My partner is a gamer. Has been since the day I met him (at age 15!) and will likely continue to be for the rest of our time together. He likes to come home, plug in, and relax by competing with a team of friends on various gaming platforms.
In our early days as a couple, I sometimes found myself feeling hurt and rejected by his favorite pasttime. Sometimes I would I passively aggressively try to get him to pay attention to me, usually with a loud and dramatic sigh (younger Summer had a lot to learn about effective communication). I felt rejected and unimportant when I perceived him to be choosing video games over me, and I started to wonder if I wasn't enough for him. Was I not pretty enough, sexy enough, or interesting enough? Why other reason could he possibly for choosing to hang out with his friends and play games instead of lavish attention on me?
When I was finally adult enough to be direct with him about my feelings, our conversations about the issue illuminated something for me: his gaming hobby was NOT. ABOUT. ME.
It sounds simple, but it was news to me! Now, I often find myself sharing that same message with the couples I work with - sometimes what is going on with your partner has nothing to do with you and everything to do with your partner's own emotions, desires, and needs.
Before you personalize something, take a minute to look for a different perspective - what other reasons could your partner have to be engaging in this behavior that aren't about you? I encourage you to spend some time questioning the negative emotions and thoughts that pop up around your relationship. Which of those are based in evidence and which of those might be extrapolations you've made on your own?
All partners have unique needs and desires. Discovering what those needs are and then treating them with honor and respect can lead couples towards a more compassionate and peaceful relationship.
You can help to strengthen your relationship with your partner by being direct about your own needs and desires.
Here's a three stop process I like to use to approach these tough conversations.
Start with a gentle observation based on facts:
"Hey, I noticed that when I got home from work today you were pretty engrossed in your game."
Follow this up with a clear description of your own emotions, desires, or needs:
"I feel kind of lonely when I get home and you're already busy on your computer. I would like to spend a little time with you after work telling you about my day and hearing about yours."
Lastly, make a reasonable and clear request :
"Can we try setting aside some time tomorrow after work for us to spend together? Maybe I can text you when I'm on my way home to give you some time to close out with what you're doing."
This is SO much more effective than passive aggressive behavior! By being direct, open, and honest, you give your partner a much better change of actually hearing you and meeting your needs. Next time you notice a negative reaction about your relationship, try communicating what you Observe, Feel, and Request and see where it gets you.