How to Stop Playing Mind Games in Your Relationship
Learn how to stop playing mind games and start relaxing into your relationships – it’ll change everything! Here’s how to release your grip and be authentic, joyful, and peaceful with the people in your life.
After I wrote 5 Examples of the Mind Games People Play in Relationships, I realized I didn’t offer any tips on how to actually stop falling into those controlling, manipulative patterns of behavior. I also didn’t confess that I know how to stop playing mind games because I used to play them all the time. I attempted to emotionally manipulate and control my sister, my friends, and my husband. That was a long time ago, though! I’ve developed a great deal of wisdom and maturity in my old age (I’m 46), and I’ve learned how to stop playing games in relationships…
Here are 5 common signs of mind games:
- Your partner had a troubled or difficult childhood
- You feel confused and anxious with your partner
- Your partner tries to engineer specific responses from you
- Your partner overtly or covertly threatens you
- Your partner plays mind games with other people
There are many other signs and examples of game playing in relationships, but I was riffing off a reader’s comment and those were the ones that immediately stood out. My reader Shanna asked if her boyfriend’s behavior was emotionally abusive or was he “just” playing mind games – and the answer is both. He was so obviously trying to manipulate and control her!
But, knowing that mind games are happening is one thing. Learning how to stop them is a whole new knot to untangle.
How to Stop Playing Mind Games in Your Relationship
Mind games can be incredibly destructive and abusive, especially if you’re in a relationship with someone you care deeply about and don’t want to lose. And doesn’t that define most of our relationships? Yup.
Learn to quickly recognize the signs of control and manipulation
The most important first step to stopping the mind games to recognize the signs of controlling behavior. You’re here, so you have some experience with or curiosity about game playing in relationships. You think he’s trying to control you, you read the examples of the mind games people play – but don’t forget how insidious and sneaky a manipulator can be.
Part of his game is fooling you into believing you aren’t being controlled in your relationship. It’s quite devious – and that’s why many men who play mind games are called “charming.” (Of course women are good at playing mind games, too – but since I’m a woman writing for female readers, we’ll stick with the pronoun “he.”).
Refuse to give up your power
It may not feel like it, but you have power in your relationship.
You can change the direction of an interaction or conversation. How? By remembering that you have 100% control over your response to his manipulations.
You can’t stop your partner from playing mind games in your relationship, but you can control how you respond. For instance, Shanna’s boyfriend asked her for a financial loan. When she refused to borrow money on her line of credit for him, he said she wasn’t a good life partner and questioned her loyalty to him. He sulked and gave her the silent treatment. Instead of trying to pacify him or cajole him into a better mood, she should ignore his sulky behavior. Don’t feed into the mind games. That’s a simple tip for how to stop them: just stop playing.
Plan ahead how you will respond
You know your partner. He knows you. He knows how to push your buttons. If you are aware of his modus operandi (method of operating), then you are one step closer to stopping him from playing you.
For instance, if you know he’ll give you the silent treatment on the way home after a party, then prepare to occupy yourself so his silence isn’t a problem. If you know he’ll resort to his usual threats and manipulations, then find ways to sidestep and let them swish by. Use what you know about him – and yourself – to stop feeding his games.
Focus on yourself
Here’s a reader’s story of how she stopped playing the mind games in her relationship:
“My boyfriend of over 7 years and I split up about 4 months ago because his family made our relationship issues worse,” says Amanda on How to End a Relationship When You’re Scared to Be Alone. “In fact, they were one of our biggest problems! He moved them in and moved me out. It’s upsetting to think about. I am so disgusted with his family… My boyfriend pays for everything and they stay at home cooking and watching TV. He’s a husband to all apparently… Except for me.”
She adds that she got tired of her boyfriend yelling at her because he failed to acknowledge that he was an enabler when it came to his family. “Selfish! Disgusting” she says. “They envied my life with my boyfriend, so they moved themselves in…which led to our break up. My boyfriend – now he’s my ex boyfriend is 41 and I never thought I’d be dealing with this in my 30s.”
Then, Amanda gives some great advice on how to stop playing mind games in a relationship:
“Take some time to figure things out for yourself. What do you want? What do you need? Are all your needs being met? Focus on you. Talk calmly to your boyfriend about what’s occurring and how you’re on the verge of leaving him. Be open and honest. He should know your true feelings. See what happens… Let him step up to the plate.”
Take a deep breath and square your shoulders
How you respond to his attempts to manipulate and control you depends on so many factors, which is why it’s difficult to find the perfect list of tips on how to stop playing mind games in a relationship. Your personality, temperament, living situation, lifestyle, relationship, support system – so many factors are involved!
Your faith is another factor that can have a significant influence on how you approach your relationship. Remember that God created you for a specific purpose. He loves you and wants you to be in a healthy, happy, peaceful relationship that is inspired by His presence. Wouldn’t that be amazing?
If you want results – if you really want to stop playing mind games in your relationship – you need to do the work. This involves experimentation with different ideas. It also requires discipline and perseverance. Don’t give up! If you want a healthy relationship, you need to work on yourself. You can’t change the mind games he plays, but you can change how you let them affect you.
If you’re the player in your relationship, read How to Stop Being a Controlling Girlfriend.
What to Do Next
Read 30 Covert Emotional Manipulation Tactics: How Manipulators Take Control in Personal Relationships by Adelyn Birch. When you’re in a relationship with a charmer who plays mind games, you may sense something is wrong but you can’t quite put your finger on the problem. This book will help you learn the manipulator’s game so they can’t play it with you, and teach you 30 tactics manipulators use to get what they want. Remember that identifying covert emotional manipulation can be tricky, but a powerful book like this can help you empower yourself and take control of the things you can change.
Get help if you’re in an abusive relationship. I’ve written several articles about emotional and verbal abuse – including how to leave an abusive relationship. But, you need to call an in-person support line if you’re with a man who has gone beyond the “light” mind games I mentioned here. Unfortunately, there are no simple steps on how to stop playing mind games in relationships, especially when abuse is involved.
Remember that mind games are a form of emotional and mental abuse. There is a wide spectrum of types of abuse, and mind games can be as emotionally and mentally destructive as physical abuse. More so, in some ways.
You can Blossom.
While I can’t offer advice, I do read every comment. I encourage you to respond to other readers’ comments if you feel led, and to share your thoughts on how to stop playing mind games in relationships.
How are you today -- and what are you struggling with? Write about it below. Who, what, when, where, why, for how long? My superhero powers don't include giving advice - but writing will help you get things off your mind. May you be blessed with God's peace, love, hope, and joy. - Laurie