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Playing Games in a Relationship: When It’s Okay & When It Harms You


Playing hard to get in the beginning is innocent enough, but should you be playing games in a relationship? What’s the point?

When you first meet someone, you don’t want to come off as desperate. It could scare them off. It makes sense you would make yourself seem less available than you are. You want to play it cool at first. You don’t want to move too quickly or seem too eager. That is fair enough. But once a flirtation becomes a true connection, playing games in a relationship can do more harm than good.

See, when you are just getting to know someone, you don’t want to put too much out there at once. You want to take your time and get to know them. This is why you may only have one or two dates a week even though you like them enough to see them every day. This is why you wait for them to call instead of picking up the phone yourself.

It is a way we protect ourselves from getting too involved too quickly. It is also a way for us to see if the other person is willing to make an effort. But, once dating turns into a relationship, playing games no longer works so well.


Should you be playing games in a relationship?

The simple answer is no. Playing games in a relationship is always bad news. Whether you know how to play your partner or not, it is sneaky and manipulative. You could say the same for playing hard to get at first, but when you don’t know someone, playing games is a natural way we ease into a relationship. It isn’t necessarily misleading.

Once you are in a committed relationship, continuing with that behavior is no longer innocent. It goes from a way to protect yourself to a way to control your partner.

Playing games in a relationship stems from selfishness, a need for control, and even enjoyment. And these games are not things like seeing who makes the bed more often. They are a lot more serious and even detrimental to a relationship.

Guilting your husband into doing something he doesn’t want to do because he let you down months ago is a game. Promising to do something so that you’ll get something out of it is playing games. Making future plans you have no intention of keeping is playing games.

Not only should you avoid playing games in a relationship but you shouldn’t put up with it from your partner either. If you leave a situation with your partner feeling controlled, guilted, or disrespected, speak up.

Let them know you aren’t going to be disrespected like that. If they want something from you or a specific outcome to an argument, they need to be honest, even if that means having a disagreement.


Why you shouldn’t be playing games in a relationship

Sadly, these games are so common in relationships that many people don’t realize that they’re playing games. Some may think of these actions as making it work. Or getting what they want without a fight.

Sure, playing games in a relationship may benefit the player in the short term. It can avoid a fight or get you what you want, but in the long run, those intentions come to light and drive a wedge between a couple. It could be months or even years of playing games in a relationship before the played partner realized what’s been going on. Their self-esteem, independence, and even self-worth could be crumbling for a long time due to playing games in a relationship.

Playing games makes it sound like it is so innocent, yet it is a cruel form of manipulation. These games play on your need to please, your desire to stay in the relationship, and your fear of getting hurt. Not only is playing games in a relationship unfair, it is downright callous.

And as I mentioned earlier, playing games in a relationship doesn’t just harm the partner, but the player as well. Sure, some people may fall for manipulation at first, but eventually, they’ll catch on. And most people don’t want to be in a complicated relationship. If you need to play games to make a relationship work, you probably aren’t ready for a relationship at all and others will pick up on that.

Playing games in a relationship is also a sign of insecurity. You are manipulating or controlling your partner because you’re afraid of what will happen if you don’t. Playing those games is, in a way, your safety net. But, it can also become your method of failure.

They prevent you from being yourself and building an honest connection. Even if you’re in a relationship for years, playing games will always keep you from getting too close. That can sabotage the relationship. If you are unwilling to put in the trust that a healthy relationship requires, you are ending it before it even starts.

If you believe you don’t deserve a healthy relationship, you will behave in a way that risks it. By playing games, you are essentially messing up the relationship. You may think you’d never do that, but it is more common than you think. If you can mess things up on your own, it prevents them from hurting you and protects you in a way. Or at least your subconscious thinks of it that way. When the relationship doesn’t end up working out due to your games, it will hurt all the same.


And then, what may hurt the most, playing games in a relationship leads to dysfunction. A dysfunctional relationship can be more painful and heartbreaking than a breakup. Being in an unhealthy relationship full of games is draining and stressful.

It is one thing to be lonely, it is another to feel lonely in a relationship. Your relationship should be a team, not each person against the other. And if you play games in a relationship, it is more of a constant psychological fight than a partnership. If your partner doesn’t play back, the games will leave you feeling like you need to control your partner in order to get affection, love, or respect. And they will leave your partner feeling insecure.

If your partner does play games back, your relationship becomes constant stress. It isn’t about you supporting each other but outsmarting each other. It becomes a game of control and power instead of a relationship that adds to your life. This can do the most damage to your emotional and mental health in the long run and will affect you and your partner’s future relationships. Playing games in a relationship is not as fun as it sounds.

Games aren’t about being mysterious or getting what you want. Playing games in a relationship will always lead to pain and heartache.


So, next time you think about playing games in a relationship or notice a friend doing it, step up and say no. Stick to board games, word games, and video games. Playing games in relationships will never end in you winning.

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