I’ve been re-reading my IM archives and trying to find a pattern among the petty relationship fights that some of my friends and acquaintances asked me to help them with. I realize that there are stuff that women and men say to each other that could mean one or 2 other things… I call these, loaded statements and questions.
Mind games are situations or issues that put someone in a defensive mindset. There’s usually no getting around these issues and no getting out of them when you let yourself be locked in. The key to avoiding (surviving) the uncomfortable second guessing that follows is to stay “safe”.
Here are some examples of “mind game” scenarios that men and women allow themselves to be sucked into, and my suggestions on how to handle them.
1. Do you think she’s pretty / Do you think he’s hot? – translated as “do you prefer her/him over me”. This question and how you answer it are commonly the sources of insecurity, which in turn is the underlying cause of all petty fights. A clueless answer to that would be “hell yeah!”, but the correct one would be “she’s/he’s okay”. Saying no would be a lie (as you’ve been openly ogling the girl/guy in question… duh.), and saying “oh you’re prettier/hotter” would come across as patronizing. The “just ok” reply will also be useful in fishing-type questions, such as “does this top make me look fat or ugly?”
2. You’ve been out with your friends again! Perhaps I’m becoming a barrier between you and your hundreds of social affairs! – Translated as “spend more time with me, and if possible, spend ALL of your extra time with me.” The key to getting around this would be sating your partner’s craving for your company by spending quality time with her/him. Then, gently explain why you consider spending 2 or 3 nights a week with your friends important to you. Strike up a deal, wherein he/she will tolerate your time with your friends if you spend an equal amount of quality time with her/him.
3. Don’t ever call/talk to me again – which brings the question “does he/she mean it?” to mind. First step, assess the situation. Is your transgression heavy enough to turn off a person, any person, even you? Usually, a person means the “don’t-ever” part during the phase of intense irritability. Give your partner space and time to forgive you in his/her mind, and DON’T CALL just yet. Missing you after some time will probably make the pride go away. Also, offer a humble, but by no means apologetic truce (read: don’t apologize if you know it’s not your fault). Just say “If you feel like talking already, I’m just here” then move away again, so that the ball is at your partner’s court. Note also that I said talking, not venting.
4. Are you having fun over there? – This is by far the most difficult mind game question to decipher because the no-strings-attached version and the loaded version sound exactly alike. Even if your partner isn’t the jealous type, be very careful in answering this question. When you’re out of town with other people (including members of the opposite sex) and your partner calls you to ask how you’re doing, just say “yeah the party’s fun, but it’d be more so if you were here.” That last bit will be the key to avoiding any further loaded questions, whether or not the first one was loaded.
There’s no guarantee that these recommendations will work, because in mind games, one never really knows what works or not. The statement “don’t play mind games with me” that we hear so often will not work, because the other party might not even realize that he/she is playing mind games with you.
My resources for giving out constructive advice on love, sex, dating and relationships:
- The Art of Seduction
- Why Men Love Bitches: From Doormat to Dreamgirl-A Woman’s Guide to Holding Her Own in a Relationship
- He’s Just Not That Into You: The No-Excuses Truth to Understanding Guys (The Newly Expanded Edition)
- If I’m So Wonderful, Why Am I Still Single?: Ten Strategies That Will Change Your Love Life Forever
- Understanding Women: The Definitive Guide to Meeting, Dating and Dumping, if Necessary