Relationship Mind Games
Let’s face it – relationship mind games are common and easy to fall into. Sometimes, especially early in a relationship, they can be exciting and intriguing. But over time, they can lead to confusion, doubt, and a lot of frustration. Why might your partner or romantic interest be tempted to play mind games with you? There are probably many reasons but some mind games, once discovered, may be seen as “red flags” that the relationship isn’t moving in a positive direction. Mind games can occur at any time, but usually take on different forms depending on the stage of the relationship (i.e. dating, exclusive relationship, or marriage). So let’s examine some examples of mind games and possible reasons why they might occur.
If you’re in the dating stage and your romantic interest…
Doesn’t call. For some people, it is difficult to initiate a phone call and ask for a date. Most of us don’t like to risk potential rejection. However, your dating partner may be postponing contact with you as a way to make sure he/she doesn’t come across as clingy or over-eager. It may also be a way to ensure that he/she stays on your mind and keeps you wondering if he/she is thinking about you.
Plays “hard to get.” Does the person you’re dating sometimes turn down your date requests while still acting interested? This could be a test of your willingness to pursue or “chase” them. Not being readily available for dates is not necessarily a bad thing. It may mean that he/she is independent and has a busy lifestyle, which is something you need to consider in dating him/her.
Disappears after sex. Often the illusion of trust and emotional intimacy is created in the early stages of a dating relationship which can to lead couples into sexual intimacy. You may have thought that he/she was on the same page as you, only to realize that he/she seems to be gone without a trace. Sexual intimacy early in a relationship can have a way of moving things too quickly for a solid relationship commitment to be formed. Unless you can both agree to slow down, it may be best to realize your mistakes and move on. Remind yourself that sexual intimacy is best reserved for a relationship with a strong foundation of friendship and long-term commitment.
If you’re in an exclusive relationship or marriage and your partner…
Expects you to be a mind reader. Your partner wants you to pick-up on, interpret, and understand what he/she is thinking or wanting. This mind game is often played due to a lack of effective and safe communication. Encourage your partner to tell you, in words, what he/she is feeling and what his/her desires and expectations of you are. Practicing good listening skills will give your partner the support he/she needs to voice personal needs more clearly.
Regularly “breaks-up” with you. Does this cycle sound familiar? Nothing plays with your emotions like an on-again/off-again relationship. If after each break-up, your partner starts feeling lonely and asks you to take him/her back, you have some serious decisions to make. Your partner may be telling you that he/she gets scared when things get tough and may not be able/willing to work things through in the long run. It is also important for you to look at your own willingness to work on your part of any of the conflicts. If you and your partner are truly committed to the relationship in a healthy way, both of you will want to work through issues together instead of walking away.
Presents ultimatums. Does your partner often say, “If you don’t do this, then I will do that”? This game is often employed as a way to manipulate or be in control of a situation or outcome within the relationship. Don’t feel as though you have to “give in” to your partner’s wishes every time. However, it might be a good time to consider the issues and the possible opportunities to discuss other ways that the issues might be resolved between the two of you. This game is often played when someone isn’t feeling heard or is in a lot of pain. Good listening and compromise are keys to ensuring satisfaction on both sides.
Mind games are somewhat typical early in relationships, especially when it comes to flirting or expressing interest in someone. But unless yours or your partner’s motivation to get to know each other is respectable, then some mind games can be very unhealthy.
After the initial dating period, many of these games are played out of a place of pain for one or both partners. They can be an indication that spending time listening and honoring your partner could be helpful. In some cases, however, the behavior you are experiencing may be enough reason to question your desire to continue to pursue the relationship. In a committed relationship or marriage, mind games typically result in a breakdown in communication or painful distancing in the relationship. If you feel your partner may be playing games, address the issue and work together toward a resolution, or seek help before the damage is irreparable.