But sometimes, getting your partner to join you in WoW just isn't in the cards. And that's okay. You don't have to quit your hobby simply because your other half doesn't share your enthusiasm. You can play, and your partner can not play, and you can both be as happy together as two bugs in a rug. We'll show you how to keep grouping in Azeroth from ungrouping you in life.
First of all, we have some myth-busting to do. Wife aggro (or GF or BF aggro, or SO aggro -- whatever you call it at your place) isn't about WoW or video games. Let's get that misconception out of the way right now. Wife aggro is about balancing your relationship with a hobby that tantalizingly dangles one person (that's you) physically in front of yet emotionally light years beyond the reach of the other (that's your partner).
Drama Mama Robin describes it like this: "Wife aggro is about attention -– who's giving it where, and who's not getting enough. Wife aggro is about what happens when couples lose their grip on how to separate 'me' time from 'us' time, on how being at home is different than being available. Wife aggro is about what happens when the wires of 'my' time, 'your' time and 'our' time become crossed and start arcing angry, white-hot sparks. And left unchecked, wife aggro is about demands that cast one partner as the shrill arbiter of what the other partner is 'allowed' to do and be."
Your WoW hobby aside, you and your partner must come to terms with what you expect from your marriage on a daily basis. A committed couple is more than the sum of two people living parallel lives in close proximity -- yet as entwined as you are, both of you remain individuals.
When we talk about gaming/life balance here at the Drama Mamas, we don't use the term "real life" –- it's just "life." Gaming is real. It's a real hobby worthy of real respect and real time. And it's a real part of you (and therefore a part of your relationship) to which you and your partner need to learn to adjust.
What happens in so many marriages is that spouses come to depend on one another for companionship. That's certainly appropriate, as long as it doesn't mow down individuality.
- Have the two of you come to rely on each other's company every night? Your partner may feel lost at sea on nights you dive into Azeroth instead.
- Would spending some focused time together before you log in feel more satisfying than choosing specific nights as me/you/gaming nights?
- Do the two of you feel satisfaction from spending time in the same room while pursuing separate activities, or does togetherness definitely mean doing the same thing at the same time?
So how much is enough? That's something you'll need to work out together. Unless you have young children or a busy schedule that prevents you from spending time together, clamping an arbitrary once-weekly limit on a beloved hobby doesn't feel very balanced or respectful. You need your own time and space; your partner needs his or her own time and space; and your relationship needs shared time together. It's a three-legged stool that falls over if any single leg is too short. If all your partner will grudgingly permit is one isolated night per week for your WoW hobby, that gnome-sized stool leg is going to send the two of you toppling.
And don't forget to keep dating your partner. "There was dedicated, devoted to each other time before the marriage," Robin observes. "Has it continued? Being in the same room for hours every day is not the same thing as having dinner together without distractions, experiencing events together or sharing similar interests with just the two of you. If you spend time renewing the reasons you married, [your partner] shouldn't be jealous of your WoW sessions (unless there is something worse going on)."
If you're part of a couple or family, you have more loved ones to share your time and energy with. Leaving things loose may have flown when you were a teenager, but a little bit of forethought goes a long way toward protecting a nice, fat swath of WoW time.
Plan your non-leisure time. You don't have to block it out on a schedule, but you do need to make sure that your other responsibilities are in hand. Get a grip on effective time management.
Schedule family time. Scheduling time with your family for which you show up without fail is vital. Daily face time is best if your work schedule permits, but weekend time serves in a pinch.
Schedule your game time. Factor in your children's schedule as well as your partner's, and don't schedule over either.
Do not play outside your schedule. Your family will be much more likely to respect your game time if you respect family time.
Plan game sessions in advance. Plan ahead during commutes or breaks about how you'll spend your precious MMO time. With a little bit of forethought, you can get straight to playing when you log in.
Respect your partner's leisure time. That game schedule you made? Your partner's leisure time is equally important.
Part of working out all this fussy time management stuff is giving your partner context for what you're doing. Why is it so danged important that you not be interrupted once a raid starts? It's a video game; you can just pause it, right? The other players will cover you, won't they?
Explain raid etiquette and demands. Family members may not understand why you can't or don't want to answer questions or make conversation when you're in the middle of an encounter.
Help non-gaming family members understand and respect your group time by pulling out the ol' bowling league analogy. Explain that gaming online with others is like bowling: you can wander down to the alley and sling a few balls down the lane on your own, but it's much more fun with a group. Once you've committed to a group, your groupmates -– just like the members of a bowling team -– rely on you to hold up your end of the bargain. You can't keep hopping up to take out the trash or come help hang a picture or whatever else may be going on in the household.
Give your partner an idea of how long common game activities run: "A five-man dungeon usually takes about an hour, but it could go twice that if our group is having a hard time. I can zip through all my dailies (the chores my character uses to make money and maintain her stuff) in about X minutes. A raid is more like a bowling tournament; I need to be available the entire afternoon or evening."
Yes, you're technically "at home" -– but being immersed in a game isn't the same as being emotionally present for your partner. Make sure you're on the same wavelength about time spent in the same room or home versus time spent engaged with one another.
We often observe that people whose partners don't play WoW sometimes feel obliged to rush through gaming sessions, neglecting to make friendships and become involved in social activities like raiding. This might have felt like a necessity in years past, but today's WoW play sessions are so streamlined that there's absolutely no reason to cut out the human connection. Reach out and connect with some gaming buddies. Your WoW experience will be the richer for it -- and a satisfied, fulfilled you brings more energy back to your relationship.
For more tips on balancing WoW with your relationships and your life, read the Drama Mamas drama-buster guide, particularly our sections on dealing with other people and time management.
Dodge the drama and become the player everyone wants in their group with advice from the Drama Mamas Drama-Buster Guide. Got a question? Email the mamas at firstname.lastname@example.org.