These are the games you don’t want to play.
Are they in? Or out?
Do they want to see me? Or not?
Am I wasting my time? Or do I need to hang in there?
Let’s be honest, a little game playing goes on at the start of most relationships as you test the water, gauge interest and try to figure out what’s going on.
But ongoing mind games can drive you crazy with frustration. Because when the ground beneath you keeps shifting, it can feed an anxiety that never quite goes away.
My partner plays games is a phrase you hear often in therapy. And it’s always struck me as a weirdly light-hearted term for the (often dark) psychological manipulation going on underneath.
The trouble with game playing is that it tends to have winners and losers. When one person “gets” something, the other misses out, which is a dubious way to kick off any relationship.
Do These “Games” Have an Agenda?
They do. People who perpetually play relationship games are generally seeking something—such as control, validation, a self-esteem boost, sex, adoration, emotional soothing, a counter to their pain.
It’s important not to rush into thinking a new partner is manipulating you because all romantic relationships have an element of strategy to them — and it can take time to feel comfortable with someone new. Anxiety can play a role and people may be inexperienced in how to “do” healthy relationships.
But if these signs flare up consistently then take care you are not being used for someone else’s dark agenda.
6 Signs Your Partner’s Playing Games With You
“Somewhere between love and hate lies confusion, misunderstanding and desperate hope.” ― Shannon L. Alder
1. Erratic communication.
Serial game players keep you guessing. They say they’ll call/text at a certain time, but they don’t. They’ll leave you in limbo until you are forced to contact them to find out what’s going on, which can make you feel a little — or a lot — desperate. Then they’ll contact you constantly (and lovingly) so you think it’s all on, then they’ll go “off grid” for a few days at a time. This is exhausting and confusing and it may hint at the inconsistency you’re in for if you end up staying together.
2. Flirting with others in front of you.
When someone does this it tends to be a habitual behaviour as well as a strategy used to test your response. The aim is to validate themselves and prove they could have their choice of other partners if they wanted. They’ll often get away with this early in a relationship because we’re afraid of looking paranoid or jealous — or being accused of over-reacting. But having your partner openly flirting to a point that makes you uncomfortable is both disrespectful and highlights their core insecurity. Tread carefully.
3. Full download of personal problems.
People will often square this off as “I’m just being honest” or “if it’s going to work you need to know the true me”. But really? Dating is supposed to be fun — not therapy. Beware of someone who downloads (way) too much, too early. This is a particular trap for kind, compassionate people who are always up for offering support — so make sure in the early stages of the relationship the playing field is level. You should be given equal air time unless, of course, they’re paying you.
4. Won’t commit to dates or catch-ups.
Game players won’t lock in dates too early, they like to keep all the doors open. This will make you feel like they’re hoping for a better offer which, truthfully, they probably are.
5. Keeps distance between you and their family or friends.
Game players avoid having you meet the key people in their lives: there’s always an excuse. It’s common to keep introductions until you’re sure(ish) of a new partner, people with an agenda will drag this out for far longer than is reasonable. There can be several reasons. They have a past they don’t want you to know about; they don’t want you to learn the truth about them; they lack close friends; they won’t allow you to get too close so it’s easy for them to walk away.
6. You can’t shake your anxiety.
This is the biggest sign of all. It’s normal to feel a little anxiety at the start of a new relationship, especially if you’ve been hurt by someone, or your previous relationships just haven’t worked out. But, gradually, things should settle and you should feel comfortable with your partner.
A big-league game player, though, specialises in keeping your stomach churning with anxiety because that’s the game and that’s the way they want you to feel. You’re never sure of them — their thoughts, emotions, behaviour and commitment. You never know what you’re going to get when they push through the door. Slowly, you lose your confidence, your mental health suffers and you lose your sense of self.
If it comes to that, opt out and don’t look back. Remember, these games only work if two people are playing.
Written by Karen Nimmo.