How can I help my boyfriend overcome his addiction?

Hi Edahn,

I don't understand why my 33 year old boyfriend would rather stay up alllll night playing online poker than come to bed with me, his 22 year old girlfriend. I have expressed to him how much it bothers me that he doesn't come to bed but I cant get through to him. I've tried to relax a little and play on my laptop while he is on his, but when it starts to get late and I get off, he would rather stay on. He plays all day while im gone to school and work. We started off using Sprint Hotspot for internet service, so I had the power to cut off his connection. When I did, he would completely flip out, on one occasion he even drove up the street to steal Wi-Fi service from a neighbor. It is really starting to get to me because I feel as though I'm lacking that intimacy I get from him when he actually does come to bed. It hurts my feelings that it doesnt bother him that his addiction upsets me. Please help me.

THE NATURE OF ADDICTION is that the addiction becomes the only thing that matters while everything else start to fade. It sounds like that's how you're feeling--like you've disappeared to him. Even when you're hurting he doesn't see you, and that feels like you lost something that you had that was special.

Overcoming addictions is tricky. Think about a codependent relationship. Codependent relationships are really just relationships where people are addicted to other people. When a codependent relationship ends, the obsessive thoughts start and even small things--songs, words, topics--can trigger the thoughts and feelings associated with that person/addiction. Lots of people were in a relationship like this at some point, and you probably were too. How did you overcome it? Time. Distance. Distraction. Restraint. Maybe a few other things. Those are some of the ingredients to overcoming an addiction.

Now the question is--is that feasible for your boyfriend? First off, does he WANT to end this addiction? Second, CAN HE? I don't know if he can, that's up to you to assess. Maybe this is how he plans to earn a living. Whether he WANTS to is another question. 

You can see that putting pressure on him is not working. Taking the position that what he's doing is wrong or hurtful is only pushing him farther into his own position that there's nothing wrong with what he's doing. It's almost like the harder you push on him, the harder he pushes back. Try and break that adversarial dynamic. How? Talk to him calmly along the lines of "I know you're really into this. I have my own things that I'm into. But years and years from now, when you look back at your life, you're going to ask yourself if you spent it wisely or wasted it. I know that if I devoted too much time to my addictions, I'd end up feeling like an asshole. I know you enjoy playing and I'm not suggesting you stop it entirely, but I think you should think about your relationship with gaming and how it'll play out if you aren't careful. That's it."

You have to resist the temptation to criticize him, especially if he listens and admits something is wrong. Just try and be helpful. If he doesn't come around or make progress, you have to consider if you really want this relationship.