How I became a WOW Wife, not a WOW Widow

WOW… the World of Warcraft. An online world of Orcs, Elves and Banshee Queens (and now Pandas!) where people of different ages, cultures and backgrounds get together to loot, pillage and defeat major enemies. They build communities called a Guild where there are laws that govern the body, leaders in roles meant to keep the peace and newfound friendships that rival those IRL (in real life). To some, it becomes an obsession, an addiction that carries with it the same pain and loss associated with Meth, Heroine and Alcohol abuse. But for others, it’s their adventure, their community, the place they can go to be themselves without judgment or persecution and succeed at being the hero they’ve always wanted to be.

Then there’s the significant other, the friends and the family of the Gamer; the people who can’t wrap their heads around this alternate universe, can’t see why someone would spend hours in front of a computer talking to people who aren’t real, pretending to be something they’re not, finding such purpose in a world that simply doesn’t exist.

I was this significant other. I was the wife that felt that I took a back seat to this universe, the people within it. The guys in Minnesota, Hawaii and Scotland, the girls in Texas and Canada, they all had this hold on my husband that I just couldn’t understand. I mean, they were probably just creepy teenagers looking for something awesome to fill their days because they couldn’t make friends in school, right? That stereotypical geeky boy who goes online looking for the hot chick and ultimately finds Robert in Wisconsin pretending to be a 14/F/Madison looking to meet up and just “talk”. From my perspective, I saw these people, these characters, as the primary figures at the top of his list to not let down. They were the most important opinions, they were the ones that he went to when he needed to calm down, and they gave him the support and the ass-kicking he was looking for.

I began to wonder what I was doing wrong. How could I look more like a Night Elf? Then maybe I’d catch his attention. How could I show him that I was just as cool as these fake friends online? Then maybe he’d want to talk to ME more. Ultimately, I started wondering if I would need to leave in order for him to see the difference between me and the computer.

But then I remembered a conference I attended with the youth pastors and leaders of the church I was working for at the time (I was a church secretary, if you can believe THAT!). One of the speakers was talking about lifting up your spouse, honoring their passions and letting them be a whole person. He talked about how everyone has a tank, a reservoir ready to fill with your passions and your energy to do the things you love. Of course he was telling this story from a youth ministry perspective, but I found it quite profound on a personal level. Anyway, so we have this tank and we have to constantly fill it, because the things that we must do deplete our energy store – the things that exhaust you, make you angry or just all around frustrate you. I began to realize that, although I didn’t take the time to fill my own tank, this was what fills his; this world, this connection with others that shared his love of the realm. THIS was what filled his tank. And for a stay-at-home dad who wrestles constantly with his own purpose (who doesn’t, right?), this was one thing that he needed.

I finally sat down with my husband and laid it out there. I was frank, I was rude but ultimately, I tried to show him my heart without being such a girl. Let’s face it ladies, most of our male counterparts get super freaked out when we cry. So I tried not to. Unfortunately, when I’m frustrated, I cry… and I can’t stop. So I’m sure I cried a lot. But I also told him to keep his mouth shut and actually listen to me, not just my words. It went very similar to this (although, I’m sure I’ll be much more eloquent and less messy here…):

“When you hurry up and rush through spending time with me so that you can get online, you make me feel like I play second fiddle to your first chair. When I’m in the middle of managing a total meltdown from both kids and you’re off in your own world with your headphones on, somehow managing to block out the world around you, it makes me feel like you don’t care. When you spend every waking moment, especially while I’m home, online with these people you don’t even know, I feel as if I’m totally alone in this house, in this family and in this marriage. And frankly, it’s getting to the point where you might have to choose – me, or WOW.”

Yeah, I know… dramatic, right? Now, let me just make one disclaimer here, before I move on – we are an odd pair. We haven’t been together forever, but we have figured out ways to encourage each other’s strengths rather than constantly encourage the other to improve. That’s why I’m the bread-winner and he’s the stay-at-home parent (GASP – how un-Christian of me, right?). It’s just the way our cookie was baked. So yes, there are people out there who I believe are honestly addicted to WOW… but I also believe that these people may have already had a previous addiction that they have now replaced with WOW, are struggling with more than they care to address or are escaping a situation in which they feel helpless.

Why do I feel that way?
Because the husband told me so.

When I confronted him on the feelings I was having surrounding this game and his life in it, I didn’t take time for myself. I didn’t get out with friends; I didn’t do a whole lot of filling my own tank. But when he told me he was escaping, I felt broken. What could he possibly be escaping from? Of course… he was escaping me, not me because I’m a horrible person, me because I nag. Because when things are not going according to my un-vocalized expectations, I would tear him down; make him feel bad with words like knives. And his Guild, his community, didn’t make him feel that way. They busted his balls then gave him some gold.

It took a while to hash things out, but we ultimately laid down some ground rules – there’s a schedule and there’s a discussion. Always a discussion. There are three set times/days a week that are sort of non-negotiable, unless I give notice or there’s an emergency. Sounds crazy, huh? But hey, just because he doesn’t get paid for a job by an employer doesn’t mean the guy isn’t working. Anyway, so there are these set days – two raid nights and a Podcast. The other nights, we talk about it. If I’m tired and just want to zone out to some old episode of Dawson’s Creek (don’t judge me), he’ll go in-game – after our “family chores” are done. Kid’s are in bed, day is done, it’s his time. When I’m not tired and he’s not chomping at the bit to get in character, we’ll watch shows that we enjoy together. Sometimes he’ll suck it up and watch a girly movie that I want to watch, but we don’t talk about it afterwards. But most of the time, we’ll compromise. Sometimes, we’ll just chat about the kids or my job… he’s got some great insight into my form of crazy, so it works.

Do we still argue? Sure.
Do I still sometimes feel like second fiddle? More times than I care to admit.
Do questions still come to mind about girls? Yup… but that’s my insecurity, not his problem.

With these conversations has come a new understanding for my husband and actually a new appreciation for “alternative” lifestyles. No, I’m not talking about swingers (that’s another post), but this idea that community can exist inside of a computer. These people that he meets with online are real people. I’d venture to call a couple my own friends too. They have families, stories, hopes, hurts… they have their own tanks to fill, their own strengths and weaknesses, their own adventures to fulfill.  And frankly, they’re just the same as me – finding their place in a world that tries to continually dictate to us what we should and should not do, who we should and should not be how we should and should not feel.

If you’re struggling with the thought that you might be a WOW widow, I’d be happy to talk to you (seriously, this isn’t a PSA, I’d be more than happy to chat). But I will also encourage you to seek external assistance if the situation is far beyond the average upset. And I’m not talking about your mom or your uncle. Sometimes our family looks at our lives with just as much conviction as we do and it can mean an even stronger view of what they feel might be totally wrong with our situation. For so long we’ve come up against people judging our lifestyle because he’s the man and should be bringing home that bacon and I’m the mom and should be at home nurturing the kids. But that’s not our strengths, that’s not what we’re passionate about… that’s not the way our life is working out at this phase. And I believe with every fiber of my carbon based being that Jesus doesn’t give a rat’s ass about who stays home – as long as we love each other, love our children, love our community.

And trust me, I’ve not met anyone who loves his community, who hurts for people he’s never seen face to face, who fights for justice for those with little or no voice, the way I’ve seen my husband and his Guild fight for (and with) each other.

Game on, friends.
Mel

What have you learned in your adventure as a gamer with a family or the significant other of an obsessed gamer (yes, our loved ones are obsessed… it’s okay to call a duck a duck)? How have you found ways to deal with it, whichever side you’re on?

26 thoughts on “How I became a WOW Wife, not a WOW Widow

  1. Thank you Akston! I was grateful for the kind words from Twizz on his show. It’s always an ongoing process for us… I just wish I was able to help others more (but I’m no professional). Thanks for visiting!!

  2. That was an amazing read. It’s rare to see a positive take on gaming from “the other side” let alone one that is so welk written. Hope to see more from you :3

    • Thank you so much! Maybe I can write about all the ways I like to torment him while he’s in the middle of taking down a difficult boss… ooh, or the many times I’ve been frightened awake by angry yelling, only to find he’s just angry with a Night Elf! LOL! Keeps things interesting. Thanks again!

  3. Please pardon a long reply but I found your article especially touching.

    This was a very nice post and it warms my heart that you talked through this disagreement with your husband. I think that all marital problems can be resolved with discussion and compromise and it sounds to me like you two have figured this out and will have a long, happy marriage.

    Honestly, from your title and the direction I inferred from the beginning of your post, I thought you were going to say that you started playing the game with your husband. I play WoW with my wife every day and we have a wonderful time together and with our guild. We even drove out to another city last year to meet another married couple in our guild and we all got along so well it was surreal.

    If you’re looking for an excuse to spend more time with your husband I would encourage you to show interest in his hobby. Ask him if you can start a character and have him coach you for 30 minutes, or sit with him and ask him what his objective is and how it’s going. Maybe you’ll find it all frivolous and shallow, or maybe you’ll find you’re interested in some aspect and might enjoy playing together, collaborating and sharing and succeeding as a couple.

    Finally, I’m sure your husband has read your blog post and likely snickered to himself at (what is probably) your unintended double entendre about “filling the tank”. A tank is a term used in WoW for the leader of an adventuring party, and it’s the job of a healer to replenish (fill) the tank with health when he is injured. My wife is one of the most competent, talented healers I’ve had the privilege of playing with and I suspect this non-combat, supportive role might give you some satisfaction as you literally and figuratively fill your husband’s tank.

    Whatever you do or however you choose to spend your time I hope you and your husband find many excuses to spend it together. Thanks for your enjoyable, heartfelt article!

    • Thank you Brian! I have thought about the player route, but in all honesty, I know my limits. There are some things that I just know would not be healthy for me. My mind works in some odd ways and can sometimes blur the lines of reality and role playing. I have pinpointed times in my life and my relationships where I was so caught up in a book, so enamored with the characters, so passionate about their stories, that I project the feelings I had for the characters into my own relationships. It sounds bizarre, I know, but it is what it is. I like that he has this world, that he has this circle of friends. I enjoy the conversations I get to have with him, I’ve read a whole new genre of books and tried to learn a bit more about the game (I ask him questions and his guildmates are helpful too!). I did get the tank reference, but I did not know the roles of Healer and Tank were as you described and frankly – I’m in love with it. :) Thanks for your input and your perspective! I love that you and your wife have found common ground and community as well.

  4. Great post! My wife & I went through a similar phase (when we were dating, several years ago). Back then raiding was worse than it is now. It was 4 nights a week, 6 hours a night, and it pretty much HAD to be in order to progress at all. I ultimately walked away because I chose her over the game. I came back a few years ago. The game had changed a lot, and I figured I’d be able to balance it into my life better than before. I joined this guild called Eternal, we were on another server and your husband was not yet a member, but I have never looked back. I’m an officer now (Mired), and we have another name (Violent Apathy), and we’re on another server (Emerald Dream). Most of the people who played when I joined are gone now, but one thing has stayed the same and that’s that the people who run the guild make sure that the people who join don’t suck. I don’t mean suck at the game, but rather don’t suck at being human beings. We’ve really built a great community, and I must say your husband has had a lot more to do with it than I have (deadbeat officer speaking).

    You are so dead-on in your assessment of how people can’t understand why someone would want to login to a video game every day and talk to random people all over the world for hours at a time. The thing is, the people are awesome. I would have quit this game again (like I did several times before) had I not happened upon this guild. My wife understands this now (and I play a LOT less than I used to). We’re also in a different place now, and we both cherish our “me time”. She still rolls her eyes at me from time to time, but she understands that this game is how I unwind with a beer after getting my ass kicked at work.

    Anyway, enough rambling, and again GREAT post! Thanks for letting us steal your husband a few nights a week :)

    • Thanks Mired! You know, when you put it like that, “talk to random people all over the world”, it sounds exotic. And I agree – the people ARE awesome. I’m glad you’ve been able to find that balance as well… and trust me, I have rolled an eye or two VERY recently. With the new expansion, the guy was chomping at the bit to be online ALL. THE. TIME. But, I make fun of my geeky husband all the time, and he has plenty of ammunition against me – so it keeps things interesting.

  5. Hey, Heard about this post through reddit.

    I think it is awesome you have found a balance, I had a different issue however. I love to have an alternative virtual life to fill my tank. however, I also have a million other things I fill my tank with. And my significant other sometimes feel that I have too many things going on and I lose interest in her. Even though, some of my favorite things to do is too watch a deep movie and discuss the movie after, Which is also one of her favorites. I guess the point is, I seem to have trouble having her understand that we can each fill that “tank” with things that don’t involve each other.

    None the less, this is a rant. lol. Thanks for a great read.

    • Thanks for reading, Junior! It’s true, it can be hard to understand and balance at times. I’ve found that, because we both had lives completely separate of each other for so long before we formed our relationship, it’s been harder to find that middle ground. I’m extremely introverted and would much prefer a book in bed, a really cheesy rom-com or a one-on-one with my sketchpad, so I truly have to look outside of my own personal bubble to try to fathom his enjoyment. Sort of like dancing – I just don’t get dancing. I love to dance like a maniac when no one’s watching but I get super embarassed for someone if there’s anyone around to see them (even if they dance like an angel). Thanks for visiting and keep up that open line of communication with her – that’s truly our relationship lifeline.

  6. Please don’t say things like say you need to stop being such a girl. There is nothing wrong with being female. There should be nothing negative implied with the act of being female. I don’t care if you make your spouse awkward when you cry. Anyone would feel a little uncomfortable around anyone in tears, especially if they did something to cause those tears. Crying shouldn’t be shameful. Instead it should be understood that it is a time when you are full of such strong feelings that they cannot be controlled. It shows how deep this was impacting you, and apparently WoW really rustled your jimmies.

    Anyway, my point was that stupid comments about needing to not be such a girl (because…you know…us ladies and our emotions are always a bad thing. How dare anyone feel things when they are approaching a spouse about…feeling things) don’t do anything to get rid of the various negative stereotypes existing about women, and even continue negative stereotypes about men.

    Besides that, I am glad things worked out for you and your spouse. I never had problems with my significant other gaming, and he has taken the time to teach me how to play the mmos he enjoys. We don’t always play together (he should have time for his own friends, just like I get time for mine!), but I do feel like it has brought us closer. I am glad you two were also able to communicate about game expectations and other matters to make sure you both could be happy.

    • Thank you for reading Em! I appreciate your encouragement and your perspective from a couple who games. You’re absolutely right – he needs his time as you need yours. Forgive me though on this point – I’m having a hard time pinpointing where I threw out negative stereotypes about men and women. I am very proud to be a woman, I’m a little less feminist than I can appear at times because I do believe that men and women are different. Not less than or greater, just different. I also recognize in myself the inability to rationally process emotions on the fly, which leads to excessive crying (mostly out of frustration) that is hard to turn off… which then turns into embarassment for not being able to remain in control, leading to more crying. I would never call crying shameful – it’s an absolutely valid response to a myriad of emotions. And that goes for either gender. But I am also hyper-self-aware and tend to be sarcastically honest in my delivery. :\ I appreciate your perspective and hope you continue to read in the future – and keep challenging my perspective as well!

      • I’m a crier too, and it’s taken me a long time to be unapologetic about it, but really, if that’s the way you process it’s the way you process. There is a long long history of people (mostly men) claiming that those of us who process like I do do it to be manipulative, or that we’re “too emotional” and therefore don’t have to be taken seriously, or that we are irrational and therefore can’t work stuff out cooperatively together but instead must be pacified and patronized. I am glad your husband doesn’t seem to be this type, but I’m pretty sure that’s why Em found your “too much of a girl” stereotype problematic. It’s very hard to convince someone who thinks tears shouldn’t be taken seriously that you deserve the same kind of respect and attention that they do, because it’s very frustrating and I wind up in tears and then they disrespect me for it. That’s a cycle that we could all benefit from breaking, really.

        (That said I’m an MMO gamer myself and I’m currently very interested in a man who’s not an MMO gamer and who cries at the drop of a hat, so I’m interested to see how this all works out in reverse! Ha!)

        • Thanks for reading, Rhii! I’m going to have to re-read it and make sure I don’t make the same mistakes in the future. I’m certain my intent was to spotlight my own issue with my inability to remain in control of my tear ducts. My husband is definitely uncomfortable with the crying – for the mere fact that he wants (needs) to fix the problem. When the problem is ME, it becomes significantly more problematic. :) Now, I’ll be interested to see how this little reverse adventure goes for you – best of luck on the new relationship. And thank you for your perspective on Em’s POV, I really appreciate that… definitely don’t want to slight any of my readers!

  7. Very good read, heard about you on Twizzcast. It was actually my first time listening to it.

    I am going to share this with my Daughter and Son-in-Law. She often feels like a WoW Widow. Unfortunately I am the one who turned him on to WoW.

    My Wife and I set side by side and play WoW almost every day over morning Coffee and quit often at night we enjoy hours together online setting not 4 feet from each other.

    We are in our 50’s and have been married for 30 years. We have tried Dancing, Cooking, Antiquing, Boating, Outdoors, and Travelling. We have tried numerous other hobbies trying to find one we both like. Online Gaming, WoW to be specific is the one thing we have found that we both enjoy.

    Comparatively it is also the least expensive of all the things we’ve tried. We’ve been playing 4 years and have spent under a thousand dollars, compare that to a Harley, Mustang GT, Party Barge….

    • That is awesome Jay! Well, the gaming together and mutual hobby part – your daughter feeling like a WOW widow is yucky. BUT, she and your son-in-law have the power to change that. The bonus that they have – an ultra supportive and understanding parental unit to help navigate!! Good job, dad! And thank you so much for reading. I hope your daughter gets something out of the read too!

  8. Love this post! I will be referencing it over at swtorstrategies.com. We have a similar situation (my husband was a SAHD) and I worked full time except we are both gamers. :)

  9. Pingback: Be a Gamer Wife; Not a Gamer Widow

  10. That’s a pretty interesting piece of work you’ve written here, and a pretty tough situation to challenge. As a hard-core gamer (I wish I could argue on that but based on my online presence + being a total geek, I can’t deny the amount of time spent on my PC), I have to admit that every social interaction gained online also mean a same amount of social interaction lost in real life.
    I deal with it, afterall I know where my vices and pleasure are, but it seems to be a tough situations for some relatives, mostly family or old friends (I didn’t have a computer 15 years ago, friends from that time under-estimated my geeky attitude).

    I can’t give premade solutions to that situation, but seeing thet way you made yours cheers me up : tere are still “offline people” that can understand why others are so deeply attracted by online communities, game-based or not (I’m also quite active on manga-fan forums, that looks innocent, but it’s also a huge amount of time still spent with online people, he :P)

    Kisses from a french nerd.

    • (You should always read yourself befor hitting the “publish” button. Sorry for those faults. I’ll try to get away with the classical “english is not my native language”, which could work if most of those errors weren’t classical unverified typos. Another default gained online : type fast, don’t read and hit enter :P)

      • LOL. Thanks for reading! I often forget to check and am constantly updating a post or comment… sometimes because I got ONE word wrong! :) Thanks for visiting!

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