Husbands' game addictions burden families

By Phan Duong   June 11, 2023 | 12:00 am PT
Husbands' game addictions burden families
Gaming has become a popular pastime for many single males, yet for those who are married, it becomes a source of stress. Illustration photo by VnExpress/Phan Duong
On the day of Nhien’s miscarriage, her husband Tien was busy playing video games with friends.

When she was at the hospital, he was at home waiting for his phone to fully charge so he could play while waiting.

"My body was in so much pain from the medicine, but nothing is more painful than what I felt after seeing him," said Nguyen Nhien, 27 years old, in Danang.

After four years of being in a relationship, Nhien said outright that she was jealous of her husband’s gaming hobby. Before their marriage, the couple was in a long-distance relationship. Nhien knew Tien was an avid gamer then, but she didn’t know how far he had gone for his "hobby."

Tien loves to play games through the night and only comes back to bed in the early morning. He goes to work in the afternoon for one or two hours, then goes back home to his phone until the morning. "I wish we could have a family meal, but it’s always difficult to arrange because of my husband’s chaotic schedule," Nhien said.

Nhien said she’s sad because her husband rarely talks to her, even though he constantly chats with his gamer friends. There have been days when she’s prepared a feast for the family, but he’s slept through after being up all night gaming.

He’s addicted to being in a virtual world, but has never once taken his wife on a date.

"I don’t forbid my husband from enjoying his hobby, but there are times I have to ask myself whether to continue this marriage," she said.

The problem is not unique to Nhien. According to Professor Vu Gia Hien, a psychologist, video games account for 10-12% of all marriage conflicts in Vietnam.

Divorce Online statistics reveal that male gaming addiction is the source of at least 15% of divorces in many countries. Another 2018 statistic from the website showed that 200 English divorce cases in England cited Fortnite – a battle royale video game – as the reason for divorce that year.

Of almost 400 people who participated in a survey by VnExpress, 39% complain that they have a game-addicted husband.

"Cocaine, alcohol, and gambling are often the causes for broken relationships, but in recent years, there has been a new form of addiction that has the same destructive results on many relationships," Hien said.

Video games have made massive leaps in popularity since their invention in the 70s. According to GlobalData’s estimation, the video game market could become a $300 billion industry in 2025.

More people now look to video games as an escape from the stress of daily life. Thanh Hoa, 34, Hanoi, has to be the breadwinner for a family of three. She also has to pay her husband’s debts of up to VND200 million, which he incurred during Covid.

At first, Hoa didn’t mind her husband’s gaming hobby, because she thought gaming was just a way for him to cope with unemployment, "as long as he’s not a drunk, a gambler, or a cheater...But I soon realized how wrong I was," she said

Hoa is terrified every time her husband loses while playing. When he does, he often shouts and smashes the keyboard. His tantrums often last through the night.

Because Hoa is busy all day, she thought that her child would be fine under the care of her husband. But as it turns out, he leaves the child alone when he plays games, and feeds the baby nothing but instant noodles. He also becomes physically abusive whenever he or the child throws a tantrum.

"Ever since he got addicted to gaming, I feel like he’s become another child," Hoa said.

According to Vu Gia Hien, many like Hoa thought that video games were not dangerous at first.

"There’s a notion that gaming is simply a hobby that is safer than drinking or gambling. But in reality, video games can trigger and exploit your obsession until you lose your mind," Hien said

When players are too deep in their addiction, they usually lose control of their lives and can no longer work, study or care about relationships such as marriage.

Not only do they lose time and money to games, but their attitudes and personalities can often suffer after playing too many violent games. In 2018, World Health Organization confirmed that gaming addiction is a new form of mental disorder.

Mental expert Hong Huong in Hanoi said that she had done therapy sessions with many couples suffering from gaming problems. Recently, a woman demanded a divorce after just four months of marriage because she had to sleep alone every night, while her husband played games in another room.

Experts suggests that women with game-addicted husbands should go back to loving themselves and try not to get too affected because of their husbands.

"If you manage to make it to the third step, most of the time, the husband will change for the better, unless his gaming addiction has turned into a mental illness," said the expert.

When he was a newlywed, Dong, 27 years old, living in HCMC, was also addicted to games.

His mother and his wife complained to him about it, but he never listened. There were days when he played games all night long without eating or even going to the toilet.

But ever since his wife forced him to share chores, finances, and babysitting tasks, Dong has been forced to change. Now, he’s more focused on making money and he loves his children more than games.

After two years in a cycle of depression, Nhien has started to change her mindset. She looks to personal hobbies such as dancing and doing yoga with friends. Having a child has also made her less sad because of her husband.

His child’s birth was the moment Tien changed. He was forced to help his wife take care of the child, which limited his game time.

There were days when Nhien would find the father-child duo already asleep together. "People used to say ‘idle hands are the devil's tools’, I realized that I just need to give my husband tasks to do, and he’ll forget about those useless hobbies," she shared.

At the beginning of this year, the couple decided to open a cafe. Because they couldn’t hire any employees yet, Tien had to help his wife run the place. However,, he now only plays video games 1-2 hours daily.

As for Hoa, she knows her husband’s addiction isn’t just about stress-relief. At the beginning of last year, she found out that her husband was chatting with a girlfriend in-game. The virtual mistress even went so far as to tell Hoa’s husband not to date anyone else. When Hoa complained about the matter, her husband shouted: "It’s only a fake world.

Yet, just after a month of finally getting a job, Hoa’s husband decided to move out because he "wanted to find the love of his life." So Hoa remains "stuck" in the trauma of such an addiction.

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