Over the years, the world of online gaming has spiked in popularity. The children who grew up submerged in this new virtual reality are now adults, and their fascination with the form of entertainment is only increasing.
Although gaming has been found in some instances to boost social skills and provide several cognitive benefits, it has also been known to cause conflict in marriages, especially when the pastime becomes less of a hobby and more of an obsession.
The Question Remains: Can a Gaming Addiction Lead to Divorce?
Fun and games are all well and good, but a common complaint is that partners who game constantly begin to prioritize playing over spending time with their spouse. This leads to hurt feelings and damaged self-esteem. And when gaming becomes more important than household or work duties, it leaves frustrated partners picking up the slack.
Communication within a relationship is also something that can suffer as a result of gaming addiction. Once this happens, it can easily create distance between partners, with many ‘games widows’ left feeling lonely and neglected.
A recent survey from Graysons Solicitors found that one in eight UK couples say gaming causes arguments in their household, with one in 15 saying it affects their relationship in a serious way. The research follows news reports stating that Fortnite and other online games were named as contributing to around 5% of divorces in the UK last year.
Sian Jones, a professional relationship counselor and founder of Relationship Counselling Kent, said: “Any addiction causes arguments. A relationship could potentially break down if the person who is online, for whatever reason, refuses to stop. These arguments usually occur because one person feels ignored, less important or lied to. Depending on what someone’s partner is doing, or what they are suspicious of them doing, it can leave people feeling threatened, jealous, suspicious, and angry.”
Gaming Addiction: An Uncontrollable Desire to Play Games
Obsessive gaming can sometimes be the result of a mental health condition known as gaming disorder, which was officially recognized by the World Health Organization in 2018. The term describes somebody who has a constant and uncontrollable desire to play games, despite the negative consequences. Around 3.5% of gamers reportedly suffer from this condition.
Symptoms of gaming addiction can include:
- a distorted view of reality
- feelings of irritability and/or restlessness
- lying about the amount of time spent gaming
- feelings of shame, embarrassment or guilt
- physical problems such as disturbed sleep, weight gain, headaches, and carpal tunnel syndrome
Gaming disorder has also been linked to the condition known as “internet addiction,” which, according to a huge international study, affects nearly 6% of the global population. People who suffer from depression, anxiety, or substance abuse may be particularly vulnerable to this type of addiction.
“People with an addiction tend to become secretive,” Sian Jones added. “They might keep their phone on them at all times and keep passwords to themselves. They also might be moody, argumentative and uncommunicative.”
The Gaming Addict Must Want to Change
The first rule of any addiction-beating strategy is that the person must be willing to change. This is just as true for gaming and internet addiction. To repair the damage done to a marriage, the problem spouse must be willing to confront the issue. Refusing to seek medical help or limit the time spent gaming can cause a partner to develop feelings of anger and resentment.
In a worst-case scenario, these feeling may lead to marriage breakdown and ultimately divorce. To file for divorce citing ‘unreasonable behavior’, a person would have to supply evidence to show they could not reasonably be expected to live with their spouse while their behavior remains as it is. The Office for National Statistics shows this to be the most common reason for opposite-sex couples divorcing.
Unreasonable Behavior Can Include:
- Inappropriate relationship with another person
- Unwillingness to socialize as a couple
- A general lack of support
These reasons are often linked to gaming addiction. However, this does not necessarily spell the end of a relationship. If a partner with the disorder commits to changing their lifestyle to save the relationship, there are a variety of treatments they can undergo, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and group therapy sessions.
Chrissie is an editor with a background in journalism. After two years working as a reporter in a news agency based in Manchester, UK, Chrissie relocated to Sheffield to begin a freelance writing career. She is currently enjoying working as a feature editor in one of Sheffield’s top marketing agencies.