What To Do When Your Ex Is Playing Mind Games

A client asked me the other day, “What would you do if your ex was playing mind games?”

The “Love Coach” in me wanted to go straight to “advice mode” but then I remembered that I wasn’t always a love doctor. There was a time in my life when I did some things that were not so “loving”, and I write about this in my Dating Your Ex eBook.

“If your ex is one of those “don’t-care”, too proud to beg or self-confident secure in themselves kind of people, not picking up the phone isn’t going to stop your ex from going to a movie, party or whatever they choose to do.  If you do not pick up the phone or reply to emails, life goes on. They’ll call someone else and go and have a blast!  And the next time they catch you on the phone they will be like “Why didn’t you pick up the phone?” and while you are like “Oh!  He/she missed me” he or she is like “Whatever!”

How do I know all this? Because I know the “act bothered game” like I know the back of my own hand and I played it with the best of them. I remember a few times saying things like “I miss you so much, please don’t do this to me” all the while laughing my heart out imagining how the other person was congratulating himself on the other side of the phone.

One time I had a guy tell me “you don’t know what you got until it’s gone.” A few days later he started acting like “he was gone.” I had my Love Doctor instincts even back then, so I let him do his thing. When he called me after a three weeks AWOL (Absent Without Official Leave) and said we should meet. I showed up and even feigned tears (with one dry eye watching for his reaction). Later I told him, I despised him for thinking his mind games would work.

So whether it’s you initiating the mind games or it’s the other person, it’s important to remember that:

1) It takes two to play that game

We are all vulnerable to being manipulated and being manipulative. I know that now, but back then, my thinking was “Play the Player!” But the more “I played the player” the angrier I got (with myself) because not only was I wasting my time (and blocking love), but I basically was doing the very thing that I resented in the other person.

When tempted to “play” remember that the only person whose time and emotions you waste playing mind games is you.

2)  You’re voluntarily and actively giving away your power to someone else

The illusion of mind games is that the person playing them thinks he/she is smarter than the person he/she is playing – and of course the smarter of the two has the “emotional power”.

But when you allow someone else to affect you so much that you don’t act in alignment with your values, who you are and what you really want, you’ve already lost the “emotional power”. Your emotions will go up and down (and all over the place) depending on how the other person chooses to react or respond. In other words, they “own” you!

3) The power of any mind game lies in the other person not being aware of how and when they’re being played

If you know that your ex is playing mind games with you, the best antidote to mind games is to tell him/her that you know what he/she is trying to do/is up to, you do not like it, do not approve of it and will not encourage it.

A person who truly values a relationship with you (and is mature/emotionally healthy enough to be in a relationship with you) will feel bad and stop the mind games. The other type will just try and find another mind game to play, or give up and move on to somebody else.

4) Focus on changing yourself, not the other person

I said in the beginning of this post that we’re all vulnerable to being manipulated and being manipulative. However, some people are more vulnerable than others. That is, they have something about them that mind game players are able to take advantage of/exploit to advance their needs, goals, interests or agenda. It could be fear of rejection, fear of abandonment, fear of not finding someone else, feelings of inadequacy etc.

Since you can’t change someone else and can only change you, it’s up to you to assert your value by taking away whatever it is that makes you more vulnerable to mind games.

5) Mind games never inspire love or create a genuinely loving relationship

Mind games players have one and only one motive, and that is to advance their needs, goals, interests or agenda at the expense of the person being played. Most people are intuitive enough to realize when and how they’re being played and walk away, but even where the mind games “succeed”, the relationship will become troubled over time.

Someone who takes advantage of you and exploits your greatest fears, weaknesses and vulnerabilities does not “value you” (even if they tell you over and over that they love you). Your decision to enter or continue a relationship with someone who is into mind games (the game playing can at times offer some kind of “excitement” and edge to the relationship) should be weighed against the long term effects of the mind game playing – specially if you give in to the “head games” and the other person learns that playing mind games with you works.

In short, refuse to play the game and there will be no game to play.

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  • Hi Love Doctor,

    I wanted to ask your opinion on the ‘rubber band’ theory?

    You know, the one that says: ‘if he pulls away, you pull away. And then when the rubber band snaps you come close again’…or something like that 🙂


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    • Works in toxic and dysfunctional relationships… you know people who seek the adrenaline rush created by the anxiety of pulling away and enjoy the pain from the rubber band snapping back. They think its love because it hurts. Some keep pulling and snapping until the rubber band loses it’s elasticity, or breaks.

      Sick if you ask me.

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  • My ex only responds to my texts if I ignore her. I hate that I have to play mind games to get her attention and frankly tired of hanging by the phone, waiting for a call, but she leaves me no choice.

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  • My ex recently got in touch after 4 months of no contact. We arranged to go have coffee but just as friends. Last minute she cancelled saying it was a bad idea. Yesterday I heard from a mutual friend that she is dating some other guy. I know she likes playing games but this is low even for her.

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