Why My Wife Hates Board Games

As the husband of a “game hater” I hear 2 responses when someone complains that their wife/husband/SO/friends hate board games. Is there a 3rd option.

This post about the “monsters” that don’t like board games may have affiliate links in it. Don’t worry…they don’t bite if you click on them. Not convinced? Here’s my full disclosure policy here.

“How can I get my spouse to like board games?!?!?!”

This discussion pops up on “Board Game Twitter” every now and then. It usually starts with someone bemoaning that their wife doesn’t like playing board games. Amid the responses of generic gender hate, over simplifications, defensiveness and people just generally trying to find things to be upset about; 2 general thought processes about the topic emerge from the social quagmire in an effort to “help” the lonely gamer.

Since I have 10 years of personal experience in this category, I’d like to propose a third, often overlooked, option.

1. You’re the problem

Sometimes when it comes to why your spouse doesn't like board games, it's because YOU are the problem.

Those who claim this generally believe that the person trying to foist games upon their spouse or friends is the problem. This, of course, is sometimes the case.

It’s quite possible that you are just not all that fun to play with.

Interestingly enough, I’ve seen some players change the way they behave when they are playing games with friends vs. when they are with their spouse.

  • Where they give their friends the benefit of the doubt, they lose patience with their S.O.
  • Where they would let their game night pals make their own decisions, they Alpha game their Spouse into oblivion.

So, yes, check yourself, it’s possible that you are the problem.

If it’s not that, then maybe…

2. You just haven’t chosen the right game yet

This is by far the most common argument I see whenever this topic resurfaces. I’ve even made it a time or two…or twelve. Someone will say “Well have you tried ‘x’ yet?!” or “My husband hated games until I tricked him into playing ‘x!’ Now we play games every night!”

It’s true. It is possible that you haven’t found the right game yet.

And, depending on your taste in games, it may even be possible that you are combining both of these first two problems!

Through the Ages board game in play

For instance, if you’re a deep strategy gamer who loves Through the Ages, gets excited for an all day adventure with Twilight Imperium, and froths at the mouth when a game like Anachrony hits retail, you probably shouldn’t start your non-gaming friend, spouse, or S.O. with the classic gateway game of Terra Mysica.

Hashtag: Bad Idea.

But, all of that is really just an elaborate introduction, because I think there is a third option that gets far too little credence.

You ready?

I don’t think you are. But here we go anyway.

It’s possible that….

3. They Just Don’t Like Board Games

I know… I can hear your collective gasp from where I sit. How dare I say something so sacrilegious! EVERYONE MUST LIKE BOARD GAMES!!!

Well…I want you to take a moment to stop and think about the nearly impossible all encompassing nature of that statement. While you do, let me tell you a story.

I don’t like fish.

I don’t like their smell. I don’t like their texture. And most of all, I do not like their taste. I won’t like fish on a train. I won’t like fish on a plane.

I. Do. Not. Like. Fish.

But do you know what happens with stunning regularity when I tell people that I don’t like fish? They start down this almost scripted list!

  • “Well, have you tried Haddock?” or
  • “You have to try Tilapia, it tastes just like chicken!” or
  • “You don’t know what you’re missing out on! Sword fish is a delicacy!”

First off, Mr. Sam I Am, I’ve tasted all of those kinds fish (and more). I don’t like them, to my core!

And for the record, sword fish is just awful.

Secondly, the more people try to push fish on me…the more I’ve started pushing back. The first few times this happened, I listened, and tried their “new” fish. I even passed up a free Filet Mignon once to try that stupid Sword Fish.

Worst. Meal. Ever.

But after years of this predictable mantra, I’ve  gotten to the place where I am frustrated by the many fish lovers who just can not accept the FACT that…

I. Do. Not. Like. Fish.

Cool story bro.

This brought me to epiphany.

Maybe…Just maybe…It’s possible for people to not like board games.

I’d like to be real with you for a moment

There are two very important people in my life who don’t like board games. My wife, and my dad.

And it’s taken me about 10 years, but I’ve discovered that the more I try to push board games on them, the less fun they have.

In preparation for this post I actually asked my wife what she doesn’t like about board games and I was struck by the honesty of her response:

“I think for work all day. I stress about decisions, I struggle to be the best. When I’m not working, the last thing I want to be doing is working my brain. The last thing I want to do is strive to be the best at a particular strategy. I just want to relax. I want to get lost in a book. I want to enjoy Heartland on Netflix.”

I have also come across others who

  • Struggle to maintain an emotional balance within a game that would keep the experience fun for all players, so it’s not fun for them
  • Hate rejection, or struggle with perfectionism and don’t want to willingly put themselves in situations where they are going to have to deal with those feelings in a time that is “supposed” to be fun, or who
  • Don’t like the emotional toll of a game when there is one person at the table who isn’t having a good time and they feel like it might be their fault.

The biggest bombshell of all? There are people who have played games, but just don’t enjoy them…for no particular reason at all. It’s just not their jam.

It’s because of all of this that I no longer subscribe to the belief that “Everyone loves board games, they just haven’t found the right one yet.” Life experience, and basic logic, just tells me that it is impossible for that to be true, about anything, even board games.

So… What’s the Point?

I call myself a bit of a board game evangelist. By that I mean I’m always looking for opportunities to introduce people to the hobby that I think is one of the best hobbies on the face of the planet. However, I think that sometimes, myself included, we can get so intent on drawing someone in, especially those close to us, that we lose sight of the person as we focus on our goal.

For those of you who have gaming spouses: Enjoy it! Love it! But be careful when you interact with those who don’t have the same situation as you.

Now I want to emphasize something very important- you should not hide your joy. Absolutely not. And when someone asks how you “got your spouse into gaming” by all means give all the great ideas you have. But also be careful. Saying “you just haven’t chosen the right game yet” or “you must be the problem” to someone who’s been trying for years, can seem more like an indictment than encouragement.

For those like me who have a spouse, significant other, or just close friends who haven’t  embraced your hobby no matter how hard you’ve tried, let me challenge you, maybe it’s time to step back. Maybe it’s time to tell them “You know, I see that you don’t like board games. And I want you to know, that’s totally ok, because I don’t like fish.

Want To Read Some of My other Thoughts and Opinions?






Disclosure: In case you missed it at the top of this post, this article has some affiliate links in it. Read my full disclosure policy here.


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9 thoughts on “Why My Wife Hates Board Games

  1. Our sympathies. As a gaming couple we have had plenty of folk that couldn’t get their spouse to participate. It’s never easy. It’s lead to some awkward sessions. For us, sharing our mutual love of board games together is something special. What we have seen work for gameaphobic spouses though, is to only play the best social games & party games in their presence. The no pressure situation combined with the obvious fun drew them in.

    enjoying your blog

    • Thanks! But honestly, the sympathies should be directed to my wife who for 9 years put up with me not getting that she didn’t like games. 🙂

  2. I’ve tried unsuccessfully for years to get my wife involved and at some point I came to the same conclusions as you Joe. I just stopped asking. And then something weird happened about a month ago. She asked. Apparently, gaming elsewhere in the house, laughing and carrying on has drawn her in. First it was a family trip while she heard us play Ticket to Ride, then Kingdomino and then my neighbor asked if I wanted to come by and play Catan. She tried Kingdomino, loved the simplicity but saw there was strategy and now she wants to learn Catan and come play with our neighbors. I asked what changed and she said that she is rarely in a mental state relaxed enough to enjoy games. So I would like to echo those who say “Back Off”. The point of games is to have fun with friends and it’s no fun for either of you if it creates conflict. So let your SO go and if she/he comes back to you it was meant to be

  3. I’m in full support of the “back off and see what happens” sentiment. I am known in my husband’s gaming circles as this spouse. I am in the “they stress me out” and “I want my freetime to myself” category. And yet, I follow you and a few other cardboard enthusiasts on Intagram. Mainly because your pictures are pretty but also because I DO like boardgames (gasp!) I just don’t love them as much as my husband and his friends do.

    I think people forget about the spouses “who don’t like boardgames” because a HUGE portion of their married life revolves around boardgames. It’s like enjoying some fish or eating fish on Fridays…but then half of the people in your life eat fish ALL THE TIME and talk about the fish they just ate and the next time they are going to eat fish and about the discussions they are having on fish eating blogs and spending $120 on fish that sits on the shelf in your livingroom until your spouse can find 3 friends and 5 hours to eat it…so okay, maybe my boardgame-bitter is showing on that last one. But my point is, maybe your spouse likes boardgames but is afraid to show it because if they do, they know you won’t be able to contain yourself and it will be fish suggestions for dinner everyday. Thank you for your posts! I do enjoy reading them and your pictures on Instagram (just don’t tell the hubby, okay?)

    • Your analogy was amazing! 🙂 And I believe you are right, right, right, in many cases. However, the day my wife follows a board game instagram account, or reads a board game blog is the day that ___insert crazy thing here____ happens.

      And no worries… your secret is safe with me…(as long as he doesn’t find this blog post.)

      You may also want to check out my post on justifying the cost of boardgaming… 😉

  4. It’s not that I don’t like board games, I’m just not obsessive about it. I don’t want to spend an entire weekend doing nothing but that, I sometimes don’t feel like being social for a few hours after work. I’m not being mean, it’s just I don’t find as much joy in it as others, and I hope that’s okay.

  5. I actually found this post because I’m trying to understand why people get so into board games. I am single and using online dating to try to meet people and lately it seems like board games come up on every first date I go on. I’ve tried a lot of games and while I don’t mind them every now and then, they just aren’t something I can bring myself to care about. But it seems like they’re important to a lot of people so I try to like them. It’s honestly become off-putting. I started out completely neutral and now I’m leaning more and more anti-game.

    My biggest beef with board game obsessed people is this: I want to be able to talk to you about something other than a game. I want to hang out without a game. I just want to spend time with you. That’s all. For me, games should be conversation starters or a means to getting to know the person you’re playing with better. I will almost always prefer to skip the game and go straight to the conversation.

    • Hi Emma,

      Thanks so much for stopping by and adding SUCH great value to the discussion.

      First, let me say that I am a HUGE proponent of balance in life. While this blog is dedicated to board games, my life is not. 🙂 And while you were not accusing me of living my life out of balance, if this is your only snap-shot of me then, well, it’s how it’s gonna look.

      But here’s the truth – anyone with any hobby can live their life out of balance and end up exactly as you described so aptly: “I want to be able to talk to you about something other than __(Fill in with their hobby)__.” You are so right! If someone can only talk about board games, or even spends 75% of all discussions talking about board games, I would posit that they are living a life that is out of balance.

      The challenge to those of us who love this hobby, as well as anyone who has any sort of hobby, is to understand when it’s time to talk about something else. A great example outside of board gaming is a very good friend of mine who for quite a while only talked about politics. Now, this friend and I agreed on almost all political points…but he would. not. shut. up. about politics. It got to the point where I didn’t want to hang out with him very often. (I’m sure you can relate) However, there was a change. Some friends of his started getting through to him because some of the political commentary slowed and slowed after some time.

      My advice would be 2 fold: #1 – gently find ways to tell your friends “Hey, lets do this thing” and when they talk about board games gently say something like “Hey, can we spend some time not talking about games? I’d really like that.” If they brissel – then maybe they aren’t the good friends you were hoping for (which would be sad) but continue to be patient.

      The second part of my advice goes out to literally everyone, board gamer and non-board gamer alike – Take a legit look at your life, and maybe ask some people who would be honest with you, and ask whether or not you are living a life in balance. It may not be board games, it may be your cell phone, it may be social media, it may be TV, it may be your hobby, but there may be something in your life that you are completely overlooking that is taking control over your life. And then in a year (or less) do it all over again. 🙂

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