Mind Games In Relationships – What They Look Like And Why People Do It

mind games in relationships
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Have you recently started dating someone and you seem baffled at their inability to be clear and transparent with you? That’s because there are chances they are deliberately being ambiguous with their emotions. Mind games in relationships not only give birth to a lot of confusion, they also have a negative impact on the mind of the one who is on the receiving end of this manipulative behavior.

At some point in our lives, we have had to deal with a guy who plays mind games, or we have been with a woman playing mind games in relationships. It’s nothing short of mental abuse. You will see mind games in every juncture of life. But the most common one is always seen in romantic relationships.

What Are Mind Games In Relationships?

In simple words, mind games in relationships are calculated and conscious attempts by one partner to psychologically manipulate the other partner. These are romantic manipulations disguised as love. The person who is trying to manipulate will intentionally be opaque. Dating and relationships can be confusing as it is. Now add to them the element of mind games, and watch the other person’s mental health deteriorate.

These mind games are sly and unrecognizable in the beginning. It’s a way of gaining control and power over the other person. It’s almost imperceptible as the person who is doing this might act like a victim at times, and at times their passive aggressiveness will shock you. 

How to tell if someone is playing mind games with you and why do people play mind games? Below are some reasons and signs which will help you recognize the abuse. You can be a person of any gender and play mind games in abusive relationships. As long as you have a brain, you can misuse its power to play with all kinds of emotions. 

Why Do People Play Mind Games In Relationships?

Mind games require a lot of brainwashing. People will act as if they love and adore you, and the next moment they will make you feel like you’re nothing. As if you are not worthy of their love. Why do they do that? Find out the reasons below. 

Related Reading: I Don’t Feel Loved: Reasons And What To Do About It

1. To assert power

There are power struggles in every relationship. When the natural power dynamic in a relationship is skewed, power struggle ensues, and it can lead to an abuse of power. When there are mind games in relationships, then one of them will try to exercise the power and control that they know they have over the other. One of the reasons they do this is because they don’t have control over other aspects of their life.

2. They are egoists and lack self-esteem 

Signs of low self-esteem in a relationship can make a person play mind games. You might think that people who are egocentric have higher self-esteem. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Most people who are battling self-esteem are known to have an enlarged ego. One part of them will make them think they are unworthy of everything, the other part will make them believe they are supreme human beings. 

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3. They have had a traumatic past 

At the crux of mind games in relationships, there could be a person who has had a terrible past and has now built walls around them. They want to protect themselves by controlling the events of the relationship. Fear and suspicion drive their decision to play mind games with their partner. They are trying to be completely sure about you and decide whether or not to trust you. They are afraid of being hurt, so they are exercising caution before they get serious about you. 

4. They want you to chase them

Some people are obsessed with the thrill of a good chase. I know this because I have done this before. This negativity stems from arrogance and an inflated sense of self. It’s one of the worst traits to have and it’s one of the signs you are in a negative relationship. I used to shower my partner with affection one moment and the next moment I used to act distant and cold.

The way he would text me and call me every five minutes made me feel like a superior human being. I felt powerful. My behavior controlled our relationship. But it was wrong and inhumane on so many levels. I realized I was not only damaging his self-respect, I was also damaging the foundation of our relationship. I made him question his worth and that’s a barbaric thing to do to someone you love. 

5. They are narcissists 

Narcissists will always play mind games in relationships. They are vile and cunning. They will manipulate you, control you, and want you to be their punching bag. A narcissist will find your weak spot and they will keep hitting it. They will keep testing you to see how far you can go. They will do this so smoothly that you won’t realize they are preying on you. They will make you trust them and then cut you off from others. 

What Do Mind Games In A Relationship Look Like – 13 Signs

Another reason that people play mind games in a relationship is because they want to weaken you by making you doubt yourself. Manipulation in relationships is done to make you question everything that’s happening around you. Now that we know why people play mind games, let’s take a look at what mind games look like in a relationship. 

1. Their hot and cold behavior will confuse you

This is one of the most common mind games in relationships. If your partner hovers around you for some time, then gives you a cold shoulder in the next hour without any reason, then they are playing mind games. Everything is good one moment and topples over the next. But you know you didn’t do anything to upset or hurt your partner. Then why are they acting distant? This push pull attitude in relationship is not because they are confused or getting over their last breakup.

The sole purpose of this behavior is to gain control. Such kind of inconsistency is unhealthy and it will create a lot of imbalance in the relationship. This is one of the examples of mind games in relationships in which you need to sit down and talk it over with honesty and transparency. 

2. Breadcrumbing is one of the signs of mind games in relationships 

Breadcrumbing is another term for leading someone on. You don’t have any interest in pursuing a serious relationship with them but you will send flirty text messages to lure them in. They are playing mind games on text with you by texting you and flirting with you to draw you closer, and then by not committing any further. Breadcrumbing in dating is one of the other examples of mind games in relationships where you will never know where you stand.

The unpredictability of their actions will leave you guessing. You won’t be able to understand or explain their actions. Breadcrumbing often leaves people frustrated. The main reason that someone leads a person on is because it makes them feel good about themselves, as they are looking for validation and assurance.

Related Reading: 11 Expert Tips To Stop Being Toxic In A Relationship

3. Love bombing 

This is one of the most common mind games in relationships. They will drown you in affection and they will shower you with words of love. They will compliment you and buy you extravagant gifts. Their thoughtful gestures will overwhelm you. You won’t even realize that you are falling under their spell. 

Once you fall for them and surrender to their love, they will lose interest. They will stop their love bombing antics and you will be left confused. It’s all too much too soon. They stop all this once you reciprocate their feelings. That’s when you realize they don’t love you, but they loved the rush of adrenaline they got while chasing you.

4. They will play with your emotions

The minute you confess your love for them, they begin to toy with your emotions. Someone who bombarded you with love and gifts now seems to be indifferent to your presence. They will act as if they don’t want you in their life. The intent behind this is to put you on an emotional edge. A person who is playing mind games in relationships will often withhold their affection. They will text you immediately sometimes, and other times they will take hours to reply. They will very conveniently switch their feelings on and off for you as if it’s not a big deal. 

5. They will take a dig at your looks

You have just started dating them and you will hear them say things like “You will look good with a little more contouring as it will make your face look slimmer” or “You’d look great if you lost a little weight from your hips”. Those aren’t nice things to say and nobody should have the audacity to talk to you in this manner. It is one of the behaviors that ruin relationships.

These are subtle mind games in relationships where they try to kill your self-esteem first because they themselves lack self-esteem. They will refuse to compliment you because deep down they think you are too good to be with them. They will make you think you aren’t a good catch and they are compromising by giving you a chance. 

6. They will compare you with their ex

Some people do this because they are still in love with their ex. Others tend to do this mainly out of spite. Mind games in abusive relationships involve a lot of comparisons. They do this in order to keep you in a position where you are full of fear. You will begin to doubt yourself. “What if they leave me?” “I am not good enough for them.” And eventually “I don’t deserve them”.

Break out of a comparison trap smartly and deal with a guy who plays mind games by just agreeing with him. Likewise, a woman playing mind games in relationships will compare you with her ex as well. When you feel trapped, just agree with them. “Yeah, she’s so pretty.” “Agreed. He does look very good with those abs.” The more you act indifferent and less bothered by their words, the more they will get bored and end this game of comparison. 

7. They will stonewall you

The good old silent treatment is one of the examples of mind games in relationships. Sometimes stonewalling isn’t intentional. People just can’t react or talk because they are going through a lot of emotions. But it’s mental abuse when stonewalling is done on purpose in order to hurt your partner. It’s one of the ways to manipulate, control, and gain an upper hand in the relationship. 

Avoid mind games in a relationship by learning some tips to resolve conflicts in a mature manner. Find better ways to communicate and resolve the issues one at a time. Silent treatment has a domino effect. It won’t just shut down communication but also leads to other problems like lack of intimacy, deterioration of positive feelings toward one another, anxiety, and stress. 

8. They will send you on guilt trips 

Guilt is a very powerful and complex emotion and when used in a conniving way, it can do a lot of damage. A guilt tripper will point out the efforts they have put in the relationship by pointing out a lack of effort from your side. They will make you feel like you haven’t done anything. As if they have carried this relationship on their back since day one, when that’s clearly not the case. Such mind games in relationships poison the bond. The only way to get out of this is by confronting them. Tell them you appreciate everything they do for you but they have to stop it with all the guilt trips. 

Related Reading: In Love With An Emotionally Unavailable Man? 10 Tips To Connect With Him

9. Booty calling is one of the signs of mind games in relationships 

You are dating someone and you notice that this person is absent most of the time. They text you and call you only when they want to. There’s no regard for your time in the relationship. But all of a sudden, they storm you with attention and affection. Why? Because they want to have sex. This is one of the signs you mean nothing to him. Men play such toxic mind games when they aren’t sure about you. Likewise, women who don’t want to be in a serious relationship will use you to satisfy their sexual needs. 

They will assure you they have feelings for you. But their words will never match their actions. To put it in plain words — they will use you for sex. Such mind games in relationships leave one questioning their worth. Before that happens, run as far away from them as possible. 

10. They will behave differently in front of others

Your partner has been acting cold with you. But when the two of you are with friends or family members, they seem to be all over you as if they didn’t just ignore you for 3 hours straight. Or, they will pay attention to everyone else but you, and they will not be even slightly romantic with you. 

It is even more concerning when your partner disrespects or acts rude in front of others. They play these mind games in relationships so that their partner can’t predict them, which again leaves you confused. This confusion makes you unsure whether or not you’re being mentally abused.

how to tell if someone is playing mind games with you

11. They will gaslight you

This is one of the most extreme and dangerous mind games in relationships. The entire point behind someone gaslighting you is to destabilize you. They want you to think you can’t function on your own. They will make you feel insecure and they will make you doubt your own judgments. The final checkmate is when you question your reality and sanity.

My former partner did a lot of gaslighting in the relationship. He was excellent at it. He made me think I was bipolar. He kept telling me there’s something wrong with me and that he sees an unusual shift in my moods. He acted as if he was concerned, when in reality there was nothing wrong with me. He was trying to gaslight me. He even went so far as to call me “mental”. Always trust yourself more than you trust anybody else. Don’t ever question your sanity just because somebody else thinks there’s something wrong with you. 

12. They will act as if you don’t deserve them

Narcissists love playing this mind game. Owing to their narcissistic tendencies, they will constantly try to feed their ego by putting other people down. Such are the toxic mind games men play. But to be honest, the perpetrator of these games has no gender. There are many reasons why narcissists can’t maintain relationships. Their ego and superiority complex often drives them away from people.

So how to tell if someone is playing mind games with you? They will make you feel less about yourself and tell you that they deserve someone better. Or they will make you feel that this is what you deserve — the cold attitude, the silent treatment, and guilt trips. It could go either way and you need to regain control and get out of this situation. 

13. They will give you ultimatums

People who give you ultimatums in relationships can never care about you or your feelings because if they did, they would not give you ultimatums in the first place. The ultimatum can be about anything. “Marry me or we are done” or “If you don’t stop talking to that person, we are done”. They will continue playing mind games on text with you by saying such things that will force you to make a decision. 

How can you warn or demand your partner to do something under a given time? That is conditional love. You can’t threaten your partner like that in the guise of love. If your partner ever indulges in such mind games in relationships and threatens to leave you, then let them go. You deserve so much better. 

Dealing With A Partner Who Plays Mind Games

Finding out that your partner has been playing mind games with you can be quite shocking. Want to know how to deal with a guy who plays mind games? Sit down and confront him. Tell him you know all the shenanigans he has been up to and ask him the reason behind his behavior. If he denies all this, then it’s one of the signs of lack of respect in a relationship. Ask him to be open and honest with you. Find out the underlying problem behind such toxic behavior.

Does the problem stem deep? Is it from his previous relationship? Or is he acting out of a childhood trauma? Is he insecure? Find out the root cause and help him get better. Similarly, a woman playing mind games must also have such baggage that she is acting out of. Avoid mind games in a relationship by putting yourself first. If the relationship is damaging your mental health, get out of it and find someone else who won’t manipulate you and doesn’t lack self-esteem. 

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