This morning I published a post on video games, and after reading it some more and listening to the commenters I don’t like it. I tried to write an update, but I had too much I wanted to say, so I thought that I’d just write a new post.
For background, please go read the first post. Then come back.
Did you read it? Good. Now let’s continue.
I just don’t think I said properly what I was trying to say, and so I’d like to take another stab at it.
1. You Are Not Helpless
Seriously. I see so many women upset about their husbands playing video games, but they never DO anything about it.
And quite often I see Christian advice telling women not to say anything, and not to criticize, and he will come back.
The problem is that sometimes that works. But when it does, I don’t think it works because the woman did nothing; I think it works because God was working on the guy anyway, and so he came back, and then we say, “he came back BECAUSE I just loved him through it.” No, he probably would have come back anyway. And so I’d rather give what I believe is helpful Christian advice.
And here’s what I’d say: you aren’t helpless. If he’s on video games all the time, you don’t have to put up with it.
That doesn’t mean you become his conscience by nagging all the time, saying, “you’ve been on for 2 hours. Think what else you could have done in those two hours.” It doesn’t mean you stomp around the house and sigh and fuss. But it does mean that you can take some action. What should that action be?
Tell him how you feel. Say things like, “When you’re on video games all the time, I feel as if you don’t really want to be with me.” “When you say that you ‘unwind’ by playing video games, then what you’re saying is that you don’t find being with me relaxing. How would you feel if I decided to unwind by spending four hours ignoring you but talking to other people online everyday?” Or you can say, “I believe that God made you for a purpose. He made our family for a purpose. He wants us to be a light in this world. But video games are eating up so much of your time that we aren’t able to shine anywhere. Is this how you think you want to spend the a huge chunk of your life?”
These things are fine, legitimate, and good to say. On the other hand, calling him lazy or childish, or yelling at him, or accusing him of not loving you, or checking in on the time every so often isn’t helpful.
And saying those legitimate things when you’re angry and spitting them at him isn’t helpful, either.
So confront, yes. Nag, no. Be manipulative, no. Just be out in the open with how you feel. Own your feelings. Tell him what you think. Tell him what you’re scared of.
3. Fill Your Lives with Other Things
I truly think that people discount the value of this. It is awfully hard to be on video games all the time if you’re also helping out with the junior high at church. It’s hard to be on video games all the time if you’re taking a walk every night after dinner. It’s hard to be on video games all the time if you DO things.
One commenter on the earlier post said that they make it a habit to have her husband chauffeur the kids to lessons, because it gets him out of the house and away from the temptation. Great idea!
Here’s something else that works: have people over for dinner. Really.
If you invite another family for dinner, your husband is not going to play video games all night. He’s going to talk. And bring a board game out so that the four of you can all play a game after you’re finished eating.
Look, when someone is trying to quit alcohol, what’s the one thing they can’t do? They can’t have nothing to do for long periods of time. They can’t just sit at home. So they DO things. They go to meetings. They start volunteering. They get out of the house or away from the places and situations where they would normally game.
So DO stuff. I don’t care what stuff, but start arranging the calendar. Ask him where he wants to be involved in church, and start doing it. Ask people over for dinner and start playing board games.
But sitting back and telling him, “I want you to quit games” without also changing your life so that there’s something to replace it won’t work. You have to have something else to fill that hole so that he doesn’t feel the absence of them anymore.
This is what I was trying to say in my earlier post, but I didn’t say it firmly enough, so I want to make this very clear: you are not powerless. You can pick up a phone and ask friends to come over. You can talk to him about being involved in church. You don’t have to sit back and wait for him to change, hoping that prayer is all it takes.
God asks us to pray, but He has also already given you tools. And too often we women don’t use them because we don’t think that’s our role. We shouldn’t be “telling” our husbands what to do.
Well, we certainly shouldn’t be nagging them. We shouldn’t be their conscience, keeping tabs on them. But your husband is a child of God. And part of being in God’s family is that we confront and we try to help people avoid sin. And one way of avoiding a video game addiction is to have other things on your plate.
Honestly, what I’ve seen in so many families is that once the husband starts doing more things outside of the house that he enjoys, he starts to see on his own that video games were wasting his life.
4. Distinguish Between an Addiction and a Habit
Many guys play video games out of habit; they’re bored, so they play them, but they’ll do other things if the opportunity presents itself. These guys aren’t really addicted, and there’s nothing wrong with playing the occasional game, any more than there’s anything wrong with spending time on Pinterest. I have seen many women complain to no end about their husbands being “addicted” to video games when all they mean is that he plays for an hour or two on a Saturday morning when she wants him helping with the kids. That’s not right, either, but let’s be careful that we don’t name something an addiction when it’s not. It doesn’t help the marriage, and it makes him sound way worse than he is.
But when video games do migrate into the realm of addiction, where husbands play even when they don’t want to because it’s a compulsion, and they get withdrawal symptoms, then you have a much bigger problem. You may likely need outside help. So go to your church. Ask a friend or mentor to pray. Maybe even ask a mentor couple to talk to your husband with you.
A habit is easily broken; an addiction not so easily. But you must try. Sitting back and doing nothing isn’t the Christian, loving thing to do when we see a Christian brother going down a bad road.
I hope that clears things up. I wish I had written this one first, because it is how I really feel. I don’t think I expressed myself well earlier. Thanks for reading this update!