I spent some time staying with a friend a little while back, and easily fell into his weekly routine. Every Tuesday and Thursday we would pour a few drinks, set up the sofa and play video games online with friends from across the country. It was a pretty laid back experience and one I could easily get used to. His wife seemed remarkably relaxed about it too, even as we disappeared into the living room with a few beers and the sounds of gunfire echoing off the walls. I asked him how it came about and he explained that at one point it had become a contentious issue. He was gaming twice a week and his wife was wondering where her husband was. His response was simple; other guys golf all weekend, or play in a sports team or have a favourite bar they stop in at every week. Sometimes all three. She was actually quite lucky to have him only spend a couple of hours relaxing with friends, twice a week – and in the house, too.
For most men, work is demanding. The stresses of the work environment go beyond just the job – there is the pressure of providing for a family, of paying bills and servicing debts, and these sit alongside the competitive nature of men’s self-image and the success of friends and colleagues. It can get pretty exhausting. So most guys like to unwind. It can take all sorts of forms, from video games to browsing eBay, to sports or a favourite TV show. Whatever shape it comes in, the formula will be similar: one part distraction and one part stress relief, mixed in an environment where expectations on him are close to zero. The point is that he will want and need some regular spaces where he doesn’t have to do or be anything for anyone. To ask a guy to sacrifice this is to increase his stress, and if he is giving it away regularly, it will start to hurt him. To put expectations on him to do chores or engage in relationally significant discussions or decision making during these ‘down times’ not only defeats the purpose, it sucks the life right out of them.
But there is a caveat. Everyone likes to relax, to escape reality for a little while. That’s why movies are made. However, with open ended activities (especially things like video games, the internet, and motor-type projects) there is a risk that they will expand to consume all his free time. If that happens, it can become unhealthy. There are things that need doing around a home, and a relationship relies upon intimacy and communication to survive. If he lets his relaxation consume his focus and time outside of work, you risk losing him to it. Intervention may be necessary to ensure there is a balance in your lives between the time you both personally need to de-stress, and the time you must have to knit yourselves together.
So be prepared for your man to blob out every once in a while. Expect it and make allowances for it. If he has that time, he’ll be better placed to help out and invest in your lives together, and a little escape from his pressures will make him a better man in every area. Just don’t let it take him away from you.