The Yomiuri Shimbun Dear Troubleshooter:
I’m a homemaker in my 40s. My husband’s cell phone bills have made it difficult for us to make ends meet for the last two years.
He is a company employee and earns a monthly salary of about ¥230,000. His monthly cell phone bill is usually about ¥60,000 and sometimes more than ¥100,000. He says this happens because he becomes engrossed in playing online games on his cell phone.
We have two children of primary school age. I’m forced to mend holes in their socks and underwear instead of buying new ones for them. It’s also sad I can’t buy birthday presents for them. I’m also concerned about their educational costs, and about our future, too, as my husband’s company doesn’t pay a retirement allowance to its employees.
I remind my husband about this situation each time we receive his cell phone bill and ask him to decrease the monthly bill to ¥30,000 or less.
Although each time he says, “I understand,” the bills remain the same. His parents are dead, so I can’t ask them to persuade him to improve his conduct. I also can’t ask our relatives in the neighborhood for advice as they have loose tongues.
Should I seize his cell phone?
I plan to go to work for my children.
Honestly, though, I want him to overcome his overdependence on his cell phone of his own will for the sake of his family.
U, Nara Prefecture
Dear Ms. U:
I read your letter and felt that your husband has become addicted to online games. I don’t know what happened to him two years ago to trigger his addiction. He is probably frustrated under work-related pressure. He tries to forget his problems by becoming absorbed in games.
His cell phone payments stop short of bankrupting your family. This makes the situation rather difficult to deal with. It’s hard to persuade him to improve his conduct by telling him to be reasonable about his accounts. If you seize his cell phone or resort to other strict measures, he may become addicted to something else. It will come to nothing.
To begin with, I suggest you use a carrot-and-stick strategy. Think about rules that can reduce his cell phone bills little by little. For example, if his bill is less than ¥30,000, you can give him the balance. If his bill is more than the fixed amount, you seize his cell phone on weekends. Write down the rules and have him agree to them. Do it as if he is playing a game.
Also, have him go out with you and your children on weekends as frequently as possible. He can go out only with you or with your children, too. If he regularly has a good time with his family, he will probably play online games less and less.
Masahiro Yamada, professor