Relationships break down for many reasons, but it seems there is one red flag that’s been cited several times in the past nine months.
When it comes to relationships, we’ve all learned that if you want them to last the long-haul you’ve got to take the good with the bad. But sometimes, for whatever reason, they just don’t make the cut. You go one way; your ex goes another.
But other factors can come into play, too – including hobbies. And now a new independent study has found that a spouse spending too much time playing video games has led to people filing for divorce over the past few months.
A certain free-to-play online game has caused such a stir that researchers found that of the 4,665 divorce petitions received by them this year, 200 of them have cited Fortnite as the reason for their divorce.
“Addiction to drugs, alcohol and gambling have often been cited as reasons for relationship breakdowns but the dawn of the digital revolution has introduced new addictions,” says Mark Keenan from Divorce Online.
“These now include online pornography, online gaming, and social media, so it is no surprise to us that more and more people are having relationship problems because of our digital addictions.
“These numbers equate to roughly 5% of the 4,665 petitions we have handled since the beginning of the year and as one of the largest filers of divorce petitions in the UK, is a pretty good indicator.”
Keenan’s comments have certainly gotten people talking on Twitter, although their feelings on the research are notably mixed.
“I’m no marriage councilor, but if you get divorced cause your significant other chooses video games over you… I’m guessing Fortnite isn’t the problem,” one user wrote.
“At this point I feel like the media points the finger at video games as being the cause of most problems. It is starting to become a repetitive pattern I am seeing about what the media has to say about video games. Honestly wish they would just tell me something I don’t know,” another user wrote.
But one user disagreed, saying: “No, but video game addiction is real and can lead to relationships not working out.”
Earlier this year, the World Health Organisation listed and defined gaming disorder as a condition which has led to further research being carried out within the area and an increase in the development of treatment programmes across the world.
“Any kind of addiction is damaging to relationships for sure as it means your partner has other priorities in their life and you may well find yourself competing against them,” divorce coach Sara Davison tells Stylist.co.uk. “Gaming massively reduces quality time spent with a partner and it takes attention away from them so can cause huge issues.”
She continues: “Partners can feel second best, rejected and unsupported. As tensions rise and communication breaks down it puts pressure on relationships. If this is not dealt with it can rock the foundations of a marriage and as resentment builds because long lasting damage.”
However, millions of people around the world enjoy playing video games – very often together. And it is far from being a male-only hobby: half of the world’s gamers are actually women, including Stylist’s digital editor Kayleigh Dray, who uses gaming as a way to ease her anxiety.
While video games can be used for good, though, they can cause discord in a relationship - particularly if they prevent spousal needs from being met.
“As gaming is becoming more popular it’s not surprising to see that it is having an effect on marriages. It all comes down to the simple fact that relationships need constant work by both partners to keep them healthy. If you are immersing yourself in another world like that of gaming to the detriment of your relationship, you are not making your partner feel valued,” says Davison.
“The key is to talk about it as soon as it becomes an issue. Don’t let it fester and don’t ignore it. Good communication is vital to saving marriages and the sooner you address the problem the better the chance of avoiding divorce.”
If you are struggling with addiction, Samaritans (116 123) operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at firstname.lastname@example.org.