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I have a friend with whom I have been playing a certain online game for many years. I also play with his wife. I have been friends with both of them for over three decades, first individually, and then as a couple after they got married. They are both very competitive, as am I. We all good-naturedly compete, and the game is a positive part of our relationship.

Recently the husband has started "throwing" the game with me. By that I mean he intentionally makes plays that are strategically foolish, which results in me winning a much larger proportion of the games than I had before. I know his playing patterns, and immediately noticed when he started doing this. At first I thought it was a fluke, or that I was imagining things, but it has continued now for several months, to the point that I am worried about him.

There's one more bit of information. In the last year (before the game thing began), he suddenly announced to the wife that he wanted a divorce. She was shocked and upset, but is a pragmatic person, so she told him that if he didn't want her in their house, she would move out. She immediately made plans to do that (within a few days), but when he saw she was serious about it, he reneged and blamed his request on stress at work. She later told me they had "worked things out".

I'm concerned about my friend, and wonder if he is trying to tell me something with his game behavior. But I don't know whether to ask him about it. I don't want to create a situation with him and his wife, or between myself and either of them. I value both of their friendships and care about both of them. How do I express my concern to my friend in the correct way without creating a weird situation?

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    Are you friends "in real life" too, as in, do you see him in person and could have a face to face conversation? Or is this all online? – Em C Mar 30 '18 at 14:16
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    @EmC, we were all three colleagues, and then friends, starting about 30 years ago. They live in a different city now, but I do go visit them several times a year, and the wife and I have frequent email conversations. – Java Jive Mar 30 '18 at 14:27
  • Do you talk when gaming together? Are you certain it's actually your friend at the helm? Without the extra backstory, it would sound like someone else less skilled is playing in his place. – user8671 Mar 30 '18 at 14:36
  • @Kozaky that is something I never considered, but I think it highly unlikely. Yes there is a way to send messages within the game (not talk) but we rarely do. I could try that as a test. He lives alone with his wife, and their children are grown and scattered and rarely visit. So someone physically taking his place I can't imagine. An electronic highjacker (someone using his account) I find unlikely also since all the games we play (many simultaneously) have the same behavior. That would mean he himself isn't playing at all. I think. Assuming I understand how those things work. – Java Jive Mar 30 '18 at 14:45
  • What (sort) of game is it? Is it feasible that you've gotten better and his skill has stagnated? If it's something like Hearthstone or other Freemium game maybe he just hasn't invested as much as you? If it's something like DOTA/HOTS/LOL maybe his mouse/kbd needs replacement? – aslum Mar 30 '18 at 16:30
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First of all, limit it to one topic. If you start talking about everything, you could be opening up a much larger discussion than you had planned and can drive him away.

I like how you start this and I think you have the right premise: he's not playing like himself. So start there! The point in this discussion is for you to be yourself and not what some stranger on the internet advises you to be.

If it were me, I'd say something like, "Hey, I've noticed you aren't playing like yourself. I've won some games that I shouldn't have won - are you doing OK?" and let the conversation flow from there.

Guys don't always open up or talk about their feelings, especially if you just want to do that. So have there be another context - if you normally get together, enjoy yourselves and when you have some time by yourselves, ask then. Or go bowling. Or fishing. Or knitting. The main thing is - be doing something. Guys are a lot more willing to talk when they're doing something than when they sit down to "talk".

Your friend is fortunate to have someone who notices things like that.

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My take on the situation..the guy is kind of a jackass. He announced divorce as a bluff, and when his wife outfaced him, he backed down. My guess is whatever made him want to announce divorce last year wasn't fixed, and he's thinking of breaking up again, or cheating. And he prepares the ground by letting you win games against him. Either he wants to cheat with you, or he is trying to get you on his side when a break up happens.

Whatever's happening in the marriage, there is almost nothing you can do, you don't know nearly enough. It's between them. If you want to offer someone emotional support, ask the wife if she wants to talk, not the husband. I don't think the husband is being straight with anyone.

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If you are a man, you may benefit him greatly by reaching out. Find a way to do so where he's comfortable, and find real ways to benefit him.

If you are a woman, you must acknowledge that a man's marriage problems are off-limits to a woman who could potentially become his lover. From this basis, if you care about him and his marriage, approach his wife in private and express your concern to her, and focus on helping her help him in a respectful way.

If it's what you think, still please don't say, "he threw a bunch of games to me; I think he's in love with me" because that won't help his wife. Instead, say "I noticed from his playing style that something has changed, he seems distracted, his skills aren't as sharp as they used to be... he seems really stressed-out lately." Then you can talk about it as the wife's direct friend.

Depending on his marriage situation, you may need to refrain from letting him know about your concern entirely and act as a 100% covert benefactor, in the case that getting close with him would undermine the wife's relationship with him.

Good luck!

  • I get the feeling that the poster is a woman, and the guy is trying to curry favor with her by letting her win. – swbarnes2 Mar 30 '18 at 19:00
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    I can go no further than to acknowledge that as a possibility and work off that. – elliot svensson Mar 30 '18 at 19:03

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