You guys ask the best questions! There are things about our marriage that we think are humdrum… our pet names for each other (Goose and Chother), our go-to dinners (Spaghetti and Taco Bowls), where we keep the toaster (in the pantry like normal people). This is the stuff we both know and have taken for granted at this point in our ten (plus) years of marriage. These are things we don’t think would matter to anyone else’s marriage. But then, there you go, asking your questions, and we realize that something that feels insignificant to us might be causing frustration or confusion for you.
I received an email recently from a husband who listened to The #staymarried Podcast and picked up on one of these seemingly insignificant details of our marriage and he wanted to know more about it. He asked…
“How do you manage playing computer games in your marriage, especially with kids?
My wife and I have been married for two years, with our first child due any day now. We all know that computer games can often be quite absorbing, if not downright addictive at times, so how do you balance family life with playing games?”
FINALLY! Something I can talk about! If you’ve been around #staymarried for a while, you know that Michelle does the bulk of the writing. She’s good at it. She reads a lot and thinks about these big marriage concepts like conflict and communication, blah blah blah. But, this guy asked about VIDEO GAMES. This one’s mine!
This topic can seem juvenile, especially to people who don’t play video games. However, as Michelle and I dug into the idea, we realized that the answer to this guy’s question could really apply to any hobby that requires any type of commitment. So, if you’re not a gamer, maybe you love soccer or softball, maybe you’re in a band, or you’ve committed to a team of other volunteers at a soup kitchen. Some of these hobbies may appear to have more intrinsic value to the outside world – it’s good for your health… it’s noble to serve others… but his question isn’t about which hobby he should have. He is asking about something specific that he enjoys – video games.
So, before I answer directly, I did some bad math for myself… it goes like this…
168 hours in a week – 40 hours for a career = 128 – 56 hours for sleep = 72 hours per week of “free time”
If my priorities are…
… and 1 & 2 are really almost a tie, then I should split up the remainder of my free time something like 40/40/20… or maybe 50/40/10
This means out of 72 hours…
- Husband (36hr): this is 5 hours a day of teamwork, talking, relaxing, helping, listening
- Dad (28.8hr): this is 4 hours a day of playing, teaching, talking, listening, disciplining, cleaning
- Friend (7.2hr): this is 1 hour a day of gaming, chilling, playing guitar, nothing
We’ve got seven hours a week that we should be enjoying ourselves. All of us.
Admittedly, the math is no good. The different roles I have in my life overlap and spill into each other, and most weeks I work more than 40 hours and sleep less than 56, and I don’t stop being a dad while I’m being a husband. But, work with me on this. You’ve got seven hours in your week, and so do I, and we should absolutely be taking those seven hours to do whatever we enjoy without feeling guilty about it.
My wife spends her seven hours with her friends, or writing, or watching her new favorite show on Netflix – The Great British Baking Show. I spend mine playing video games, or playing guitar, or alone in a movie theater because STAR WARS.
Listen, if you don’t have a thing that you enjoy outside of your marriage and family, go get your thing. If you feel like your life just drones on and on, every day is the same and you’ve just got to get through it, then I’d say you’re not really living. Life is meant to be enjoyed! I happen to enjoy 99.9% of my life, and I think that is in large part because I make time for things that serve no real purpose other than FUN!
But, let’s go back a bit… How do I manage it with my wife and kids? Here are the three things that make it work for us: courtesy, transparency, and appropriate priority.
3 Ways to Keep your Hobbies and Your Marriage
For me, there was a time when, if I felt like playing League Of Legends, I would head into my office and launch a game… that simple. This is no longer the case and I KNOW it’s better this way. Now, if I feel like playing LOL, I’ll say to Michelle “what do you think if I head into the office for an hour or so and play a couple rounds of my game?” and the answer is usually “of course!” If not, it’s usually, “The baby is about to wake up and I’ll need the extra hand getting dinner ready, so can it wait until after the girls go to sleep tonight?”
Admittedly, I’m NOT the best at knowing or realizing all of the things on my wife’s mind. I don’t think about all of the moving parts of our family life the same way she does. She is sort of always anticipating what’s next and I am sort of always winging it. So, for me to checkout without consulting her first can feel like abandonment to her, even though for me it’s as simple as wanting to play a video game. In short, I ask first. It’s courteous.
This is also known as honesty. If I know it takes me 45 minutes to play a round of LOL and I tell Michelle I’ll be playing for 15 minutes because I know she’s more likely to say yes to me being occupied for a shorter amount of time… that’s lying. I’ve had my fair share of all-nighters… LAN parties is what we called them in the 2000’s. If I have the itching to pull an all-nighter (Michelle is going to think me a huge nerd), she’ll say YES so much quicker with some advance notice. It’s not really gonna fly if I pop it on her at 3pm that I’ve got a game to log into at 7pm that’ll last 5+ hours. I’d suggest at LEAST 2 days in advance for long sessions. And I would limit those large-block games to a couple/few times per month (more in the next section). In short, be honest about what you’d like to do and how long it’ll take.
Now, again, maybe you’re not into video games but you want to take a hunting or golfing trip for the weekend. I think that’s weird, but I’m not going to judge you for it. I’m just saying that any time you know you’ll be taking a significant amount of time away from your family, you should be honest and realistic about it. And, go back to the first point, remember to be courteous.
3. Appropriate Priority
Those of us who game know that it seems silly to the outside world that our video game team is counting on us… It’s no use trying to explain it to someone who’s never experienced that level or kind of comradery. So let’s use any of the other examples: you’re a drummer in a band. The world seems to understand that drummers need to practice (one or two times per week is probably good), and the world seems to understand that if there is a gig that the drummer NEEDS TO BE THERE… It’s not something they can “skip this time.” Or, if you’re a pitcher on a softball team, it’s the same story… kinda need to practice – kinda need to be at the games. But people scoff at video game teams. We’re not gonna change that.
But it doesn’t matter because the answer is the same for all the examples… drumming, pitching, and gaming should always be secondary to your family, period.
First, this does NOT mean to put all hobbies or activities you enjoy in a holding pattern while you’re with your partner! That is NOT the answer. Not even close. But it does mean that the 6 – 8 hours a day that you used to be able to commit to a game, you can no longer sustain and hold an IRL relationship with an IRL person.
I still game, but way WAY less than I used to. And you know what, I don’t miss it as much as I thought I would. These days, I only play League Of Legends on the PC… and I only do that maybe twice a week in 2 hour stints. I’m not part of a clan, and I don’t play with IRL friends who are counting on me anymore. I still play (Master Yi, level 30) and have tons of fun, but I’m not trying to climb the ranks. I’m not trying to make a career out of it. I’m not training for any tournaments. However, I AM trying to be the best husband, dad, friend, and employee I can be. I didn’t used to be three of those four… I was just a friend… and that meant being there for my gaming friends. But now I am all of those things, and they are listed in my proper order of priority.
Bottom line: I’m still playing video games over ten years into our marriage mainly because I’m not a jerk to my wife about it
If I weren’t courteous, thoughtful about the reality of our life with kids and all it takes to manage our family life… If I weren’t transparent with her about what I wanted to do and how long it will take… If I made gaming a higher priority than my wife and kids, there would no doubt be conflict and tension in my marriage over gaming. But, there isn’t. My wife has never complained that I’m on my computer too much. If she did, I would take it seriously and reevaluate these three major areas…
Am I being courteous?
Am I being transparent?
Have I got everything in proper priority?
Yes, marriage is work, we talk about that all the time. But, life is meant to be enjoyed, and when we find something we have fun doing, we need to make time and give each other time to do it so that we can #staymarried.
The #staymarried Book
The #staymaried Book is a 52 Week Couples Devotional, each chapter exploring how our faith works together with our everyday lives and with relationship research to give a fuller picture of how we can create a marriage that doesn’t simply last, but fulfills our lives and helps us pursue our dreams. Find out more about the book here.
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Interested in more posts like this? You might like…
♥ Six Conversations Every Couple Must Have
♥ Does Marriage Really Have to be Hard Work?
♥ Ask #staymarried: How do I help my husband now that he’s out of work and depressed?
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