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Couples and WoW, Part 1

February 3, 2012

Dear Reader,

Matticus recently had an entertaining post on dealing with couples in his raid team.  I think many of us have been in similar situations (his ability to connect with reader experiences is one of his strongest writing traits, in fact), but I noted at the end he mentioned that he played with other couples and hadn’t had any problems with them.

It made me think about the various couple encounters I’ve had, some of the posts that have been written about playing with friends and lovers, and the effect that the game has on people.  From that end, I’ve come up with a short series of posts on couples and WoW.  Today, we’ll start with some “couples advice” that’s widely available on the Internet and how to adapt it to the game.  Next time, we’ll look at some relationship paradigms and how they can affect guilds, and finally we’ll look at some advice on how to deal with various couple paradigms.

The following list is a commonplace set of advice available for happy coupling.  Of course, no one list can possibly encompass everything couples do to make it work, but I felt that this list was comprehensive, sweet, and focused more on positive behaviors than negative.  It’s taken from an online article published on Psychology Today’s website.

1. Go to bed at the same time
This is really simple to adapt to the game; play at the same time.  The tip refers more to lovemaking, but playmaking is just as important in maintaining a relationship (though it doesn’t always feel that way).  Do things together in WoW, even if it’s just achievement hunting or leveling alts.  Maybe you can’t both be in the top-tier raid team, but you can farm together, do random bgs, or just clear old dungeons for fun.  Play strengthens many relationship foundations like trust, compassion, and amusement.

2. Cultivate common interests
WoW doesn’t just fit this tip, WoW is this tip.  Having a common interest to talk about, spend time doing, and create an exclusive “us” club about helps strengthen the bonds and borders of your relationship.

3. Walk hand in hand or side by side
Another one that fits well with WoW.  Play near each other, whether it’s laptops on the kitchen table, side by side on the sofa, or across from each other on the computer desk.  Positive fiero moments are about physicality: high fives, hugs, butt-slaps, and they’re less likely if you have to go to another room or upstairs first.  I love when my wife and I do something awesome and spontaneously high-five across our desk.  These moments of touch mean a lot, so make them possible with proximity.

4. Make trust and forgiveness your default mode
This can be incredibly hard with high-stakes gameplay, but you should always be able to forgive your partner for making game mistakes and trust that they’ll improve.  It can be hard at times, especially when one partner is a more advanced player due to experience, practice, or gear, but it must be your default mode or eventually someone’s going to want to stop playing.  I’ve been guilty of breaking this rule before, and it hurts to know that not only did I make my wife feel bad about something, but I also stole some of her personal joy from playing the game.  It’s crucial to learn this early and practice it often, or you won’t have a game to play at all.

5. Focus more on what your partner does right than what he or she does wrong
Going right along with the previous tip, make sure to let each other know that you’ve seen and acknowledged their successes.  Proximity helps with this, as spontaneous shout outs about awesomeness can mean a lot, but even post-event discussions about how you noticed that she was dpsing really well or he was healing really well can mean a lot.  It’s harder when the event goes poorly (raiding or bgs or whatnot), but it’s even more important then.  Letting your partner know that her tranquility at precisely the right moment could have turned the fight around positively reinforces that behavior, improving both the relationship and future attempts.

6. Hug each other as soon as you see each other after work
Fiero all over again.  Let your partner know you enjoy playing with them regardless of what you do or how it goes.  Hug them after a raid, after a bg, or when you’re done.  Let them know that you’re glad you’re playing together and would not want to play alone.

7. Say “I love you” and “Have a good day” every morning
Even in game, greetings and character emotes can mean a lot.  I love /pinching or /hugging my wife’s toon.  I insist that our toons are married, but she protests that they don’t even really know each other, being different races, so the play continues (Seriously, why wouldn’t a blood-elf paladin want to marry a Tauren druid?  Shapechanging is sexually FTW!  Interpret that as you will).  Either way, playing lovingly in game makes playing lovingly out of game that much more likely, as it provides practice, precedent, and helps to break down emotional barriers that might prevent that kind of affectionate displays.

8. Say “Good night” every night, regardless of how you feel
Similar to the previous comment, letting your partner know each and every session that you enjoyed playing with them can be really crucial to your relationship.  When things go poorly and no one says anything, volumes can be misinterpreted from that silence.  It’s important to let your partner know how much you enjoy your play time so that you’ll have more of it in the future.

9. Do a “weather” check during the day
Communicating during events is important for everyone involved, but more so for partners.  If I’m having  a hard time tanking or dpsing, I always let her know so that she can respond in kind.  It may be with comfort, tips, or agreement, but letting her know I’m having a hard time brings her into the communications about solving it.  Similarly, since my wife heals, we have a great communication system sans technology where she can tell me to blow cooldowns, move out of things that I’m standing in (it happens rarely, but sometimes), or to take it easy because she’s fine.  These little “weather checks” enable better game play and better emotional response.

10. Be proud to be seen with your partner
You should enjoy bringing your partner along (or being brought along) to events, whether it’s raiding or anything else.  You should avoid environments that make you feel bad about your partner’s progress, or make them feel bad about yours.  If you’re in such a negative environment, it will eventually infect your relationship with division.  You might start to want your partner to sit out or improve but not be able to communicate it without hurting feelings.  You may start to want to play alone.  Avoid those circumstances by avoiding the environments that would propagate them.  Play with your partner conspicuously where everyone can see, because that shows your love and trust.

At any rate, that’s the first installment of Couples Therapy for WoW.  It functions best when you value your relationship more than the game, because if you don’t, no trite list on a blog is going to help you.

In our next installment, we’ll look at various couple paradigms and how they affect end game in WoW.  Besides just the Overprotective Vultures, the paradigm that Matticus describes, we’ll look at a variety of patterns, and perhaps even see ourselves in there, somewhere.


Stubborn (too bull-headed to be a vulture).

6 Comments leave one →
  1. February 5, 2012 2:21 pm

    I always love when someone posts something similar to #5. It always seems to be the assumption that the man has to tell the woman in the relationship how to properly execute. You guys really need to learn to use the word “them” (or variation thereof) instead of she/her. I know it is not usually the norm, but I believe it is becoming more the case that many men are being dragged into an MMO because of their wives/girlfriends interest. I know my hubby wouldn’t have tried Rift at all if it weren’t for that fact that I was.

    • February 5, 2012 3:49 pm

      Duly noted. I tried to be genderless throughout most of the post, but here I fell back on my own experiences, where I do have a wife who is very self-conscious about her dps and enjoys hearing that it’s noted when she does well. That in no way invalidates your point, but hopefully explains my word choice a little.

      That said, “them” is not interchangeable with she or her (or he or him, of course) since its plurality should be an issue. I realize it’s becoming more and more common to use them as a non-gendered singular pronoun, but as an English teacher, I cringe when I see it, and until it becomes acceptable, I’m going to stick with singular pronouns. I abhor he/she and dislike he or she, so I do try to structure things so that them can be used (Ex: “Many people have partners and want to play with them.”) In this case, memories simply pushed any conscious decision to pluralize aside. In fact, I frequently catch more flak for using “he” as a standard non-gendered pronoun.

      I do note, by the way, that you ignored “If I’m having a hard time tanking or dpsing, I always let her know so that she can respond in kind. It may be with comfort, tips, or agreement, but letting her know I’m having a hard time brings her into the communications about solving it,” where I used myself as the poor player and my wife as the competent one. She’s egging me on to play Star Wars right now, in fact, and so I will. While your point is a completely valid one, please don’t confuse memory with misogyny.

  2. June 5, 2012 11:27 am

    Very nice post! I’ve been on the receiving end of playing with couples and then the drama when they break up or if you need to have 2 spots in raid because one won’t play without the other. I’m also in a relationship with someone I met through this game but we live on opposite sides of the world which has it’s own problems of limited time together online to actually play together or talk, etc.

    • June 5, 2012 11:34 am

      Having been on both the giving and receiving end of couples play (though neither of us “won’t play without the other”), I think that overall it’s a great benefit to the game that your partner’s interested. I’ve seen a lot of people leave because their partner felt they played too much (sometimes correctly, sometimes incorrectly), and that only leads to heartbreak and resentment all around. I doubt I’d have played WoW as long as I have if it weren’t for my wife’s interest, and now that she’s taking a new interest in raiding, I’m being drawn back to the game (though not raiding) simply because I see her enjoyment. It works well for everyone involved.

      Thanks for the comment!


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