My husband and I are both in our late 30s. We had the perfect relationship. Talked for hours, enjoyed going out for meals, watching films and just cuddling on the sofa. We married four years ago and until the birth of our son, that was the happiest day of my life.
Early last year – it must have been just after I fell pregnant – my husband started playing an online computer game.
Now his attention to me/us has waned, while his attention to this blasted game has increased. I think he’s addicted – the first thing he does in the morning is play, which makes him late for work.
When he gets home, after a cuddle with the baby, he is back on it, constantly playing until bedtime.
Quite often, I go to bed but he stays up until the early hours. He doesn’t help with the baby – not making food or bottles (he will give him a bottle if I make it, but not at a critical part of the game) and hardly ever feeds him or changes a nappy.
I do it all. I love my son, but I do resent my husband for not helping out even a little bit. We don’t talk any more because he’s usually ‘busy’ online. When we went on holiday he had to leave his laptop behind, but someone else ‘babysat’ his game, so he texted to see how it was going.
Yet when I had a stinking cold, he didn’t once text me from work to ask how I felt. He doesn’t do anything to help at home, and if I remind him to do something he says I’m nagging. Anything that takes him away from the game is unacceptable to him.
At the weekend, he can be playing from the moment he gets up until the time he goes to bed. If we have people over, he sits and plays the game while they’re there, and even plays while he eats. One day our internet connection went down and he was like an addict without a fix – ranting and raging and swearing.
As I sit here now, all I can hear is the clack of one key he seems to press every other second. The very sound sets my teeth on edge. I won’t even bother attempting a conversation because it’s pointless; so after I have sent this cry for help to you, I’ll probably sit and read a book until bedtime.
I have tried to talk about it in a light way, and in a serious way, but he will not accept that what he’s doing is detrimental to our relationship. I actually think the game is the centre of his life now, and not me and not even our son. I feel very lonely and I miss the man I used to know.
This problem first appeared in the Daily Mail
The diagnosis here is relatively straightforward, but the solution, as ever, is likely to be far more difficult. Obviously, and you hint at it throughout, your husband is chronically jealous first of your pregnancy and now of the baby himself. The baby is the centre of your life and the game is the centre of his. Your ability to bear a child seems to be what sparked off his envy and his subsequent obsession with this game. From what you say, I gather this game (which needed ‘babysitting’) is a game that develops – a long game. So, as your body created a child, he began his creation as a counter move.
His absolute dedication to his game, the need to nurture it and in some way ‘feed’ it all the time suggests very strongly that he sees it as his child. His real child, who he views as yours alone, is being neglected. He will be replaying something from his own childhood, very possibly being usurped in his mother’s affection by a younger sibling. However, this is all psychopathologising him and he has not written to ask anyone for help – you have. Indeed, he doesn’t need help as far as he is concerned. He is narcissistically self-sufficient, playing God in the world of his game – not being usurped by anyone or anything.
But what are you up to? This is much harder to discern because the letter is all about him. A lot of problem letters are like this – ‘Some other person is a nightmare, what shall I do?’ Or, ‘How can I tell what someone else is thinking and why they behave as they do?’ Of course, these two questions are a complete abdication of responsibility, an attempt on the writer’s part to claim they, blameless and angelic, are being buffeted by cruel fate. This is never true. So, what is going on?
The first red flag is the claim that you had ‘the perfect’ relationship. Nothing is perfect, so if you idealized the relationship to this extent it was bound to crash down. The relationship you describe is one of being entirely wrapped up in each other with no need of anyone else. (You only use two lines and perhaps the picture is incorrect but, still, this is what you chose to relate). It may well be that you formed an isolated and narcissistic unit with your husband, one in which you were each addicted to the other and needed no other sustenance. So, when a third person came into the equation things began to fall apart.
You say your wedding day was the happiest day of your life until the birth of your son. So, in your mind the birth of your son was very separate from the union with your husband and, perhaps, having been addicted to and dependent on your husband, you transferred this dependence to your son. Meanwhile, your husband, having been addicted to you, transferred his to the game.
I suspect that he has always been an addict but that he became addicted to you (perhaps this was mutual). Once he was rejected he began to inhabit an entirely separate world. I suspect that he was always very needy and that you selected him for that quality – you liked being needed and playing mother to this childish man and you felt secure because he needed you so much. Now you have a real baby and need this man to grow up, to change, to become someone else. He can’t because he always wanted to be the baby and you liked mothering him.
It may be that your own fear of being dependent directed you to choose a partner who depended solely on you. That puts you in power. Perhaps your relationship itself was a fantasy ‘perfect’ world in which he could immerse himself. Now he has been thrown out of paradise in favour of a baby. You are baffled by his behaviour but he may well be baffled by yours – you now love another man more than you love him and he is not grown up enough to cope.
I imagine that he is giving you a taste of what he experienced when a younger sibling was born – a mother engrossed in another world with not a second to spare for him.Not that this is any kind of solution to your problem, but I imagine that you too are playing a role. Being a beleaguered mother might well be you imitating your own mother. If you can be the harassed and exhausted person who is unsupported then you do not have to be the child (that you perhaps were) hoping in vain for some attention. Your husband is now in that role and, while this is a nightmare for you, it serves the purpose of protecting you from being the needy child yourself, a role you would reject as fearfully as he does.
Your cry for help goes to a newspaper columnist. You have tried to persuade your husband that he is in the wrong, that he is damaging the relationship. You have not, by the sounds of it, told him you are sad and lonely, that you miss him. You show him the anger but not the vulnerability – and he is doing the same.
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