Games are sets of ulterior unconscious transactions which are played by the couple which always ends up with each person experiencing negative, uncomfortable and familiar feelings. They are characteristically repetitive and will always contain with an element of confusion and surprise. These games in a couple can get very destructive to the relationship however the couple is unable to disengage from the same without feeling a loss of intimacy. Paradoxical as it may sound, although the outcome of these games is negative, the process re-establishes feelings of love and intimacy which in turn helps them to e entrenched in the relationship. Ironically these unconscious attempts to get close to your partner are the very thing that takes you away from the partner. If you ask any couple about their repetitive arguments, you will be surprised to hear that both the partners know exactly how the conversation will proceed, including the partners responses and yet they have been unable to resolve these conflicts. Often these conflicts are high stakes games and involve intense emotions of anger, fear and lonely, occasionally ending up disastrously for both or one. No one wins in this game, both are losers.
The emotions experienced by each partner are linked with their assumptions which in turn will be directly linked to a childhood experience/event where they made a decision about themselves, others and the world around them. Underneath these decisions / life game roles will be unresolved and deep rooted feelings from childhood -eg anger that no one heard them as a child; sadness that they didn’t feel important as a child; fear that their parents would leave/overwhelm them. Part of the process of couple’s therapy will be to grieve and let go of these unmet childhood needs. During the stress of game playing these assumptions about reality are perceived as facts in the minds of each person in the couple, even though they are not facts. Seeing a couple’s counsellor will minimize the game playing between you and your partner, as becoming aware of the games you play is the first step to stopping the games.
Therefore game playing in couples also confirms our game role. According to Stephen Karpman there are 3 game roles- Victim, Persecutor and Rescuer. In the Drama Triangle game we can alternate between game roles, but people usually have a preferred life position game role, where they experience familiar feelings which reinforce how they see themselves, others and the world. These life position game roles are fixed during childhood and continue to operate unconsciously until one is made aware of and one chooses a different response that will benefit him/ her.
For example the Victim concludes ‘poor me, as usual no one cares about me'(feeling familiar feelings of helplessness); the Rescuer concludes ‘I just tried to help them ‘ (feeling familiar feelings of confusion and not being appreciated)and the Persecutor concludes ‘I’ll show them ‘(feeling familiar feelings of blaming, anger and self righteousness).
All 3 game roles involve someone not taking responsibility for themselves eg the Victim looks for a partner to take responsibility for them ; the Rescuer seeks out a Victim to take care of but fails to attend to their own needs as well as minimising the Victim’s ability to look after themselves while the Persecutor shifts responsibility by blaming their partner for the difficulties in their life.
Here are some common—albeit negative—games many couples unwittingly play with each other:
Argumentative and oppositional. Some people tend to be argumentative and oppositional, picking on their partners to get a rise out of them. One or both parties are driven to turmoil, so there is often a battle going on in the relationship, and things are frequently on edge and volatile. Your mate—who knows every hot button you have—intentionally pushes your buttons, and does so on a regular basis. Frequently, what is really going on is that one person needs reassurance or calming—and asks for it in the seemingly contradictory way of being contentious and oppositional.
- Complaining a lot. Some people are experts at picking out the most negative thoughts possible and staying focused on them for prolonged periods of time. If ten good things and one bad thing happen, most of their thoughts are focused on the bad thing. These people complain, disagree, find fault or undermine their partner, and are anxious a lot. Few people are drawn closer to people who are negative, complaining or filled with anxious thoughts. Therefore, many who unknowingly play this game end up isolated, lonely, depressed and even more negative.
- It’s your fault. The person reasons that s/he has little, if anything, to do with the problems in the relationship. Any problem is, therefore, the other person’s fault.
- I’m going to blame you for the same things you blame me for. In this game, one person blames the other for the very things s/he does. For example, if your spouse complains that you do not listen to him/her, you deny it and say that s/he does not listen to you. Whenever someone has a complaint or criticism, the other adopts the complaint as his/her own.
- Fighting as foreplay. In this game there is an intense fight, then a period of making up. The swing of emotions is quick and dramatic. One minute, you are fighting, thinking about divorce and ready to leave, the next moment you are making mad passionate love. This is because the fight creates adrenaline and is stimulating. Once stimulated, you are ready for love.
- You owe me. I do so much for you and/or our family. You do considerably less. You are therefore indebted to me, and whenever I decide to call your debt due, you must perform to my satisfaction. But perhaps I will prefer not to call the debt due—so I can always have something to hold over your head.
- Guess. Guess how I feel, what’s important to me, what will make me happy, what will make me unhappy.
- I call the shots. I decide what we’re going to do, and if you cross me, there will be hell to pay. Therefore, don’t ever cross me. I am stronger than you.
ABOUT DIMPLE SHAH
Im a Consulting Psychotherapist for over 15 years
Director Founder of revival.life Therapeutic Aid and Resource Center
Worked with schools, colleges, psychiatrists, NGO’s and organisations both with individuals and groups.
At revival.life we offer Certificate Courses and training to aspiring professionals apart from providing net and phone based on line consultancy services, conducting research, training programs and lectures / workshops.
Area of service extends to children, parents, adolescents, adults, patients, marital couples, organizational issues, families, specialized therapeutic groups.
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