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Dear Carolyn

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

DEAR CAROLYN: My spouse recently started playing a computer game again. I really don’t mind my spouse playing these games, but I feel like it is starting to interfere with our life and my happiness (I know that sounds selfish). The playing starts sometimes right after dinner, and when I try to ask for help with bath/bedtime for our three young children, I get snippy replies back. When one of our kids tries to get attention, the kids get an equally snippy response.

The gaming goes on sometimes until 1 or 2 a.m., and then when morning rolls around and we are both trying to get to work, I am the one who dresses and feeds the kids. I sometimes get a shower.

Since spouse is too tired from staying up so late, I am the one always up early on the weekends, too. It is really wearing me down.

I talked about it one evening and said I thought the game was more important than me, and things got better for a few days, but now it’s back to the same old routine.

I don’t want to be a nag, I know we all need our “me” time, but aside from deciding to leave since I basically do it all on my own anyway, I am at a loss as to where to start this conversation again.

– Spouse

“I really don’t mind my spouse playing these games”; “(I know that sounds selfish)”; I try to ask for help”; “I don’t want to be a nag, I know we all need our ‘me’ time”?!?!?!?

Oh, my goodness.

Please find a good, reputable therapist to help you figure out why you’ve shouldered two adult workloads and you’re the one feeling apologetic.

At the same time, you need to have a sit-down, kids-are-with-a-sitter conversation: The game must go. You will not stand for being the only one who cares about and for the kids.

This will require you not to stand for it, though, so don’t have this conversation until you’re ready to pack up his stuff.

Forget the whole “the game was more important than me” line of reasoning; your spouse is also neglecting kids, home, self, life. To Spouse, the game is more important than everything. You wouldn’t be saying “You’re entitled to your ‘me’ time” if Spouse were drinking from after dinner to the wee hours, and sleeping it off every morning while you took care of the kids.

Spouse is behaving like an addict, so you need to proceed accordingly. Assuming Spouse otherwise has a history of being good to you, you can offer a last chance: “Prove to me you want to limit this to an hour a day, after the kids are in bed, and I’ll back off.” If Spouse can’t do that, then it’s time to recognize that Spouse is not entitled to bring this life-wrecker into the home you share. Period.

If Spouse refuses to quit, then you bring Spouse to counseling (if s/he’ll go) and start preparing yourself for a single-parent life (either way).

Don’t skip the part about solo counseling. You’ll need a clear sense of who you are and how things got this far before taking all of it on.

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