My husband has an electronic mistress

DATE: April 23, 2006
PUBLICATION: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The (GA)
EDITION: Main; The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
SECTION: Gwinnett News
PAGE: J3
COLUMN: MOMania

It’s 10 p.m., and the kids are finally asleep. We’re lying in bed, watching TV, and my husband gives me an inquisitive, sheepish look. I know what he wants — I’ve seen that look since we were in college.

He wants to go play video games with his friends.

There have always been electronic mistresses between us. Some relationships have been short and intense, like the Mortal Kombat craze. Others, like his affair with John Madden football, have lasted longer than our 12-year marriage.

In college, I would visit him at his apartment where he, his two roommates and often a guy from downstairs would crowd around the TV playing Super Nintendo and talking trash to each other. Sometimes I would chat with the other girlfriends. Other times I would just head upstairs and study while I waited for him to finish playing. I consoled myself that after we were married, I wouldn’t have to worry about the Mario Brothers anymore.

And I was right — at least for a while. Once the college roommates were separated and scattered, I was rarely passed over for a video game. But the advent of online gaming has brought these guys back together.

From McDonough to Marietta, from my brother in Loganville to Michael’s brother in North Carolina — these thirtysomethings are all wasting time and killing brain cells playing Xbox online late into the night.

Xbox Live has tiny headsets so players can communicate. Most gamers use them to strategize, talk trash or announce they need a break. But middle-age gamers like my husband’s pals use them to explain that they have to pause because their babies are crying or because their toddlers need help on the potty.

When the whole crew is working together planning complicated assaults in Halo 2, they sound like Navy SEALS, only they often get slaughtered by a bunch of guys not yet old enough to shave. My husband responds with clever taunts like, “Well, if I had no life, I guess I’d be able to practice 14 hours a day like you obviously do.”

They have made some cross-generational friends. They often play with a Canadian high school student, sometimes helping him with his trig homework so he doesn’t have to log off to study.

I understand why my husband and his friends still like to play. They grew up at video arcades in the ’80s and majored in Sega and Nintendo at college. So it only makes sense that, even as they became responsible adults, they still enjoy the excitement of NBA 2K6 or the challenge of Ghost Recon.

Playing a couple of times a week helps my husband decompress. He comes home from long hours at the office and a brutal commute, helps me bathe the kids and put them to bed, and then wants to relax.

But just like in college, his game playing leaves me waiting. Call me a bad wife, but I’m not going to sit there and marvel at the perfect play-call that he made on third-and-long to defeat some 12-year-old from Wisconsin.

He’ll wander into bed around 1 a.m., and I’ll be completely out cold — so there’s no talking earlier in the evening and no hanky-panky later that night.

Although I am annoyed by these late nights of game play, it could definitely be worse. He could be playing online poker with real money. He could spend every weekend playing golf. He could be getting drunk or smoking pot, or he could have a real mistress instead of an electronic one.

Does your husband abandon you at night to play with his friends online? Does his game playing interfere with your love life or quality time together? Log onto http://www.ajc.com/health/momania and share your stories.

  • TheresaWalsh Giarrusso, a married mom of two preschoolers, graduated from Parkview High School and lives with her family in Gwinnett. ajcmomania@gmail.com