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Can a Video Game Ruin a Marriage?

October 2, 2018 | by Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, MS, LCPC

The addictive game Fortnite is being blamed for hundreds of divorces. They have it backwards.

Since January 2018 a UK-based website Divorce Online has received 200 divorce petitions blaming “Fortnite,” the addictive video game, for their split.

“These numbers equate to roughly 5% of the 4,665 petitions we have handled since the beginning of the year,” a Divorce Online spokesperson wrote in a press release. “It is no surprise to us that more and more people are having relationship problems because of our digital addictions.”

While any time-consuming addictive activity can damage a relationship, it is simplistic to blame a video game, just as it is to blame Facebook, smart phones, or any other vice. Rather, we must take responsibility for ourselves and our choices and think about where we place our priorities in life.

While we must be aware of our weaknesses and not intentionally put ourselves in a situation where we think we are apt to fail, we are not helpless victims who have no self-control.

There are many activities that have an addictive quality, and responsible usage, or even abstinence, may be the best policy. What is more important is to understand why we pursue these activities that push you away from your relationship in the first place.

When a marriage feels safe and strong, there is no reason to distract oneself with other things. When the marriage is not in an optimal state, it is quite common for one or both spouses to “exit” the relationship. There are varying degrees of exits in a marriage. Some can be quite serious and lead to the breakup of the relationship unless help is sought. These include infidelity and substance abuse. Others are more benign but equally insidious as one does not even realize the effect they are having until it is too late. Work, exercise, volunteering, and even parenting can all be misused as an escape from your marriage. If any of these activities are done in order to avoid your spouse, you are taking an exit.

We need to become more conscious about our actions and our motivations and begin to take responsibility for our reality. If we want to change it, we can be proactive. If your marriage is not thriving, it’s no wonder you prefer to go to the gym or talk to friends, but you are ultimately avoiding the reality of your most important relationship that needs to be addressed. With the right tools, you can create a connected relationship. While I am not suggesting you need to spend every waking moment with your spouse, you shouldn't be spending every waking moment thinking about how you can avoid being with your spouse.

Make your marriage a priority by consciously working on it together, or even on your own. Learn how you can be a better spouse so your spouse actually wants to spend time with you. Become aware of how you “check out” and start making more conscious decisions. Spend more quality time together and learn how to have safe conversations so you don't continue avoiding the “elephants in the room”.

As you begin to do this, you will notice less of a pull towards distractions that take you away from your relationship. Even if you like playing video games, or checking your Facebook feed, these activities should not become all-consuming and further distance you from your spouse.

So no, video games don't cause divorce. Bad marriages do.

To get a copy of Rabbi Slatkin's New 60 Second Plan to a Happy and Healthy Marriage, click here:


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