Thursday, August 22, 2013

Therapy Thursday - When Married to WoW

"Mawage is weally hawd."

The other day, I met a good friend and Warcraft addict at a local coffee shop where he asked me an incredibly philosophical question. He is a Masters student in Psychology, and like many other modern philosophers of the cognitive arts, he tends to over-think things. It takes a cup o' joe and pointless conversation to calm his thoughts - the sign of an espresso addict. After 36 oz of delicious, caramelous and caffeinated goodness, he asked:

"How do you do it?"

We had just finished discussing his friend's infatuation with Ke$ha, so naturally, I vomited a little.

"Marriage," he said. "The same person, the same thing, every day. How do you do it?"

After immediately replaying the famous "mawage" scene from "The Princess Bride" in my mind, I sat and thought about it. I took a slow sip from my coffee cup and internally reminisced of the 17-year affair that my wife calls "our journey together." Vacations, late-night discussions, movie dates, play dates, working together and eventually having children and starting the whole process all over again but with the pitter-patter of little feet that constantly keeps us on the move - the two of us have always done our best to keep things fresh, try something new. There is something very nice about taking a risk with someone you know will always be there, which is why we tend to do it so often. I smiled at the thought.

"I don't," I answered.

The look of befuddlement on his face quickly turned into Fear. I had just shaken a core foundation of his belief system and he was trying to decide what to say next. Like many players I have encountered in the battlegrounds that I scorched so quickly they didn't know what hit them, he was ironically frozen in his response (I must have it glyphed). So, I decided to clarify.

I said, "I don't ... we don't ... do the same thing every day." I knew he understood the message when his faced contorted as if to respond to passing gas - he had relaxed but was still receptive so I carried on. "It's what makes being with the same person a perpetually-new and amazing adventure every single day, for the rest of my life."

That's how I do it. And not just in my marriage, but in everything else I do in my daily real life. I surprise my wife with something new daily. I eat something I have never tried for breakfast, lunch and dinner whenever possible. I take on different projects at work regularly. I catch up with old buddies and make new friends. I take my family on vacations to different destinations. I try my best to make every day "a brand new" day in the most literal of sense of the word. And it works.

And really, it makes sense that it does. As biological organisms, we become tolerant of stimuli that we are exposed to on a consistent basis, requiring either greater exposure to said stimuli or exposure to a new stimulus to achieve the same desirable effect. Put a different way, doing things the same way over and over again tends to make us feel less and less excited over time. Things get boring, less exciting, and we tend to search for something new to fill the void, or in the case of many illicit substances, use more.

This applies to relationships, too, and a lack of insight into the aforementioned mechanics helps explain why the divorce rate in America is ridiculously high. Instead of maintaining excitement for each other, complacent husbands and wives develop a tolerance for one another. The "magic" disappears and one will undoubtedly blame the other. Throw in financial stress, overtime at work, a less-than-active sex life and the hottie throwing looks from across the hall and you have yourself a recipe for a divorce and a new and exciting drug, at least for now. Sadly, this one also comes with spousal and/or child support payments. Congratulations.


This interaction is the same in practically everything that we do and is obvious for us gamers in our marriage to Blizzard and World of Warcraft. As the divorce rate between players and developers continues to increase (as evidenced by decreasing subscription numbers), there is no doubt that the "magic" is disappearing. Players are blaming developers for reusing the same-old formula for leveling, boss encounters, dailies and handing out rewards like candy in a context that has us doing the same old thing day after day. Developers struggle to make adjustments to rekindle the fire but do not deviate from the simple formula that sees us engaging in the same way day-to-day, month-to-month and year-to-year. The players are frustrated, and considering League of Legends' ballooning numbers, she's the little family-breaker winking from across the hall. She's free-to-play, though. Congratulations.

I guess that what I'm trying to say in all of this is that maintaining happiness and a healthy, balanced lifestyle takes work. It requires active participation and changing things up to prevent tolerance and burn-out. For us husbands, it's about finding new ways to engage our relationship with our wives and kids. For you wives, it's about finding new ways to do the same for your men. The same is true for husbands of husbands and wives of wives. For us gamers and WoWaholics, it's about finding new ways to play the game. For the developers, it's about providing us with something new and fresh to fall in love with all over again.

That, my friends, is how to do it. And it totally 'locks... err... rocks.

I suggest you try it, too.

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