Don’t Blame Your Crappy Marriage On Video Games

Don’t Blame Your Crappy Marriage On Video Games

With every new day comes a new excuse for nasty people to crucify video games. This time it’s a study by researchers at Brigham Young University, as reported by U.S. News in a story today titled “Spouses Being Pushed Aside For Video Games” that claims gaming is ruining marriages.

The study surveys 349 couples, each of which has at least one spouse who plays a massively multiplayer online role-playing game like World of Warcraft or Eve Online. Sixty-five per cent of the respondents said they “fight with their husband or wife about gaming,” while 75 per cent say MMOs have “negatively affected their marriage.”

As US News writes:

The results confirmed what Neil Lundberg, one of the study’s authors, already suspected: “Gaming widows,” spouses who lose the attention of their significant other to gaming, aren’t happy with their marriages.

Even ignoring the absurdity and sexist implications of the term “gaming widows”, this is profoundly dumb. Correlation does not equal causation. Blaming the unhappiness in your marriage on video games is as silly as, well, blaming violence on video games.

Any happy couple will tell you that successful relationships are built on compromises, and if one member of that relationship can’t figure out how to balance his or her hobbies, that relationship is not going to work. Whether your vice of choice is World of Warcraft, fantasy football, or knitting, if you fall too deep into the rabbit hole of obsession, your personal life is going to suffer. Blame the person, not the game.

Buried later in the article is a less juicy morsel from the study, one that U.S. News must have not thought was spicy enough for its headline:

On the other hand, it seems like couples who play together, stay together: 74 per cent of couples who played MMORPGs together reported gaming as having a positive effect on their marriage.

“The take-home message is that doing things together, whether you’re video gaming or doing something else, is better than doing something apart,” Lundberg says. “This confirms the idea that doing things that create interaction and bonding is obviously going to strengthen a marriage.”

In other words, play video games with your significant other. Happy Valentine’s Day!


  • Video games saved me because of a terrible relationship.

    I suffered a terrible relationship for a long time (luckily I’m out now) and my time on World of Warcraft while not healthy, was the only thing keeping me together mentally.

    I don’t play WoW anymore, and my gaming time has cut down due to social and lifestyle changes however that direct focus with video games caused me to feel some kind of reward in what was a failed life & relationship.

    Funny how you’ll never see a news story about the positive effects of gaming.

    • You never see positive news stories on anything, unless it’s on Today Tonight/Current Affairs, where it’ll be talking about the positive effect of a product or service, aka a paid advert.

      • Or products, services and establishments that are owned or financed by friends and family of the channel executives and presenters as Media Watch so often points out.

  • Something like a WoW healer/damage PvP team is great for couples that have good communtication. My girlfriend and I used to play like this, and have many good memories of beating an overpowered combo/being outnumbered because we are both in the same room and could coordinate properly.

    I agree with what you have written, you can’t blame WoW for the bad relationship, you blame the person that decides that a video game is more important than their wife/husband. Video games don’t make that decision for them.

  • Totally agree.
    As we all know, the media can’t get enough of blaming video games for all life’s evils, including the destruction of the family unit.
    I often ask my significant other – tongue-in-cheek of course – whether she would prefer I spent every other night at the pub, drinkin’ wiv da boyz.

    • No one is blaming the game, it’s the selfishness of 1 person in a relationship that is the problem.
      Your tongue and cheek comment gives your partner a choice of 2 things, none of which they want, do you think its a fair call?
      If you prefer playing games and going to the pub “drinkin’ wiv da boyz” then why have a mrs?

      • I think the point is that people _are_ blaming games for a partner’s selfishness. And I agree the tongue-in-cheek remark of Booka’s does give two selfish choices, its the publicity that games get over other selfish behaviours such as the stereotype of going to the pub every night that is Booka’s point.

    • No, a majority of couples, and here’s the important bit, ‘that play together’ think it has had a positive effect. Moving along.

  • Whenever I’ve heard of or spoken to people about a specific hobby ‘causing’ a rift in a relationship, it’s usually symptomatic of a bigger problem. One that said hobby was a form of escaping from, or just trying to get some private time without the significant other or the problem itself.

    I mean sure, that’s not always the case, there are exceptions of course.
    But as someone else said, it’s about self control and compromise for both parties. If people can manage that, like true adults, then there wouldn’t be an issue.

  • It’s funny how defensive people get over video games..
    Did anyone bother reading the article or just the paragraphs Jason decided to quote to make this article seem as though video games are the problem.

    The article only gives you the results of their survey, whether you play these games or not determines how this article affects you personally.
    It states average game time is 22 hours a week which is over 3hrs/day.. If your married and have a job (even maybe a kid) then your leaving no time for your partner.

    The game doesn’t ruin marriage its the persons decision to play the game instead of working on their relationship…

  • I think that people do look for distractions like gaming when relationships are in trouble anyway. In my time playing WOW I came across a lot of people clearly in unhappy/dysfunctional relationships. I also came across a lot of (guys mostly) who had been damaged by previous relationship and spent a tonne of time in game, a lot of the time when things in their real life got back on track they either heavily reduced game time or quit.

    Hobbies like WOW can be a great way to kill time and a lot of fun, they are especially good at killing a lot of time when other parts of your life aren’t working out so well. Obsessive focus on gaming/hobbies is rarely the cause of the problem a lot of times its just a reaction to other issues.

  • I met my wife on WoW, we’re currently at 3 years married (Going for 4 this year). Going well too, I can’t imagine where I would be without her!
    We both aren’t playing WoW anymore and we try to play SWTOR when we have time together.

    Of the guild(s) that we played with in WoW, we were one of six couples that ended up moving countries and getting married. Four of which (including us) are in Australia now.

    “The game doesn’t ruin marriage its the persons decision to play the game instead of working on their relationship…”

  • People shouldn’t be too quick to dismiss this problem.
    I have pissed off my wife to the point of threatening to smash my console at least twice and friend of mine almost lost his girlfriend gaming.
    I have been a gamer since I was a child and as I grew up I played more and more.
    Before I met my wife I would play from when I got home until I went to bed after every night with exception of Friday and Saturday night which I would go out night clubbing.
    After I met my wife I would play about 1-2 hrs a night which I think is reasonable because I would do this when my wife was catching up with friends online overseas.
    When games like Fallout 3 or Skyrim come out I really have a hard time tearing myself away and can easily play for 5 hours without even realizing how long I’ve been playing for.
    These are the times that my wife feels that I have put her second to gaming and that’s when games start to impact on our relationship.
    As gamers we often hear the media or religious groups get it wrong about games so often that we have developed a knee jerk reaction to any criticism made.
    Games are a time consuming and often solitary pursuit , you can’t always get your partner involved because they may have any interest in games and I would be wrong to force them.
    It really all comes down to this: keep an eye on how often and how long you are playing to avoid damaging your relationship.

  • I’d have to disagree. While I don’t play MMO games, I know that I almost lost my spouse due to me playing games too much.

    Now I just pretend I’m sick on Friday night and let her go out while I catch up on some BF3…


  • Eh, I know someone whose ex broke up with him because he was spending so much time on WoW. He’d spend pretty much every moment he wasn’t at work playing it and she basically felt neglected and ignored. Maybe there were other factors as to why he was doing that, but WoW was certainly a major part. There’s always extremes in these cases and it does no good trying to explain the issues away with broad brushstrokes. A gamer who can keep things under moderation and give the proper attention to the other things in their lives shouldn’t have a problem with this.

  • I think a few of you are missing the point here – the article isn’t trying to say “Gaming doesn’t ruin relationships”, it’s pointing out how ridiculous it is that this ‘research’ has just labeled “gaming” as the cause – when it’s actually just one person spending far too much time doing something on their own – which happens in many many different ways (Fantasy Football, Pub & mates, Playing Music, Work).

    They could have replaced the word “gaming” with “work” and 70% of the points would still be valid – but working is a ‘normal’ and ‘necessary’ part of life, so we can’t rip on it.

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