The psychology of relationships: psychological games
Applying the concept of games
Games seem to creep into people’s relationships quite easily. Once you have read the chapter on games, think about your own relationship: do you recognize a pattern between the two of you that is happening again and again?
Do you both end up feeling bad in some way at the end of it?
Does it feel like it simply stays the same and you aren’t learning anything from an argument?
If that is the case, think about the sequence of roles you are both going through.
Who starts off as Victim/Rescuer/Persecutor and which roles do you both end up with afterwards?
Remember that both of you will be contributing something to keeping the game going and the best way not to get into one is to stay authentic, or in Adult mode.
Also, you both need to learn to own the positive qualities of each role (see section on games).
Needless to say, psychological games are not much of a fun way to spend your time with your loved one.
They might be dramatic and exciting at some points, but they are also very destructive and have a tendency to escalate. If you like the intensity of arguments and break-ups try going for passionate sex instead.
That would be a much more healthy way to feel intense about your partner!
Games will continuously undermine your sense of safety and peace in a relationship. They might also constitute a low level of bickering and unhappiness between the two of you.
Think about how you can be more authentic, in a way that is open and honest with your partner.
There’s some way you can feel more connected and so be able to meet your needs for attention and feeling loved and recognized in a positive way.
Why go for negative attention, if you can have positive attention? However, as you play fewer games with your partner, you may feel a little bit deprived of emotional stimulation for a while (also see the section on strokes).
As you give up the quest for negative attention you may feel the vacuum that gets created before the two of you learn to interact intensely in a positive way.
If that is the case, keep going and keep asking for good attention from your partner. It’s ok to ask for attention, physical contact, recognition, and so on! We all need it.
A last word about arguing.
Arguments are not necessarily psychological games. At some point in any relationship you will need to get down to the bottom of all of the things you don’t agree on and about which you’ll need to compromise.
If you’re both passionate about your points of view you may argue. That’s a good process. You keep pushing your side whilst the other person is doing the same. At some point it will get easier and you will rub along better, even if you may always disagree on a specific point.
The way I judge the usefulness of an argument isn’t whether I have won or even whether we end up agreeing at the end of it, but whether I have learned something new about myself or my partner in the process.
When I have a sense that I have learned something new, then I feel it was worth it, because I understand more about where the other person is coming from.
Next time round we may argue about the same issue, but from a different starting point. I believe that arguing is an inevitable part of building an honest and respectful relationship (see more on arguing and rules of engagement).
Games on the other hand are repetitive and never get you anywhere.
If you feel at the end of an argument or a falling-out that you have been doing the same thing over and over again and you are never learning anything new from it, you are probably engaging in a game.
In that case, check out what’s happening between the two of you and find some better ways to interact with each other.
Finally, if the games in your relationship are very entrenched and you still want to work at it consider getting some couples’ therapy.
An outside point of view might dramatically improve your rate and ability to change as a couple.
By the way, consider going for couples’ therapy while you are still doing sort of ok with each other, not just as a last resort, when it’s actually already too late.
If you’re in a relationship where you feel threatened by the level of emotional intensity of the games you get into or the possibility of emotional or physical damage, which could be the outcome of a game, please consider leaving.
Your first responsibility is your own safety and, if you have them, your children’s safety.
Physical and emotional violence, whether part of a psychological game or not, can never be acceptable in any relationship. Some relationships can’t be fixed, because the commitment for personal change isn’t there on both sides.
Remember that you can leave, and that you will be able to find happiness with someone else. If you don’t trust your own abilities to create the life you want to live, get help. You don’t have to do this on your own. Especially where fear of intimacy is involved – you really can get help. Check out www.fearofintimacy.org and ensure that your intimate relationships are as good as they can be.