid Becoming Another Gaming Widow

6 min read
Erik McClean / Unsplash

Erik McClean / Unsplash

Many people come to therapy when they feel like their partner’s gaming habit is spilling into their quality relationship time. They may say:

  • “My partner often plays video games for several hours every day, and I’ve been feeling neglected and lonely because of this.”
  • “Why do I always have to ask him to pause his game every time I need to talk to him? I feel like he enjoys his console’s company more than mine.”
  • “It seemed like a hobby at first, but now his excessive gaming concerns me to the point that I’m scared for our future.”

A study published in the Journal of Leisure Research found that married women with partners who game excessively—or gaming widows—had less satisfaction in their marriage due to arguments, negative feelings toward addictive gaming behavior and not going to bed at the same time as their partner.

If you find yourself struggling to spend quality time with a partner who games excessively, here are some tips to strike a balance in your relationship.

1. Have an Open and Honest Conversation

When you’re discussing your concerns about your partner’s gaming habits, it’s essential to be honest and open with one another regarding your feelings and needs. Here are some thought-starters:

  1. Use “I” statements. Using “I” statements is a great way to express your concerns without coming across as accusatory. For instance, instead of saying, “You spend too much time gaming and not enough time with me,” saying “I feel lonely when you spend so much time gaming” frames your concerns without making your partner feel guilty.
  2. Be specific and concrete. Describe the noxious behavior in specific terms. Try not to talk about their gaming in a general sense, but rather focus on the aspects of their gaming that bother you, like when they game, how long they game for, and how it makes you feel.
  3. Listen actively. After you’ve expressed your feelings, give your partner an opportunity to respond. Listen attentively to their perspective, and avoid interrupting or becoming defensive. Understanding their viewpoint regarding their love for their hobby is essential for finding common ground.
  4. Problem-solve together. Approach the conversation as a collaborative effort to find a solution. Brainstorm ideas together and be open to compromise. Ask questions like, “How can we make our relationship stronger while respecting your gaming interests?”

2. Set Boundaries Together

Setting boundaries is a crucial aspect of maintaining any healthy and balanced relationship, but it is especially important if you are dealing with a partner who spends an excessive amount of time gaming. Here are a few considerations:

  1. Identify your needs and limits. Take time to reflect on your own needs and limits before setting boundaries. How much quality time do you want to spend together each week? When do you think it’s important to be together? How much gaming time is acceptable to you? What behaviors during their gaming are unacceptable to you (for example, skipping meals, cursing)?
  2. Communicate clearly. After reflecting on your needs and limits, be clear about what you need and expect from the relationship. Be assertive and express your boundaries—for example, how many evenings a week you’d like to spend with them without distraction, when you feel it’s important to spend time together (for example, dinner every evening, dates every weekend), and when you’re okay with them gaming.
  3. Be consistent and respectful. Once you’ve established boundaries regarding your partner’s gaming and quality time, it’s crucial to stick to them and encourage your partner to do the same. Consistency helps create a sense of security and predictability in the relationship. Just as you expect your partner to respect your boundaries, be sure to respect theirs as well. This promotes fairness and mutual understanding in the relationship.

3. Explore Shared Interests Together

Exploring interests that both you and your partner share can be a fun and exciting way to strengthen your bond while also creating meaningful memories together outside of the gaming hobby. Here are some ways to get started:

  1. Identify common interests. Start by identifying activities or interests that both you and your partner enjoy or have expressed curiosity about. These can be hobbies, sports, arts and crafts, outdoor activities, or anything else that piques your mutual interest.
  2. Take turns choosing activities. Encourage a balanced approach to exploring shared interests by taking turns choosing activities. This way, both you and your partner can have a say in what you do together, making it more enjoyable for both.
  3. Learn together. If you’re both new to a particular interest or activity, take the opportunity to learn together. Consider enrolling in classes or workshops related to your shared interests as it can be a fun bonding experience to explore something new as a team.
  4. Create goals and challenges. Set achievable goals or challenges related to your shared interests. This can add an element of excitement and motivation to your activities. For example, if you both enjoy hiking, set a goal to conquer a particular trail or mountain. You can also celebrate milestones and achievements in your shared interests together. Acknowledge each other’s progress and successes, no matter how small they may seem.

Research shows that one of the simplest ways to bond with a partner who is an avid gamer is to show interest in their hobby in the same way you’d like them to show interest in yours. As long as it is done in a balanced and healthy way, gaming with your partner can be a fantastic way to blow off steam, spend quality time together, and even improve your teamwork and cooperation.

Games like It Takes Two, KeyWe, and Unravel Two are just a few of the many great games designed for couples who are keen to co-op, all of which require collaboration and coordination, and may result in tears of laughter.


Navigating a relationship with a passionate gamer requires open communication, strong boundaries, and exploring new and existing interests together. By doing so, couples can find a harmonious balance that allows both partners to thrive, fostering a deeper and lasting connection.

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