Communication in a marriage can be a tough subject when things just aren't clicking — especially in those fragile few months after you have a baby when you're trying to figure out how to share the load. If your husband plays video games instead of helping with the baby, you might find yourself increasingly frustrated and unsure of what to do.
My husband loves to play Ghost Recon and Batman: Arkham Knight, and I have zero issues when he stays up until the wee hours of the morning battling fictitious bad guys. However, if we still had babies in the house and his game play kept him from helping me take care of them, I would without a doubt be furious and I would likely be unsure of how to bring it up without causing a huge fight.
"How we communicate in our relationship is extremely important on this or any topic," Babita Spinelli, LP, a relationship coach, tells Romper. "Although it may stir up frustration and anger, taking a pause and framing the approach to understand his perspective and then share yours can be helpful to address this issue. If the communication is approached as a we and experienced as a joint solution, it is more likely to have a positive result."
To better understand his perspective, you might have to get a little uncomfortable and see things from his point of view, relationship expert Tiffany Lee tells Romper. "Try to use a bit of empathy (I know it’s tough!) and put themselves in their husband’s shoes," she says. "Could there be something else going on that’s making him want to play video games so much? Difficulties at work, feeling less than, insecurities, or health problems? A lot of times people will play video games (and partake in other addictive behaviors) as an escape from some other aspect of life."
I get it — everyone needs a hobby, an escape from reality. Especially new parents. Dads are no exception. But, if that hobby is interfering with helping take care of the baby that he helped create, it's time to take a step back and re-evaluate the time spent on it. Maybe that means playing less video games, or maybe it just means re-structuring when they're played so that the parenting load is shared a bit more equally.
But how do you bring all of that up? Experts say moms who are feeling frustrated with their partner's game playing habits interfering with caring for the baby can start the conversation a few different ways.
"Approach him calmly and respectfully. Leading with kindness is always the way to go. Tell him how much you appreciate him and mention at least one thing he does for you that you’re grateful for (e.g. helping around the house, taking out the trash, balancing the checkbook, etc.)," relationship expert and author Suzie Pileggi Pawelski tells Romper.
"Next, tell him how wonderful that makes you feel and how much you value his help. Then tell him that you understand how much he enjoys his video games and that it is probably relaxing for him," she continues. "Communicate to him you would really appreciate it if he could help you out with the baby before he resorts to playing video games so you can feel more relaxed as well. Then you could both have some additional meaningful time together to connect doing something you both enjoy. Maybe even video games if that’s your thing."
Spinelli suggests finding a time when neither of you are stressed and he is not actively playing video games to broach the subject. "Start with 'I' words about how you feel and not 'You always' or 'You never.' For example — 'I feel supported when you help with the baby,' or 'When you play video games and I need help, I feel overwhelmed or alone as a parent,'" Spinelli tells Romper.
"I feel disconnected from you or I miss us time," and "I feel super tired and would love us to figure out how to parent together," are additional ways to begin the conversation. "Provide some suggestions without using harsh, critical language which can only create shut down, avoidance, or a heated argument. For example, 'How about we figure out a good time that works,' or 'How can we do this better?'" Spinelli says.
Lee suggests you have the conversation while walking or doing something side-by-side with your partner. "When we angle our bodies to the side during a conversation, we can increase the length of time spent having conversations and decrease the feeling of being attacked. This is why so many meetings are done while playing golf and not tennis," she explains.
Make it clear that you are not asking that he never plays video games, you're just asking for support when caring for the baby, so be specific about how and when you need his help. All in all, experts agree that coming together to find a solution that you can both be happy with is the key.
Tiffany Lee, relationship expert
Babita Spinelli, LP, relationship coach
Suzie Pileggi Pawelski, co-author of Happy Together: Using the Science of Positive Psychology to Build Love That Lasts