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

According to research by Divorce Online UK, so far in 2018, at least 200 couples they surveyed have cited addiction to online games as the reason for parting ways. (Despite the headlines, it is not just Fortnite.)

So as online gaming continues to grow in popularity, will we see this reflected in divorce petitions?

Mark Chapman from our Reading office joins us on the blog to look at the impact of online gaming on a relationship and divorce.

With the consultation on introducing ‘no-fault’ divorces currently being undertaken by the government, we could be on the verge of one of the most significant changes in divorce law for decades. However, as it stands today, you still must give one of five reasons to prove the marriage has irretrievably broken down.

One of the most common of these five is to cite the other party’s behaviour.  Common types of behaviour include gambling, drinking, lack of affection and financial and emotional control, to name a few. Even when people have simply drifted apart, if they still wish to get divorced soon after the formal breakdown of the marriage, then allegations of unreasonable behaviour must be raised.

The digital age has certainly brought challenges to marriages and relationships. Fortnite and other online games can be highly addictive.  Addiction in whatever guise can have severe repercussions on any relationship.

In fact, in June, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially recognised “gaming disorder” as a mental health condition affecting those gamers who are lacking in control over their own habits for periods of months at a time.

The WHO went onto say,

“increasing priority is given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and the continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.”

For many couples, if one partner is addicted to gaming it will impact on the marriage/relationship just like any other mental health condition and addiction.

The following are warning signs of a gaming addiction:

  • Increasing amounts of time spent gaming
  • Restless and anxious when not online
  • No time limits, for example by staying up all night gaming
  • Neglecting family, friends and other responsibilities
  • Interfering with work or study
  • React angrily if people comment on the amount of time spent online
  • Isolation and withdrawal from hobbies and activities

For couples, if a partner is engrossed in gaming (or indeed any other hobby or activity) leaving the other to take on the lion’s share of running the home and dealing with the children, it isn’t too hard to imagine how this behaviour can cause strife.

So, what can you do if you suspect your partner has become addicted to gaming?

From June this year, post the WHO recognising the disorder, you can now receive treatment on the NHS for gaming addiction which is defined when the victims’ behaviour is:

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

Treating gaming addiction is very similar to treating other behavioural addictions, as in these cases, please do seek professional addiction treatment help.

So, will we see more cases of gaming being cited as unreasonable behaviour in divorce?

I would factor a guess at yes but with two things to consider:

  • The millennial and snowflake generations have a different approach to technology. It is integral to their lives so would gaming be such an issue?
  • If no-fault divorce is introduced, people would no longer need to cite any unreasonable behaviour so would we ever know it was gaming.

A marriage and relationship can survive an addiction but it takes time, support and professional help for both parties involved.

For help with any addiction issues please visit for a list of addiction and dependency agencies and support.

Mark was a Partner in the Stowe Family Law Reading office. Mark has a thorough knowledge of all aspects of family law, but his particular specialty is dealing with the financial implications on the breakdown of a marriage.

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