5 Game-Changing Things To Do When Your Ex Is Playing Mind Games

A client asked me, “What would you do if your ex is playing mind games?”

1) Respond not react

Mind games are about ’emotional power”. They’re like a puppet and puppet master, and the string is your emotions. The more your ex can manipulate your emotions, the more they can play you. They literally “own” you!

Learning to respond rather than react to your ex’s words and actions gives you more control. You control your responses and control your emotions as well. When they can no longer control your emotions, they can no longer manipulate you.

2) Tell them you know what they’re doing

Mind games work when the someone is not aware of how and when they’re being played. The person playing mind games assumes they’re smarter than the person they’re playing. If you know that your ex is playing mind games with you, the best antidote to mind games is to tell them that you know what they’re doing; and do not like it or approve of it.

A person who truly values a relationship with you will feel bad and stop the mind games. Someone who is immature and emotionally dysfunctional will just try and find another mind game to play; or give up and move on to somebody else.

3) Don’t play them back

We all have the capacity to be manipulative. When tempted to “give them a taste of their own medicine”, remember that the only person whose time and emotions you waste playing mind games is you.

I know that now, but back then before I became a love coach, I played it back to the best of them. My thinking was “Play the Player!”, but the more “I played the player” the angrier I got (with myself). Not only was I wasting my time (and blocking love), but I was doing the very thing that I resented in the other person.

4) Work on improving your self-esteem and self-value

We’re all vulnerable to being manipulated, 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 and exploit to advance their own 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) Walk away

Mind games players have one and only one motivation and that is to advance their own agenda. Thy don’t care if it is 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 – especially if you give in to the “head games” and the other person learns that playing mind games with you works.

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

RELATED: 7 Things To Do When Your Ex Cuts Off All Contact And Won’t Respond

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  1. says: Angel

    The first guy I dated was a total game player. No matter how I responded, or didn’t respond he would play more mind games. It didn’t matter how mature or kind I was toward him. He just wouldn’t quit. Eventually I started playing the games back because I got so sick and tired of it. I’d hope to teach him a lesson, but it only made things worse and I ended up having to break up with him. I know I’m not perfect but I really did my best in the relationship, where as he treated me like a toy. I suppose I learned a lot from the relationship, but still I was stupid for ever letting it get that far. I should have broken it off within the first 3 months rather than letting it continue for a year and a half. Playing the players game is like trying to put out a fire with gasoline.

  2. says: fward

    This article is spot on. No contact when used to get someone to comply is nothing more than “if you don’t behave the way I want, I will shut you out”. I know it from personal experience with a mother who emotionally abused me for years and still cuts me off whenever I don’t do what she wants me to do.

    The important thing is to set boundaries and not to let someone else manipulate or control you.

  3. says: urbangirl

    Most people blame the other person for the failure of the relationship, but guess what? You did things that damaged the relationship too! A bad relationship takes two people just like a good relationship takes two.

  4. says: schung

    You are right. This is a continuation of his games. I’ll wait for the next time he initiates contact and tell him I’m fed up with his games, and not respond anymore. Thank you very much.

    1. The attitude with which you approach the situation will make all the difference. If you want nothing to do with him ever, then telling him you’re fed up with his games and not respond anymore will do it. But if you want a relationship with him, approaching things like it’s all his fault isn’t going to make him want to step up to the plate, even if he is still genuinely interested in you.

      1) Own up to your role in all this
      2) SUGGEST (not ask, demand or threaten) how things can be different
      3) Tell him what you are doing to make it different.

      These steps will not get the two of you back together, but they will help you find out if it’s even worth the time and effort to try to get him back — or just move on.

  5. says: schung

    My ex sends me mixed signals. He initiates contact but after a week of regular contact he says he doesn’t have feelings for me. I confronted him and he said if I don’t want him to contact me, then he will not. But after a couple of days I get a text from him as if nothing happened. It’s so hard for me to continue having contact with him. Am I being played?

    1. It’s not just that it’s hard to continue contact with someone who’s acting the way your ex is, it’s hard to have a relationship with the kind of dynamic the two of you have. Looks like this was the pattern in your relationship, and this is just a continuation of it. He does what he wants to do, you complain, he threatens to leave, may be even disappears for a while so it looks like he’s following up on his threat, and you, not wanting to lose him, gives in or lets him off the hook.

      In my opinion, you are as responsible for the toxic dynamic as he is. To change the toxic pattern you’ll have to tell him things can’t go on like this, and refuse to play the game the two of you are playing. Two things will happen, if he is sincerely interested in being with you, he’ll step up to the plate; if he is not, you’ll lose him. Are you ready to take that risk or would you rather just continue playing the game?