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Drama Mamas: Wife aggro

Dodge the drama and become that player everyone wants in their group with the Drama Mamas. Lisa Poisso and Robin Torres are real-life mamas and experienced WoW players -- and just as we don't want our precious babies to be the ones kicking and wailing on the floor of checkout lane next to the candy, neither do we want you to become known as That Guy on your server. We're taking your questions at DramaMamas (at) WoW (dot) com.

Wife aggro (GF aggro, SO aggro -- whatever you call it at your place) isn't about WoW. Let's get that misconception out of the way right now. Wife aggro is about balancing a relationship with a hobby that tantalizingly dangles one person physically in front of yet emotionally light years beyond the reach of the other partner. Wife aggro is about attention – who's giving it where, 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.

Dear Mamas: I started WoW this year after many years of patient waiting until all the planets and resources aligned for me, and I was completely rewarded. During those times I was able to play 3-4 hours (at least) almost daily, having no personal issues because of the game (I'd still go to work, the gym, dancing classes, read, watch TV, out with friends, and last but not least, my girlfriend), and started getting invited to my Horde guild's raids.

But then I got married. In spite of having talked about it with my fiancé before the big step and agreeing I'd still play it casually, the first weeks were hell ... Every time I'd even try to look at my computer, she would invent something for us or me to do, and my gaming "time" was pushed back and back. Finally the bubble popped and we had a huge argument, and the best I could get from her was one
WoW day a week.

I still enjoy my gaming time and try to squeeze as much as I can from it, yet I feel like a ninja when I go to raids with my Horde guild because I'm hardly helping them (learning the fights, and my equipment isn't anything to write home about). I've talked to some guildies and they tell me not to feel like a ninja, that that's why they have a DKP system and if I get some loot, it is because I earned it. Yet I'm not sure everyone feels ok with me, or understands what it's like to have an aggro wife ... Also, the one day per week agreement makes it impossible to complete most of the holiday achievements of the game, so now it'll take me years to finish them all.

As for my wife, I've followed the usual tips: asked her to try the 10-day trial, negotiated in advance my playing time, showing her nice
WoW videos, tried to get her interested in the general game lore (I'm pretty sure she would read the WoW novels and comics if they didn't say in the cover that they're WoW-related), telling her about the raids/instances/bosses' lore I did during my WoW day, showed her that my guildies are normal people (not just fat nerds in a basement or spoiled teenagers), taking her to my guild's real life activities ... Yet she refuses to negotiate more time, claiming that I used it as a escape route from her, that if she plays WoW it will become the center of our relationship, that I am a WoW addict ...

I'm at a crossroads here: I'm either still going to argue with her until it breaks us apart, keep feeling like a ninja with my Horde guild, or realm transfer my important Horde characters to where I made my Alliance characters because my guild there is smaller and I feel they comprehend more my situation (but this option would also make me feel as a ninja to my Horde guild, because I'd leave it behind with a significant negative DKP). Quitting
WoW is not an option because I'd know I'd soon find another game to play. Thank you for hearing me out, Aggrowifed

Drama Mama Lisa: Aggrowifed, it's not WoW that's the issue here -- it's personal boundaries and your identities as individuals and as a couple. It's about knowing what those boundaries and identities are, and it's about mutually respecting them. You and your wife must come to terms with what you expect from your marriage on a daily basis. As a married couple, you have become more to one another than two people living parallel lives in close proximity -- yet as entwined as you are, you remain individuals.

What happens in so many marriages early on is that spouses come to depend on one another for companionship. That's certainly appropriate, as long as it doesn't mow down individuality. Unless you have young children or a busy schedule that prevents you from spending time together, setting an arbitrary one-night-per-week limit on a spouse with a hobby that benefits from more frequent attention doesn't seem very balanced, respectful or kind to me.

Robin has written in the past about balancing your gaming time with the rest of your life, and I'm sure she's going to have plenty of specifics to suggest. What I want to focus on is idea of balancing itself. Notice that I didn't refer to balancing your gaming with "real life" – I said "the rest" of your 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 marriage) to which your wife needs to adjust her own individual wishes and expectations. It's your responsibility to adjust your time "away" from her with balance and moderation -- and it sounds like you've made an honest effort to do that.

In the larger picture, you know what your wife doesn't want. Now it's time to find out what she does want. Has she come to rely on you to keep her company every night? Would she prefer some focused time together before you headed off to the keyboard? Does she crave more time doing things together, rather than simply being in the same room while pursuing separate activities? Get her to share what she sees as an ideal mix of evenings over a typical week. Then share your own desires and expectations with her.

You need your own time and space. She needs her own, as well. And you both need shared time spent together. It's the proverbial three-legged stool that falls over if any single leg is too short. This isn't a case of "asking for permission" for more time for yourself. Your task here is to help her see that a single, begrudged night per week for your own interests is not a whole leg, by anyone's standards, for a stool that the two of you will be sharing for years to come.

Drama Mama Robin: Dear Aggrowifed, I am always hopeful that the "I'll change what I don't like" attitude in potential spouses will go away, but it obviously hasn't and that's a shame. I have written about this topic quite a bit and I think there is a lot you can try to help your gaming situation -- and your relationship.

  • What are her hobbies/interests? It sounds like she is neglecting whatever they are, if she has any. She will never be happy without your rapt attention if she cannot entertain herself with something other than TV. Encourage her to renew her interests in any non-collecting hobby, preferably a crafting one. It's well known how I feel about knitting, but sewing, cooking/baking, scrapbooking -- anything where the mats are easily available, something is produced and can be done in your living room is great. Hobbies will not only keep her busy, freeing up your own hobby time, but will also help any self-confidence issues she may have.
  • Are you still dating? There was dedicated, devoted to each other time before the marriage -- 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, she shouldn't be jealous of your WoW sessions (unless there is something worse going on).
  • Where are her friends? Why aren't they insisting on not being neglected themselves? Where are the girls' nights out and the like? Are they part of the gamer/you bashing problem? Or don't they exist? If the latter, there is a larger problem here that I don't think we can address.
I could write a book about this. Instead, here are a few links to things I have written about this before:
If nothing works, then you may have to try couples counseling. As Lisa said, you are allowed to have your own hobbies. Don't give up your you just because you're an us now. /hug

Drama Mamas Drama-Buster of the Week

Make a bad pull? Miss a heal? Wipe the raid? Own up. If you suffered from a simple brain fart, 'fess up. If you muffed something important, ask for advice. Nobody wants to play with the weasel who takes no responsibility for his mistakes -- or worse, the clueless fluff-head who can't spot a problem when it's staring her in the face. Admitting your shortcomings lets your teammates know that you see and understand the problem and you're working to prevent it from happening again. With a proactive, take-charge attitude like that, you could end up inspiring more confidence than you lost in the first place!

Remember, your mama wouldn't want to see your name on any drama. Play nice ... and when in doubt, ask the Drama Mamas at DramaMamas (at) WoW (dot) com.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Tips, WoW Social Conventions, Virtual selves, Features, Drama Mamas

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