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Is your partner’s online gaming obsession ruining your relationship?

Article updated July 2023

Is gaming addiction ruining your relationship?

The digital age has brought new challenges to marriages and relationships that didn’t exist for previous generations, such as gaming addiction. In our increasingly digital lives, we turn to tech for pleasure, something the multi-billion video game industry knows well.

In 2023 a Statista study showed that there over 44 million video game users in the UK. When kept in check, popular video games such as Fortnite and Call of Duty, can provide immersive experiences and some valuable escapism.

But what happens when entertainment leads to obsession? If your partner has become excessively preoccupied with digital distractions it can have a damaging effect on your homelife, and your relationship.

Why are video games addictive?

Dopamine – the feel-good hormone – is a neurotransmitter released by the brain’s reward centre when we feel pleasure. What causes the release of dopamine varies, but for some video games provide this pleasure response.

Dopamine also plays a vital role in motivation, mood, and sustaining attention or interest, which is why it can be difficult for people to break off from the activities that cause a dopamine release. The feel-good hormone also reinforces itself; so the more you play video games, the more dopamine is released, and the more motivated they are to play again.

Does my partner have a gaming addiction?

Addiction is defined as a person’s inability to control their use of a substance or behaviour despite there being negative consequences. If your partner is obsessed with video games, plays them excessively while ignoring or avoiding other activities, they may be addicted.

In fact, in June 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially recognised Gaming Disorder, or Video Game Addiction, as a psychological addiction affecting mental health. The key criteria is a lack of self-control over gaming that significantly impairs an individual’s ability to function in other areas of life over a prolonged period of time

Warning signs your partner is addicted to gaming

Like with alcohol and drug addiction, an addiction to video games can be all consuming and leave little time for focusing on your relationship.

Warning signs of a gaming addiction include:

  • Increasing and significant amounts of time spent gaming
  • Compulsive urge to game
  • Restless and anxious when not online
  • No time limits, for example staying up all night gaming
  • Neglecting family, friends, and other responsibilities
  • Interfering with work or study
  • Becoming irritable, anxious or anger when forced to stop playing
  • Needing to play more to get the same level of enjoyment from it
  • Lying about or concealing the extent of use to others
  • React angrily if people comment on the amount of time spent online
  • Withdrawal from hobbies and activities in favour of gaming
  • Spending excessive amounts on games or equipment.

If your partner is addicted to gaming, it can mean that you take on greater responsibility for running the home or looking after children. Over time, this imbalance can lead to the breakdown of a relationship.

My partner is addicted to gaming, what can I do?

If you suspect your partner has become addicted to gaming, there is support available.

Since the World Health Organization recognised Gaming Disorder, you can receive treatment on the NHS for gaming addiction. Behaviour of a gaming addict is defined as:

“Of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning.”

Other alternatives include seeking support for gaming addiction from a specialist organisation, or counsellor.

How gaming addiction impacts relationships

Excessive gaming diverts care and attention away from loved ones and time spent together without distraction. Over time this reduces the quality and depth of communication between you and can hinder intimacy.

Unhealthy gaming habits can develop gradually over time. So, you may be unaware just how much it affects your connection with your partner.

Take time to consider and address the issues. Understanding any underlying reasons can help you to resolve issues, establish healthier habits and get your relationship back on track.

Related links:

The increasing role of phones in divorce

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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