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Why Do Some People Play Mind Games in Relationships?

I'm a computer programmer and game developer who is also deeply curious about the arts, philosophy, health, and psychology.

What is up with mind games?

What is up with mind games?

People play mind games usually because they are insecure, immature, or have a manipulative type of personality. They are not ready and mature enough to be in a stable relationship. Most of that stems from personal insecurities and the inability to trust and connect with another person in a healthy way. Here are some common types of mind games people play in relationships.

1. Playing Hard to Get

This is when men and women intentionally try not to show their interest and affection for the person they are dating. The purpose for that is to make themselves look more valuable in the eyes of their date. They don't want to appear easy or desperate. Or they simply like the feeling of being chased.

2. Projecting

Projection is when one person attributes their own thoughts and actions to someone else. For example, a person that is being unfaithful may blame their partner for cheating. So the person being blamed spends their energy defending themselves instead of taking a closer look at their partner and judging their actions.

3. Sending Mixed Messages

A person who sends mixed messages may act interested for a while and then ignore you completely—only to start acting interested again later. So what's the point of that? Well, they may unintentionally do it because they are not sure of their own feelings. But if they do that intentionally, it's for the purpose of making you feel desperate and insecure and more focused on them.

4. Guilt Tripping

People use guilt-trip techniques (blaming others) to make the other person weaken their personal boundaries. A person who feels guilty will often let others walk over them and do things they wouldn't do if guilt was not there in the first place.

5. Withholding Affection

This sadly happens often in relationships. Many people withhold affection if they don't get their way in relationships. Of course, this is not to be confused with being mad at your partner for a justifiable reason.

6. Love Bombing

Love bombing is what manipulative people often do at the beginning of the relationship. They try their best to seem like the perfect, wonderful lover from your dreams rather than a normal person. They may text you constantly, buy you gifts all the time, and move quickly in the relationship. It is important to make a difference between love bombing and normal flirting\showing affection. Love bombing tends to be a lot more intense than normal flirting and seems way less realistic and inappropriate for the stage of the relationship.

7. Testing Limits

This is when a person intentionally does something hurtful or disrespectful to you in order to test your reaction and your boundaries. They want to see if you are a person with weak boundaries or if you are able to stand up for yourself. People who do this are generally people who are looking for someone with weak personal boundaries and that's why they try to test your boundaries.

8. Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a manipulation tactic that manipulators use to make their victim question their own reality. What gaslighters do is they withhold information, they lie to your face about trivial things, they deny they ever said something you remember they said to confuse you, they accuse you of being crazy or overly forgetful etc. They may even misplace or hide your items to make you question your own memory.

How to Deal with People Who Play Mind Games?

Usually, people who play mind games and manipulative people are difficult to change. The first thing you need to do when you notice that someone is playing mind games with you is to confront them and let them know that you are aware and not accepting of their behavior. If better communication doesn't solve the problem you probably can do nothing to make the person change, and should probably move on.

1. Make Sure You Have Strong Personal Boundaries

Personal boundaries are guidelines we establish to teach other people how to behave towards us. Make sure you know how to set limits for people and say no when you don't want to tolerate a certain behavior. To have strong personal boundaries you need to build your self-esteem and make sure you know what you want.

2. Ask a Person You Trust for Advice

Often a third person can look at the situation more wisely and rationally because they are not that emotionally involved and they can give you more level-headed and unbiased advice.

3. Call the Person on Their Behavior

Make sure you let the person know that you are aware of their behavior. Don't try to get even or win the game using similar passive-aggressive tactics. Just let the person know you realize they are being manipulative, and don't stoop to their level.

4. Don't Try to Change the 'Player'

It's very difficult to change someone, especially a manipulative person. If they are manipulative and communication doesn't solve that problem, chances are it's just their personality and there's not much you can do about it. It's very likely you will be wasting your time if you continue to try.

5. Just Move on From That Person

Most of the time people who play mind games won't change for the better unless they are still very young. To have a healthy relationship you need to be with a person that is mature enough to communicate openly and effectively. You don't need anyone who manipulates you or tests you or plays mind games with you.