At some point, growing up happens to all of us. The all-night gaming sessions give way to an all-day work schedule. The Mega Man sheets and bedspreads are thrown out and replaced with something more “sensible” and “adult”, and we’re told to start paying attention to things like thread count, instead of which one of your heroes is on the pillow. Against your every gut instinct, you may have even shelved your older gaming consoles to avoid clutter. It can be downright tragic.

But it can’t be that bad, right? If you’re lucky, some gal or guy has joined forces with you along the way, and the two of you are happily battling the evil onslaught of adulthood side by side. There’s only one small problem: as hard as you’ve tried, your significant other doesn’t understand your gaming lifestyle. Does it mean game over for your relationship? Not at all! Settle in, young gamers, your walkthrough has arrived.

Step One: Fly Your Geek Flag

In any relationship, it is always important to be yourself. Gaming translation? Mrs. Pac-Man should at least have a good idea of which direction you are headed.  If you have aspirations of spending the next five years of your life on the Major League Gaming circuit in South Korea, that is something your SO would probably like to know! And remember, it is not just the big stuff, either. Many gamers live for the midnight releases of their favorite games, and the frenzy of excitement that comes with waiting in line for your new title and running home to play all night. Make sure that these expectations are communicated to your partner, and let her know how important they are to you. At least that way she’s not surprised when you come stumbling like a zombie into bed at 5am mumbling about “noobs” and being “out of ammo”.

Step Two: Sharing is Caring

OK, so you haven’t missed a Grand Theft Auto sequel since the days of the PS2, and your nickname among your friends is “Captain Completion” because you never leave an achievement behind. While great accomplishments, they may not mean the world to your SO. In order to really complete the yin and yang of a relationship, you will need to find what interests her, and then dig in and get involved! Does she love hiking? Plan a trip when you are both free. Did you land a bargain hunter? Search for postings of yard sales or flea markets you can visit together (Protip: these are great places to pick up vintage games on the cheap, too!). The key here is to show genuine interest, and be proactive in creating activities you both can enjoy.

Step Three: Watch The Clock

All gamers know the importance of time and resource management in-game, but having those same skills in a relationship is just as valuable. As adept as we’ve become over the years at multitasking during a game session, it really isn’t the best way to try to spend time with your SO. Instead, try to build your gaming schedule around specific times of the day, preferably when your partner is busy. Plus, if you keep a consistent schedule, she will grow accustomed to the pattern and see it as personal time, which every couple needs just as much as time together. That way, when she is telling you what a $%#@ Margaret in Accounting can be, she can do so with your undivided attention and without having to shout over gunfire and concussion grenades. Everyone wins!

Step Four: Don’t Budge from the Budget

As any couple can attest, money can be the root of all relationship evil. Disagreements over how to spend money can be brutal, especially if purchases aren’t discussed beforehand. In order to avoid this dangerous pitfall, create a gaming budget and stick to it. Be specific, too! When you write your monthly budget, write down the games you plan to purchase and their cost, just like you would for any other expense. This will help your partner see you are not spending on a whim, and will help remind you of your goal and how much you will need to set aside to get there.

Step Five: Get Your Partner Plugged In

Now that you’ve mastered the first few steps in keeping a gaming relationship on the right track, try this advanced lesson: get your non-gaming partner playing with you. Games today are beautiful, artistic marvels that more closely resemble Hollywood films than the blurry pixels of the past, and new non-conventional gamers are flocking to the industry every day. Games like Portal  are great for two-person co-op challenges, and can be a perfect option to unwind together. Try to find an adventure that fits your partner’s personality, and give it a try!