I love playing games.
The non-drama ones, at least. The ones that involve cards, or boards, strategies and interaction with others, either in groups or one on one. The games where nothing really matters, but there is an element of challenge and friendly competition anyways. When I was a kid all the way through my teen years, my family would gather around the dining room table on a Saturday. The games always varied, though a 6+ hour marathon of Empire Builder (a game involving ‘building’ train tracks across a map of Europe, or the US, and making deliveries) was a family favorite.
Sometimes we never actually finished a game, but we would all cluster around, even helping my much younger siblings to play. Although we all wanted to win, so long as we had our soda, and our Cool Ranch Doritos, and each other, it was just a time of great fun.
A few years ago, my ex was pushing for me to start playing a game called “Magic: the Gathering” with him. Looking back, I was reluctant to get involved in another distraction. You see, I love strategy games. Especially mildly convoluted ones. I love finding the patterns in things, learning the mechanics of games, and with new cards every quarter, it keeps M:tG rather fresh. Yet the more I protested, the more he pushed. And eventually, I caved. It was my own choice, but as I’m looking back and reexamining our time together, it’s one of many subtle ways I have begun to wonder if he was sabotaging my focus on school. I myself made all the decisions that didn’t prioritize finishing my degree, but he always wanted me to do what he was doing. Whether it was beer-making, or playing a certain type of game. And he would kind of sulk if I didn’t feel up to going, or want to go. (In a healthy relationship, it shouldn’t feel like such high-pressure stakes. You should enjoy spending time with your spouse, right? You shouldn’t feel guilted into doing everything?)
Anyhow, at first joining my Ex playing in M:tG went well. I was a brand new player. He enjoyed the role of teacher. We would go to Friday night events, and I inevitably wouldn’t know exactly what I was doing, and rank fairly low. It gave us another point of contact, time one on one with a game we could play against each other at home too.
But then I started doing better than him, sometimes.
And he would get frustrated. Especially if anyone else commented, teasingly, that I was doing better than him.