By Douglas Stewart
Lydia, my wife, walked into the room just as I was sitting down to compose my next article. “Hey,” I said, “how interested would you be in writing about games?” She flashed me a wicked smile and replied, “Oh, I’ve got some things to say!” A few minutes later she was sitting across the table furiously typing on her laptop with a mischievous grin on her face. As the clacking of her keyboard progressed I would occasionally hear her laugh and would occasionally hear her mutter under her breath. “Hmm,” I thought, “I wonder what game topic is evoking such a range of emotions.” It should have come as no surprise that she was writing about me…
A Word From the Wife of a Gamer
By Lydia Stewart
Let me begin by describing a cartoon I recently saw. It depicted a woman with a smug look on her face as she was holding a sprinkler hose out of a second story window. In the window directly below, through the blur of the downpour, you see a clearly disappointed man (her husband) holding a golf bag full of clubs watching the “rain” destroy his afternoon plans. This cartoon made me laugh, but after some pondering, it turned into nervous laughter. Was that lady me? Am I going to those lengths to prevent my husband from doing something he enjoys? I’m grateful that I can say with confidence that it is not me, but there was a time when it absolutely was.
Doug and I both have very strong personalities, and are a classic case of “opposites attract.” In fact, I distinctly remember telling my friends as a teenager that one of my qualifications for a future husband was that he couldn't be into video games. Bwahaha! Of course he only wanted to be around me when we were dating, so I had no idea what I was getting into. It didn’t take long to find out that a “gamer” was exactly what I had landed.
I am sadly reminded of lonely nights crying into my pillow while my new husband's face reflected the computer screen glow. I recall making a yummy meal and him saying he couldn’t leave his group because they were on a raid in World of Warcraft. I wanted to overturn his computer desk just like the spunky Milly did in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers with their dinner table. “Ya gonna act like hogs, ya gonna eat like hogs.” (If you haven’t seen it, you should definitely take a break from your game to watch, you uncultured swine.) I really began to resent his gaming habits. It felt personal, like I wasn’t enough.
(This is painful for me to read, but she is absolutely right. There was a period in the earlier years of our marriage when I was addicted to World of Warcraft…Something I am still incredibly embarrassed by. I have repented, I assure you! Also, she’s right about Seven Brides for Seven Brothers…if you haven’t seen it…why???)
Over time, I discovered that the more I complained, cut off his time, or tried to control his habits, the more he started to resent me. He loves strategy. He loves beautiful art combined with a strong story. He loves escaping to a different world. For a long time I couldn’t understand that very well. “The real world is so great,” I would think, “why would you ever want to leave? Why don’t we go for a nice hike in the mountains?” These days, he just smiles at me, pulls out a game like Parks, and together, we take a nice trek along the cardboard path collecting National Parks. As we send our pastel meeples down the trail to collect sunshine and rainbows, we are getting much closer to “marital bliss,” and that’s something I am proud of!
(I do love escaping into a good board game, but Lydia has really taught me the importance of exploring the real world and not letting important moments pass by unattended. She has to be patient sometimes, but I love her for helping me find balance.)
It’s taken us some effort to get to this point, and like most marriages, it takes a little time to “figure each other out.” Even now, this man of mine is having to re-evaluate his habits and game collection, resulting in selling several unplayed games and curbing his spending budget to meet some united financial goals we have. That said, I am very grateful for the transition he has made from computer games to board games. It has turned into a hobby that our whole family loves. The longer we are married, the closer we get to striking that perfect balance with each other.
(I wrote about this back in January, but I’m taking a whole different approach to gaming and game collecting this year…It’s been good for my marriage!)
There is give-and-take in a good marriage. So rather than going to the trouble of hauling a hose up the stairs to “rain on his parade,” just consider picking up a golf club… no… not for knocking him out, but for trying something he enjoys. I’m still not perfect at this. I still consistently announce (in a slightly annoyed tone) to anyone that visits “Doug’s Institute of Gaming” that I “am a very patient wife” as they stare at our wall to wall game collection. Instead of trying to change the hobbies and interests of a spouse, I believe we will find a lot more joy in the journey when we take time to be genuinely interested in something they love.
(She is patient…very, very patient)
Douglas has made this much easier for me by finding games with themes or mechanics that he knows I will enjoy. He has gotten ridiculously good at drawing me in with the game art. I still consider myself a pretty light gamer. My favorites games are still the party games and the lighter “gateway” games, but over the years, I’ve come to appreciate a well crafted game and can even push myself with an occasional longer game… as long as the player count isn’t too high. I’ve enjoyed attending occasional conventions with him, and we both love hosting parties with gaming friends. I’m grateful that he has been patient with me, and hasn’t pushed me too hard. I have found that as I’ve made this effort to share his interests, he meets me halfway as we go for walks, try new restaurants, or attend concerts and art galleries together.
My advice to both the “gamer” and the “annoyed spouse” is to be patient with each other. Give a little and meet each other halfway. There are so many board games in the world that I really do believe there is a game out there for everyone. Keep searching for that overlap. I never would have dreamed I’d be saying that some of my favorite moments with my husband have been our date nights playing games together. I love seeing his excitement at opening a new game, his confidence teaching me, or his look of shock when I dominate him… which happens more often than you might think. I like winning. Happy wife, happy life. Happy man, when there’s no ban!
(She completes me!)