I’m supposed to be at the perfect point in my life. I have a wonderful nice home in a nice neighborhood. My husband and I both have new cars. Finances are stable. I have a teenager from a previous marriage, and my husband and I have a toddler. Sure there are the normal ups and downs of real life, and I can keep that all in perspective. But there’s something that’s really bothering me, and I’m not sure what to do.
My husband, who is very sweet, and smart, and funny, is spending all his time with “his mistress” ...the computer, and his buddies who are doing the same thing. He is completely wrapped up in an online game. He works his eight-hour day, then comes home and gets straight on the computer. He takes breaks for dinner and/or to go out to dinner, and will occasionally (rarely) take an evening off, but sometimes, he’ll just fix a plate and take it back into the office. This has been going on for years.
I try so hard to be understanding and supportive. I understand the game and its dynamics. I understand why he enjoys it so, and the interaction he gets with his friends. I remind myself that at least he’s not out doing drugs or gambling, or worse. But I miss our intimacy. We only manage to have “marital relations” a couple of times a month. He stays up late playing his game, and I go to sleep after I get the kids to bed.
My teen resents his playing because she gets stuck will all the chores, and “he never does anything.” My toddler, whenever he doesn’t know where daddy is, automatically runs to the office to see if he’s there. My husband is uncomfortable taking care of the toddler because he’s deferred the caretaking almost completely to me since he was born. He loves his son, but just doesn’t spend much time with him and doesn’t know how to take care of him. He’s getting better, and is making a conscious effort to spend more time with him. But if anything ever happened to me, I don’t know how well they’d fare.
And me...I feel like the housekeeper/nanny most of the time. We do communicate. We talk about it. Though dropping hints and being subtle doesn’t work with him (sometimes it almost takes a brick-to-the-head for him to get the point). He knows what he’s doing. I quite often joke (but not really joking) about being a computer widow. If/when I have an emotional breakdown, he will take a little time off, to smooth my ruffled feathers, but then he’s right back to it. But, I won’t / can’t / don’t want to ask him to give up a hobby that he enjoys so much.
So, do I continue on, status quo, with my husband playing a bit-part in the production that is our family? Do I try to find fulfillment for myself by finding my own hobby that includes my kids? Do I take what I can get from him and try to be happy?
Signed, Lonely in a Full House
Regarding the questions in your last paragraph: no, no, and most emphatically no.
Your husband wants to have a wife and kids who take care of themselves, and then are there for him when he wants to take a few minutes to participate. Basically he is still living the single life. This is extremely selfish, irresponsible and dysfunctional to a large degree.
You have had a role in creating and propagating this problem too. You have enabled this imbalance by acting as if it’s okay, by doing the chores and the childcare and making it possible for him to act like this. You drop hints and make jokes, and based on that mild reaction he assumes what he is doing is okay.
It is not okay. It is a long, long way from okay. He is ignoring his duties as a husband and father. He is being selfish and irresponsible. Games and other hobbies have a place in life, but that is to enrich our spare time with entertaining diversions. A responsible adult takes care of life’s necessities first and THEN plays. Heck, we even teach our kids to do their homework before they can play. Your husband still hasn’t learned that basic life lesson.
To put it bluntly, you need to grow a backbone and insist he finds a better balance in his life. He needs to grow up and realize that his wife and children should rank WAY higher in importance than any game, any friend, any diversion. He has life completely backwards, and you are letting him get away with it.
And here’s the thing. You already knew all of this.
My guess is you have a long history of avoiding conflict. You’d rather suffer in silence than ruffle feathers. You need to stop doing that in this instance. The price is too high, and it’s not just you paying the price. If things continue on as they are, your marriage will be little more than a hollow shell. It may not survive - relationships need effort and time and attention. Your children will have no relationship at all with their absentee father. That means you bear the cost; your kids and your husband will as well ... he just doesn’t realize it at this point.
The solution: Be honest. Tell him you need more. Tell him the kids need more. Tell him he is being irresponsible, that his life balance is way off, that he needs to grow up and treat you and the kids as important, and the game as merely a nice diversion if and when he has time to fit it in.
He doesn’t have to give up the game. Most people find time for extracurricular activities. He just needs to find a better balance. The two of you need to work out a schedule when he can take some time for the game, but he needs to put the family first.
Sure he’ll pout and complain and say it’s not fair and you don’t understand and you’re being unreasonable and on and on...
So what? That’s just the price you need to pay to go from a dysfunctional situation to a functioning family that includes a participative father. You need to stick to your guns, knowing you are right.
He’ll say that’s not enough time for the game. Baloney. He takes time off to go to work, so he can take time off for his family obligations as well.
Hopefully once he becomes more involved he’ll realize what he’s been missing and be glad of the change. But that will take time. Be strong in the meantime because your family needs a champion right now, and that’s got to be you.
My guess is you’ll think, “Oh my gosh that’ll be SO hard to do!” Yes it will, but it’s necessary and it’ll be worth it. Good luck!
All the best,