Do you play mind games with your partner? Does he play mind games with you? Are you caught up in a cycle of one-upmanship? Most of us have done this kind of thing at some time or other. Playing psychological relationship games stems from insecurity, power struggle, or reluctance to commit. These emotional manipulations and maneuvers are not good for anyone. Relationships are difficult enough to negotiate without having to pick your way through a mind game battlefield. It’s time to stop.
It’s important to say here, that we’re not referring to the fun kind of games that couples play, there’s nothing wrong with a little flirtatious to-and-fro. The games we’re talking about are destructive, and usually pointless. They mess with your head, undermine your confidence, and leave you second-guessing yourself.
Note that we talk about men and women interchangeably. That doesn’t mean we are excluding same-sex relationships; game playing is a human thing and not dependent on gender.
Types of Relationship Games
This is when everything you say is stored up by your partner ready to be used as a bullet at a later date. So, for instance, you might mention that you ate two desserts and feel guilty because of it. A week later, during a discussion about where to eat, he’ll throw it right back at you by saying, "I hope you don't get fat eating two desserts every time we go out."
Or maybe your boyfriend says something to you and then a few days later forgets, or contradicts himself. You are right on it, ready to show him what a flake he is.
You Must Read My Mind
A common requirement of many women. They expect their partners to know what they want without ever actually telling him. He loves you, right? Then he should know what will make you happy. You need to understand that most men aren’t able to instinctively know what’s going on in your head. If there’s something you want, if there’s anything he needs to do, then ask him. Don’t expect the impossible.
Don’t Do What I Say
Following on from the mind reading requirement, and mainly, but not always played by women, is the ‘do the opposite to what I say’ game. This happens when he takes you at your word. And that’s not what you wanted, is it? He asks you if you want to go out this Valentine's. You say no, but secretly expect him to surprise you with a romantic date. When he doesn’t, you are disappointed and he’s failed miserably.
He’s Looking at Her
You notice him looking at another woman. Your jealousy flares and the rest of the evening is spent punishing him for his transgression. He has no idea what he’s done wrong, only that the date is ruined and somehow it’s his fault. He’s trying a bit of mind reading, but it’s not working. He’s frantically replaying your conversation leading up to the punishment watershed, but he can’t seem to determine what it might have been. You are still fuming as you replay your own inner video of the look he gave that girl at the bar. And heaven help him if his eyes stray in her direction again.
Looking at women doesn’t mean for one second he’s going to allow his eyes to lead him into cheating. The same can be said for a woman whose attention is momentary snagged by a nearby hunk. It doesn’t mean anything, yet it is a natural biological impulse. We look at attractive humans because we are programmed that way.
Fishing For Compliments
Fishing for compliments is part of flirting. Yet it can also be a sign that your partner is feeling insecure. They need constant reassurance you find them irresistible, attractive and that you love them and only them. This is a sign of neediness. Sometimes you can deal with this pretty easily, but in certain relationships you can never make this person feel good about themselves.
Don’t Objectify Me
This is becoming more and more common in relationships. Of course, no woman, or man, wants to feel like they are nothing more than a sex object. However, if you make the effort to dress up sexily, don’t punish your partner for looking. That’s what you wanted, isn’t it? If he doesn’t look at you at all, that’ll be wrong too. Don’t blame your love for doing what comes naturally. You look gorgeous, and he has to look at you.
We are all caught up in this current turmoil of what constitutes acceptable behavior. No-one seems to know what is okay and what is not. However, in the, hopefully safe-space of a relationship, the boundaries and ground rules must be set, if not at the beginning, then very soon at the start.
The Silent Treatment
The silent treatment is the ultimate passive-aggressive weapon. It’s used in the ‘Guess why I’m mad at you’ game. It’s also used in the ‘I’m not talking to you until I get a grovelling apology’ game. It’s one of the most destructive and insidious relationship games. Indeed, it could be said to fall into the realm of emotional abuse.
You might feel aggrieved and annoyed after a fight, so tell your partner you feel that way and need some time alone. Instead of using the silent treatment as a weapon, use it as a time to get yourselves back into a better frame of mind. Make it a mutual decision.
How to Stop Playing Relationship Games
- Recognize when you or your partner are playing a relationship game.
- If it’s them, try calling them out on it. Sometimes they don’t even know they are doing it because it has become a pattern of behavior for them. Do this when you are both calm, not while you are in the middle of a fight.
- If it’s you, just stop. What are you trying to achieve that could be achieved better and faster by having an honest conversation?
- Don’t engage in the game-playing. Don’t attempt to defend yourself or counter-attack. Shrug and walk away. Losing their opponent whenever they try to start a game is often enough to stop them doing it in the first place.
- Try to ascertain why they are playing games. Are they insecure? Are they trying to boost their own self-esteem? Are they simply emotional manipulators (in which case, you should consider whether you want to be with someone like that). If their behavior stems from anxiety and insecurity, what can you do to reassure them and help them to understand that playing emotional games just makes things difficult?
- When your partner can’t seem to stop playing games, and you know you can’t keep feeding their psychological need for drama, consider whether the relationship has a future. No-one can live with emotional manipulation and bullying for very long. You don’t have to put up with it.