Dear Dr. Geek,
My Husband has been gaming too much ignoring the rest of us at the home. He started working from home recently and ever since then he has been video gaming more and more! I think he may be depressed or using it as an escape from reality, but it is making us feel like we are not worth his time. He won't come out of his room for meals unless everything is done to his specifications which means the table is set, everyone is there but him, and food is on the table. If we call him before that he becomes irritated. He doesn't think he games too much, but between working and then gaming, where is the time for us and his children? What can I do to help my family and get my husband back?!?
- Worried Wife
Dear Worried Wife,
It definitely sounds like you have a conundrum on your hands about the balancing of life! The first thing which may be helpful is to try to bring it up to him about how you and your children are feeling about him being in his room all the time. Try to use examples to help concretely get your point across as well. I would also suggest trying to use non-combative language and neutral ideas as sometimes when people are being asked to stop an activity they need to know they are not being "attacked" or "gaslighted." To me it sounds like letting him know how it is hurting the family at times and that your children want more father time could be very helpful. I can similarly say this happens often to myself at times when I get bogged down with work. What we end up doing is letting everyone know in the house how it is affecting each other and what we may need to change to feel more connection to one another. I would stay away from a formal intervention unless you have an experienced professional there to help you as the aforementioned forms of feeling attacked can easily spring up and cause the situation to become uncontrollable quickly. Balancing life, work, family time, and personal time can be quite difficult at times and a sign that there may be too much stress in the picture. Setting a solid daily, weekly, and even monthly schedule can be very useful in these circumstances and even help to reserve time for those moments when everyone needs a break.
Activities which may be of interest to everyone outside of the house could be helpful as well. Such as a faire, movies, or even walking around a park or arboretum. What I seem to read is that you want family interaction and him to be a part of the family. Game nights can bring these times together and also form a closer bond. If he is playing video games, there are many board games which have similar characteristics which can be quite enticing to play as a whole family.
Per your observation of depression, it may be tricky to get him to open up about it, but maybe some marriage counseling could be useful along with individual therapy for him and yourself to work out the difficulties you may both be experiencing. Therapy is very useful in helping work out difficult situations, gathering our own abilities, and focusing in on what the problem is and how to find a solution. Overall, depression can take on many forms and isolation and irritation can be one of the more difficult ones to deal with. If he is feeling stressed out, placing more stress on him will not work-it wouldn't work for anyone. However, by trying to find a solution, it may be that the stress can be mitigated and taken away by working on family activities and finding out what may be the root cause of the stress.
Hang in there and give these options a try!
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Dr. Anthony Bean is a Licensed Psychologist in Fort Worth, Texas specializing in video games, therapy, geekiness, and virtual worlds.