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Drama Mamas: How to share choosing what to do in a duo

Drama Mamas Lisa Poisso and Robin Torres are experienced gamers and real-life mamas -- and just as we don't want our precious babies to be the ones kicking and wailing on the floor of the checkout lane next to the candy, neither do we want you to become known as That Guy on your realm.

Once upon a time, two shy people made a duo. They leveled happily ever after ... except one of the players always had to choose the activities. So are they both actually happy?

I am very very close friends with my guildmate, oh let's call him Sam :). We're a guild of two and have been playing together for roughly two and a half years. Ever since RealID came out, we've been getting closer -- I'm very much an altaholic and being able to talk even if I wasn't on my main server was a huge blessing for us. When Cataclysm came out, he rolled on all the different servers I play alts on, created vanity guilds for the two of us, and now we have over a score of pairs that we play exclusively with each other! Now, every single toon he created was his own idea. I'll admit I definitely encouraged him to sprawl out with me but I never once said "You should come play on x server now!" or bullied him in any way.
We're both incredibly shy and both very eager to please. He says he *always* wants to play with me, but I worry that I'm interrupting and annoying him if I ask him to stop what he's doing to come do something with me. Similarly, he admits that he feels he's bothering me if he asks me to come out and help him with something. So many nights we end up doing boring stuff alone because we're both too bashful to just ask.

I've gotten used to being the one piping up and asking if he'd be up for anything, the problem is that when I ask what he would like to do, he'll do anything to avoid giving me a straight answer! I'll start spitting out pairs or projects we have and he might eventually pick two or three that sound nice, but I'm left feeling guilty and that we're only doing things I enjoy doing. He's the sweetest, nicest guy I know, and it wouldn't be at all out of character for him to only agree to play with me to make me happy, but I want to make him happy, too! Maybe I'm being silly and should just be grateful to have such a wonderful friend, but I want to be sure that I'm not intruding on his free time and that we're doing things he genuinely enjoys (which happen to be things I genuinely enjoy as well!). We both work and he lives on the other side of the world, so for better or for worse there are a plenty of nights when we're left to pursue our own goals without the company of the other, so he does get nights off!

I guess my question is, is there any way I can be sure we're doing a fair share of things he wants to do? That is, is there any way I can make *him* pick from time to time? How do I let him know that I do sincerely enjoy spending time with him, even if we're just spending hours wiping while trying to two-man old content or just killing critters for the guild achievement or absolutely anything else he can think of? (Keep in mind that I have told him that nearly verbatim, but he still thinks that he's wasting my time with things he wants to do).

I know this isn't terribly dramatic, but our mutual lack of self-confidence has been plaguing us both all year long and maybe there's a simple solution that I'm just not seeing! I just want to make him happy and he just wants to make me happy and too often we just stall and neither of us are happy :(.

Thanks in advance for any help you might have!

RobinDrama Mama Robin: Oh, you are so very lucky to be part of a devoted duo such as this. The rare times I have been able to properly duo in any MMO have been my favorite play sessions. But, I agree, if you feel like your duo-mate may be just trudging along to please you, it can suck the fun out of your playtime too.

There are several reasons Sam may not be volunteering activities, including:
  • He likes passive control. It really doesn't sound like he is like this, but some people like to control the situation by ostensibly putting others in the driver's seat. That way, it seems like they are doing a favor. Also, if something goes wrong, they can say, "It was your idea."
  • He is trying to be easy going and flexible. In my opinion, the idea that not suggesting something is being flexible is a fallacy. For example, two people going out to lunch: "Where should we go?" "I'm flexible." "Yes, but give me one of your choices, so I don't have to be the only one coming up with ideas." True flexibility is participating in the lunch brainstorming session, but agreeing to someone else's idea rather than stubbornly refusing any suggestions but your own. Otherwise, you are being inflexible about helping to decide.
  • He likes being submissive. He may enjoy the fact that you drive your play sessions. Perhaps he has to be in charge of things at work or has some other heavy responsibilities weighing him down. Letting you take the helm might relax him in a way nothing else can.
  • He is insecure. He may be so terrified of even the slightest rejection that he doesn't want to suggest anything as a safeguard. Or he may think that he could lose his friendship with you if he suggests something you don't want to do. He's so shy, this could easily be the case.
Regardless of his reasoning, I have a solution that may work: Take turns. Say that you would like to start alternating who gets to choose the sessions activities from now on. And say that you will go first. You don't want to count the session that you make the suggestion, so make the next session your first turn. This will give him more time to come up with an activity and to get used to the idea.

If he balks at taking turns, then just let go of your guilt. He is choosing to do what you like and keeps coming back for more. So just assume he enjoys doing the same things you do and carry on.

Have fun and let us know what happens, please!

LisaDrama Mama Lisa: Ick -- taking turns is so artificial, so "No, no, dear, I insist ..." Cut to the chase and make a brainstorming list instead. Don't get all formal and proper about it -- just chat it up: "Hey, I always think about doing X when I'm AFK eating dinner, so I decided to write myself a note to talk to you and try to think of all the things we want to try ..." You could do it once and consult it as necessary, or you could do it more casually every few nights: "Whatcha wanna do tonight? I was thinking X, Y, or Z, but I know you'd been thinking about A -- and what about that time you said you wanted B ..."

Another approach you might try if you're concerned that he's still not speaking up for what he'd like is cobbling together a night based on something you already know is on his bucket list. "Hey, you busy? I was hoping we could X. That'd probably work out great, because I know you wanted to farm some Y, and we'll be right up in that area once we finish ..."

Sometimes (as Robin mentions), people just don't want to do the driving. I've had many a heart-to-heart explaining to my spouse that it's utterly soul-draining to be the one to decide what to cook for dinner every ... single ... night. It's not the act itself that's burdensome -- it's the responsibility for chasing down the details, day in and day out. You may need to come right out and explain to your friend that you'd like off the hook for setting the nightly agenda.

One thing, though: Don't expect the change to stick beyond the first night or two. Some backsliding is inevitable. This is a hard dynamic to change -- but trust me, it's a lesson your friend would do well to absorb now. Don't be afraid to be honest and set up your duo for the long haul!

Dodge the drama and become that player everyone wants in their group with a little help and insight from the Drama Mamas. Remember, your mama wouldn't want to see your name on any drama. Play nice ... and when in doubt, ask the Drama Mamas at robin@wowinsider.com.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Drama Mamas

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