I recently had one session with a client who claimed that she had doubts about marrying her fiancé. When I asked why, she told me her fiancé loved to play games with her. As it turns out, her fiancé was a very smart man who knew his way around words and apparently, he knew his way around mind games.
The woman (let’s call her Debbie) told me of several instances where he turned the tide of an argument against her, to bring favour to his side, or to simply extort something out of her.
This begs the next question: why do people like to play mind games?
Mind games have been around since the dawn of time. They’re used to win wars, bring peace between two nations, make money, build empires, and control the economy.
Nowadays, they’re being used for devious purposes. Now, Debbie was not the only client who ever brought up the topic of mind games in one session. Four years ago, a woman named Marge (not her real name) became the victim of a very scheming partner. Coming from a wealthy family, Marge was convinced by her then-boyfriend to drop everything and leave with him to the United States. She was separated from her family for two years before she finally decided to pack up and leave him.
As much as I want to be gender-neutral, this article will focus more on men and the mind games that they play. Men are genetically programmed to take care of women, so why did this need or capacity to inflict emotional and mental pain come into existence?
Why do men love mind games?
As a counsellor, mind games are about trying to win someone over who’s very stubborn, i.e. someone who won’t give up on their current way of thinking to make way for mine. Mind games are all about convincing someone.
There are times when it’s okay to play mind games – like trying to prevent someone from making a bad decision or saving someone from a bad relationship. But oftentimes, the ethics become questioned as mind games often suggest dishonesty and duplicity.
Between Marge and Debbie, I’ve come across several reasons why men love to play mind games:
- It’s a way of asserting their ALPHA MALE status – Males have a primal personality. They like to assert that they are leaders and that whatever they say goes. These people are the ones who grew up in a very conventional family who never had any inkling of the current social norms. Their fathers were the dominant figures in the household and thus, they try to emulate him.
- It’s a form of EGO STROKING – There’s just something about ego-stroking that triggers men to do something that they’re not supposed to. Men like to assert their dominance because it makes them feel good. It makes them feel adored to some extent, which is something that men need intensely according to research.
- Men love a challenge – Though this is part of ego stroking, the feeling of being challenged can be too overwhelming for some men. This can eventually become part of their personality, so they’re driven to be manipulative in order to feel challenged or test themselves.
So how do men go about with mind games?
At some point in your life, you may have fallen victim to these ploys in your dating life. You may even be experiencing them now in your married life as well.
Take note that not all men play mind games and that some of them, if you have experienced these in your life, may just be caused by their personality.
- Guilt trips – This is the type of game wherein your partner or spouse makes you feel bad about not giving him what he wants. He’ll carry on with a passive aggressive tone. Take this situation for example: You and your partner were supposed to go on a romantic holiday but something came up on your end. He’ll pretend to understand but he’ll be saying some lines like – “I was kind of looking forward to this weekend, but this is more important”. There will be a lot of sighs and undertones till you give in to his demands at some point.
- The bait and switch – This is a ploy wherein your partner will take whatever transgression he has done and try to make it look like your fault. He’ll get mad at you and he’ll trick you into making up for it.
- The IOU – This works when your guy wants something and he’ll promise to give you something better in exchange. It could be money, a gift, a favour, or even something you don’t usually agree to.
- The Invisible Man – I’d like to think of this one as someone with a very defective mindset. This kind of partner will disappear completely from your life and appear right back when you least expect it. He’ll make an excuse that his disappearance was caused by a personal problem but he convinces you that all throughout his “disappearance”, he was thinking about you. This will go on and on.
How to stop falling victim to his mind games and how to win them
I’d like to associate this section of the article with the popular card game Coup. It’s a card game that will require you to call out bluffs and be on the lookout for conniving people.
Winning the mind games of your partner/spouse can be easy if you just do the following:
- Call out their bluff – In Coup, you can get a person to discard a card by calling out their bluff. The same thing goes for mind games. If you call out their bluff, they’ll either go into a defensive stance and persist, or they will withdraw. The latter usually occurs, unless the male partner is very dedicated to his games.
- Instinct – A woman’s instinct is very strong. When a woman feels that there’s something wrong, then there’s definitely something wrong. Instincts are borne out of a primal defense mechanism and warns us of any danger. Women who acknowledge their instinct can avoid falling victim to mind games.
- Self-worth – Remember, women become susceptible to mind games when they are vulnerable. Women who are vulnerable are those with self-esteem or abandonment issues – e.g. they cannot afford to lose someone who thinks highly of them. Players can sniff out these kinds of women. They’ll play out until you have no more inkling of your self-esteem or self-worth.
- Pace yourself – Like a predator seeking its prey, a woman should take her time in sniffing out when her man is trying to play games with her. Then when the opportune moment comes for you to call out his bluff, you jump right at it and grab it by the jugular.
- Be the better woman – If you find that you’ve trumped your man and his mind games more frequently, it’s time to call it quits. You deserve someone better who’ll treat you with respect and who’ll value your self-worth.
Men who love to play mind games will give up if women are too strong or too smart for them. Still, it’s important to keep in mind that not all men play mind games. If you feel that your partner or spouse has done any of them in passing, don’t be quick to assume that he’s a player. Sometimes, these actions can be a result of someone’s personality.