ways couples manipulate each other

The 5 Worst Games Couples Play With Each Other

Some say every couple should argue—that if a couple doesn’t argue, then there’s no passion. Others will say couples should agree on everything and that if you argue all the time, then something’s wrong. But the reality is that some couples will argue and some won’t.

I can tell you from experience, regardless of whether you argue all the time, there are some common ways couples manipulate each other and we need to avoid them at all costs. Here are the 5 worst games couples play with each other.

1. Playing Hard to Get

Of the ways couples manipulate each other, this is one that often starts while you’re still dating. Instead of saying and showing how each feels about the other, couples play hard to get. This behavior is superficial and strains the relationship. And the problem is worsened because a couple will keep playing this game when they get married. When we say and do what we mean within the relationship, the relationship is ultimately strengthened and more meaningful.

2. Withholding

Emotional withholding is all about exercising control over the relationship. Be careful that you’re not the one withholding love or that you’re not the spouse who’s always pursuing the affection. Love shouldn’t be one-sided. In a strong relationship, each person doesn’t have to try to prove that he or she is good enough. When this takes place, the problems within a relationship will remain unexpressed and unresolved. This allows bitterness to set in.

All issues should be resolved quickly with care. Love should never be withheld as a bargaining chip. Don’t allow a problem to remain unclear or go unresolved for long. The longer an issue goes unaddressed, the worse it will become.

Forgiveness and trust come easier when revenge doesn’t have a home in your relationship.

3. Eye for an Eye

When couples decide to seek revenge constantly, wise decision-making is always left behind. Ultimately, more than other games couples might play, this one creates the temptation to talk with or connect with another person outside of the relationship. You think you’re winning some game. But when the other person realizes what’s happening, you’re only pushing him or her away.

Rather than revenge, seek reconciliation in the relationship at all costs. Learn from other couples who have decades of experience. Forgiveness and trust come easier when revenge doesn’t have a home in your relationship.

4. Silent Treatment

This is another of the ways couples manipulate each other that often starts in dating and then extends into marriage. With this game, problems remain unexpressed and unresolved. The quickest way to build a wall is by being silent about what bothers you or about any wrong that’s been done.

The silent treatment always weakens the relationship. The goal should be more communication, not less. Don’t play this game thinking you are winning by having your spouse come to you to fix things. No—learn to work together, always communicating and being open about any wrongs in your relationship.

5. Scorekeeping

Unresolved conflict will be common where there is scorekeeping. Nothing sows discord and distance quite like keeping score. I’ve seen couples who count every little point—the good deed or the bad. The husband or wife who does good things for “points” or keeps a record of negatives is setting the couple up for failure.

Scorekeeping is the opposite of grace. For companionship to be enjoyed, there needs to be grace rather than counting points. Scorekeeping creates competition with the other person even though you’re supposed to be on the same team.

Sound off: What other games should couples not play with each other? 

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “If you have a conflict with someone, what is the best way to handle it?”