Annie's Mailbox for Feb. 22, 2011: Marriage suffering due to Farmville addiction

Dear Annie: I have been married to "Brook" for more than 20 years, and we have a loving relationship. However, lately I am lonely because my wife is addicted to the Facebook game "Farmville."

We used to spend our evenings together. Now she spends her time online. When I ask her to join me in watching what used to be a favorite TV show, she says, "Just a minute," and if I'm lucky, she'll show up an hour later.

I've tried using my computer skills to clandestinely monitor, limit or block access to these websites. But each time, she called our Internet provider's tech support and reset everything. I've tried gently chiding her that all the so-called "friends" she has on these games are only monopolizing her time, but she shrugs this off and insists she doesn't spend that much time online. She is lying to herself. I've tracked it. In a single day, she spent eight hours on this site. I've caught her online at 3 a.m.

Our house is a disaster. I do a lot of housework, but Brook is distracted when she tries to "help" and takes a lot of breaks — which means she's online again. How can I get her to spend more time with me?

— Fed Up with a Farmville Fanatic

Dear Fed Up: These online games encourage constant participation, and many provide virtual social communities. Your wife fears that if she stops playing for an extended period, she will lose out. She doesn't realize that she is already losing out — with you. Like any addiction, your wife may need professional help to stop. In the meantime, insist that she shut off the computer at a specified time each day. Plan dates that will interest her enough to get out of the house. She needs to get back into the real world.

Dear Annie: I work in a small office and regularly interact with my boss. My performance reviews are uniformly excellent, and I am liked, respected and trusted by my co-workers. The problem is, after I take a vacation to which I am perfectly entitled, I find my inbox filled with petty requests and busywork from the boss. I rarely get such requests otherwise, and it makes me think he somehow feels I am slacking off because I am not there.

I am hotly offended by this behavior and would like to find an amicable but firm way to end it without permanently damaging our office relationship. Any thoughts?

— Seething in St. Louis

Dear Seething: Your boss, in his inappropriate, controlling way, is telling you that he has a hard time managing without you. These petty requests are punishment for leaving him. Unless you can schedule your vacations to coincide with his, we recommend you ignore this petulant behavior. Even if the requests are busywork, they are part of your job. This, too, shall pass.

Dear Annie: The letter from "Disturbed" brought back several years of bad memories for me. My husband is a great person with a deep love for family. However, he, too, had an explosive temper. There would be months without a problem, and then out of the blue, he would blow up at the children or me. In desperation, we went to a family counselor. She suggested he see his physician. He did. After a lengthy explanation of the problem, the doctor prescribed an antidepressant. What a difference! I strongly recommend that anyone who has this problem talk to their doctor and ask if such a treatment might help.

— Grateful in California

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