Jun 2, 2008

Pictures of Pornography: Addictions and Marriage

I wanted to post pieces of a talk today. It is a wonderful talk by Van C. Gessel, entitled "Real Women, Real Life." J, if you have it... could I borrow it? I actually have access to it, but cannot get it within the next few days.

So, apologies. This will be straight from me again. I have decided to relate a few experiences I had pertaining to addictions and marriage. These stories will not be about pornography addictions persay, but another addiction that has caused much grief among struggling, college wives especially: video game addiction. And I promise that as soon as I have access to this talk, I will post pieces of it as well. This will not be very well written. IT will sound like I am just talking to you. I hope you'll bear with me and read it anyway, and take from it what you can.

After everything happened to me, I found that people opened up to me in startling ways. I am not a particularly open person sometimes, and so I hadn't been used to having people confide in me (then). But as soon as people read my story or heard it second-hand from the people around who knew it, or saw my face on the news and realized that their classmate or co-worker or ward member had gone through something difficult and embarrassing, something akin to what they were going through, they came and talked to me.

One day, a co-worker of mine that had suddenly separated from her husband started to talk to me. I had been surprised and saddened by the news (which was, of course, being whispered all over the workplace.) She sat across the table from me with her stack of papers and her little paper folder, and told me that her husband had decided he didn't want to be married to her anymore.

Then she filled in the details. Her husband was a computer game addict. He did nothing all day but play computer games. In the beginning of their marriage it wasn't so bad, though it was annoying... he would play computer games for a large portion of the time he was home from school and work.

But then he quit school... he stopped going to classes, because he liked his computer games. She talked to him, bit her lip and didn't talk to him, tried to suffer through what she thought might be a phase.

And then he quit work. She was a school teacher with a freshly-minted certificate. She worked hard all day. Her husband stayed home playing computer games. It was all he wanted to do. SHe was bewildered, frustrated, and he would not talk to her about it. He was probably unsure exactly what the underlying issues were anyway. He didn't really care that much, he just wanted to play computer games.

Finally she had had it. She confronted him, and told him that she loved him and wanted to make the marriage work, but she could not keep this up. He had to go to school, or go to work, or do something! Other than just playing computer games all day. She gave him an ultimatum; you can choose me, or you can choose computer games.

He did not even hesitate, he did not even look at her. He said he chose the computer games.

She moved in with her parents.

A sad, bewildering story, that I admittedly do not have all the details about.

Another story about media addiction:

One of my best friends was married when she was very young, 18. She and her husband met only a few months before they were engaged, and were engaged only a few months. You hear of this happening, and you hear of possible sad outcomes in that situation, but hers worked out. Right now he's off getting his PhD at perdue and they have five children, and are a happy, well-adjusted family.

At any rate, after all that happened to me, I was venting to my friend about the experience above, and she told me that every time the women in her ward (they were in a Ymount apartment) got together, quite often they vented about their husbands' computer and video game use. It was so frustrating to them. These are hard-pressed, hard-working families with little time for extras. Mom stays home all day and then often attends night classes when dad gets home. Dad works a full or part-time job and attends classes himself. Ends are barely met. And often there are one or two kids to add into the mix.

These husbands came home, and instead of spending time with kids and family, they spend time relaxing with their consoles and computers. Moms felt lonely, kids tugged at shirt-sleeves and were rebuffed.

I have a friend who once told me about a frustrated wife of his acquaintance who went so far as to cut the cord to the console. The husband laughed, and then taped it back together.

So... media addictions. Pornography addictions. Video game addictions. These things are not just about spouses feeling objectified, or betrayed because of "unfaithfulness." It's also about time and emotional commitment to the family. Any addiction drains the family of emotional resources... the whole family. Spouses feel worthless and helpless and unspelled, and children feel insignificant and unimportant when a screen seems more important to dad or mom than they are.

Any comments/experiences/contradictions and rebuffs are welcomed.


Bull Moose said...

I was ready to lower the boom on this post until I read the first anecdote. That truly is a destructive addiction.

In not-so-extreme examples, however, I think some wives may not understand how useful video game playing (or watching sports on t.v., or playing sports with friends) may be. Men need to destress after work or school.

From my own personal experience (I worked in the family arcade when I was growing up), video games can be harmless. I don't have an addictive personality, but I like my video games. It took many years for my wife to accept this.

I would caution a spouse who is concerned about video game playing from being too judgmental. Just because the amount of time spent playing is more than you would like, doesn't mean there is an addiction.

I agree there should be priorities and balance: 10-15 minutes of transition time to destress after coming home, then family responsibilites, then marital responsibilities, and then time that is left can be used for media. Each couple should discuss openly and without criticism to find that balance.

NoSurfGirl said...

Yup, bull moose. The way skywalker and I have worked it out is, we have 1 night a week designated video-game playing night. we hope it can be come a family activity that we participate in once a week. I feel less threatened by it when I know there are bounds... and that I will have time with my spouse even though we allow VG into our home.

The problem with VG is they are pretty addictive sometimes. And it is hard for players to know exactly how long they've been playing. I've seen that all my life... my dad, brother, (and me too) all had fun playing computer games and before we realized what happened 2 hours were gone. In the case of my dad, he'd stay up till 2 in the morning some nights even when he had work the next morning. It's fun... and addictive. Even when you're not an addict, you can do more than you mean to.

the nice one said...

interesting stuff! my first husband was a VG freak i could say i can totaly relate to your co-workers frustration. NSG I think it's great that ya'll have established a VG night I think a lot of times it's good to have those limits for everyone. Because I can be just as addicted to a good book as my husband to a computer game.

Michemily said...

Wow, the first commenter sounds like he himself needs to work on his love for video games. I don't think it's healthy to love something more than people.

NoSurfGirl said...


that's a pretty strong statement. I doubt that bull moose or my husband (or for that matter, the man in the above anicdote) really love video games more than their spouses. heck, I don't love chocolate more than my spouse, but if my spouse forbade me from eating chocolate, I'd do it on the sly anyway, even though that might threaten our relationship... I guess what i'm saying is marriage is about compromise and figuring out what's best for everyone. now, I'm someone who has been hurt by media addictions... so I'm scared to death that dh will end up playing all the time, ignoring me, etc... but I have learned to give a little, let him have his down time and fun... and he lets me have my chocolate without lecturing me, which he used to do. :)

I think bull moose is spot on... couples need to talk about it. Come up with something that each can live with, and stick to it... then nobody feels threatened. He knows he'll get his fill once in a while, and she knows she'll be able to talk to him and he'll be around for the kids most of the time.

*disclaimer* of course, some things ARE never OK. Like hard drugs, and, well, (IMO), pornography.

Firebyrd said...

The thing is, situations such as in the first anecdote are extremely rare. A number of women, however, seem to think that any amount of playing video games is bad (I haven't ever seen the same issue with the husbands of female gamers). They pick at and nag their families about it, making the gamer resentful and far less likely to want to make any compromise (though a lot of these women seem to think the only compromise is to get rid of the gaming entirely).

Gaming, unfortunately, is the current scapegoat for all of society's ills, much like movies, comic books, and radio have all experienced. The people who have a real problem with it are rare, but there's an exaggerated sense that any playing is bad, when it's not. It's a hobby, and certainly a better one than simply watching TV shows as your brain is more actively engaged.

My youngest brother has certainly been one of the problem gamers, but much as has been discussed with the porn, the source of the problems is not the video games themselves. He has a lot of other problems and has made a lot of poor choices that have led to low self-esteem, depression, and the like. The abuse of video games is a symptom, not the disease itself, as when he's not in a depressive rut, he plays a relatively normal amount and does other things in his life as well.

Bull Moose said...

michemily, you couldn't be farther from the truth about me (please don't turn an ankle jumping to conclusions like that!). You may have proved my point about gender differences in perception, with women rushing to a harsh judgment when it comes to men playing video games.

I said "I like my video games", not "love" as you accuse.

I love my family more than anything. I'm a devoted husband, father, and priesthood holder. Frequently, I go many weeks without touching a game on the computer or console.

If, however, I have everyone tucked in (or they're up and we sometimes play together) and my wife has had her time to spend with me and she wants to do something like read a book, I may play for a while.

I'll admit that on the occasional weekend or holiday, I may play a couple of hours consecutively. Other than that, it's usally about a 20 minute stint (Wii sports is great for that!), once or twice a week.

Query if this is any different from a woman packing up her "craft boxes" to go to the scrapbooking store for 3-4 hours a week or month? Or other gender-stereotyped hobbies (tole painting, anyone) that tends to take up a lot of time?

NoSurfGirl said...

lol that sounds great to me, bull moose. You play a lot less than my husband does... and I don't think he has an addiction, just a fondness for video games and a need to vent with something brainless once in a while.

yes... let's make a distinction between the productive use of entertainment, and addiction... for me the defining quality of addiction is when it starts to interfere with your life to the point where you feel trapped... unable to step back and hold on to the things you really care about. Pretty subjective, I know. But there aren't that many un-subjective definitions of addiction out there.