Are Video Games Harming Your Relationship?

by Nancy Travers,LCSW

Today, we recognize many forms of addiction. We have help groups for individuals who struggle with alcoholism and drug use. There is counseling for individuals with sexual addictions, and for gambling addictions. We work with people who have shopping addictions, food addictions, and smoking addictions. However, there is one problem that many Americans struggle with that does not receive equal treatment: Video game addiction.

Video game addiction is one of the ten most common addictions in our society. Many of the teenagers and adults in American feel compelled to spend much of their time playing video games; the average video game addict in America is 35 year old and male. The majority of them are drawn to spend hours play MMORPGs (massively multi-player online role-playing games) such as World of Warcraft and Rift. Symptoms of video game addiction include:

  • Spending several hours each day playing video games
  • Becoming defensive about the amount of time spend playing games, if confronted
  • Staying home from work to spend more time playing games
  • Neglecting friends, family, and significant others to play video games

The negative behavior associated with gaming bleeds over many other aspects of an individual’s life. Psychologist Laura Walker says, “Video games are associated with negative behavior across the board, so the more people play video games, the more likely they were to drink, use drugs, engage in risky sex. They had lowered levels of self-worth, lower levels of social acceptance, and lower relationship quality with friends and parents.”

One aspect that is hurt most by video game addiction is a person’s social interaction and their personal relationships. As the world of video games become more detailed and expansive, a person becomes so invested in this new world that it holds their focus, causing them to play longer. However, there is a direct correlation between the time spent gaming and the quality of peer relationships. These relationships include friends, family, and significant others.

Video game addiction occurs more often in males than it does in females. This leaves many girlfriends and wives feeling neglected when their significant other is focused on their virtual adventures. Many women feel that gaming, especially large amounts of it, take away from the quality time that the couple could be spending together. Others become annoyed as their significant others are distracted by their virtual world to the point that they forget about chores that need to be completed, bills that need to be paid, and appointments that need to be kept. With these tensions growing, it is not surprising that 20% women have left relationships over excessive gaming; nearly 70% of women admit that video games have caused tension in a personal relationship.

Individuals who are truly addicted to video games may need to receive counseling for their addiction, or other help to regain their focus on the real world. But before you chuck your significant other’s Xbox 360 or specialty gaming keyboard out the window, and sign him (or her!) up for counseling, take a minute to assess what you can work on together. Address the problem at home, and look for solutions there.

  • Talk to your significant other about their gaming addiction. Let them know that you feel that they spend too much time focused on the games, and you would like to spend time focused on each other.
  • Try setting aside a time of the day when the gamer can unleash. Does your significant other’s WoW guild schedule their big raid every Thursday night? Set aside a block of time on Thursdays! Work with your partner to reach a compromise that makes everyone happy.
  • Try playing with them! Sure, you might have no interest in playing a Undead Healer running through instances until the ultimate battle with Deathwing the Destroyer in World of Warcraft: Cataclysm (yet), but your significant other might appreciate the effort. An effort on your part may be just what your significant other needs to reciprocate.

You don’t have to let video gaming addiction harm your relationship, yourself, or your significant other. There are solutions that you can implement in your home that can relieve the tension in your relationship, and encourage focus to be divided fairly among relationships, responsibilities, and hobbies.


Nancy Travers is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She specializes in all types of relationships; We all want them, We all need them; How to get em and Keep them. Nancy’s office is located at 2212 Dupont Dr., Suite I, Irvine, Ca. 92612.

For more information or to make an appointment, call 949-510- 9423 or contact us.
copyright a division of Counseling Corner, Inc.
As seen in The Blade magazine June 2005.

Leave a reply
Contact Nancy