10 signs your partner is playing mind games, according to psychology

Ever get the feeling that your partner is messing with your head?

Like they’re always up to something – and it always seems to be you who loses in whatever game they’re playing?

Relationships aren’t a game, and mind games should be left for when you’re playing Sudoku on a long-haul flight – not someone you’re supposed to love!

If your partner is playing mind games with you, there will be signs.

Starting with the following 10:

1) They lie to you (and won’t ever admit it)

Lying is probably one of the most obvious types of mind games your partner will play with you. And they’ll do this for many, many reasons.

Even though they might say they lied to “protect” you or “because they care about you”, this isn’t true. They’ve lied to get what they want.

Say they lied about how they cut their hand. They do it because they want you to think they’re “strong” or “tough”.

Or if they lied about what they got up to on the weekend. They do it so you think highly of them and stay in the relationship.

Or if they lied about what happened at work that day. They do it because they want you to give them sympathy, love, and affection.

If you haven’t already gathered, this is manipulative behavior.

2) They tell you you’re imagining things

Also known as gaslighting!

When your partner tells you, “You’re making things up!” or “You’re just imagining things!” after you confront them, watch out.

This is classic gaslighting behavior – and it’s 100% a manipulative mind game.

Gaslighting is particularly damaging in relationships as it can erode your self-esteem over time. It can also make you depend on your partner and question reality without them.

Which is all-around bad!

3) They guilt trip you into doing things you don’t want to do

Say your partner asks you for a lift home tonight. You were planning on going out for dinner with an old friend, so you say you can’t.

Instead of just accepting it, they try to guilt trip you about going out with your friends. Even though, of course, they’re going out with their friends, too.

They might say, “I guess I’ll just have to get the bus home at midnight” or “I suppose I’ll have to pay over the odds for a cab home instead then”.

Which are subtle guilt trips to try to get you to change your mind.

Other, more extreme versions might sound something like this:

“I can’t believe you’re going out with your friends and making me pay for a cab home”.


4) They act sad to get what they want

This is a little similar to guilt-tripping. But instead of being cruel, they cry or act like they’re deeply hurt to get what they want.

Say you aren’t meeting on Saturday night because you have to be up early the next morning to take your parents to the airport.

They tell you how sad they are about it and how depressed they’re going to be without you (which is a sign of codependency, by the way).

They might start crying on the phone to you about how bad staying at home on a Saturday night alone is for their mental health.

This worries you and you hate seeing them sad. So you end up agreeing to plans, even though it’ll double your journey and leave you with less sleep in the morning.

Which, of course, they don’t care about. Because they only acted sad to get what they wanted from you, and they succeeded!

5) They run hot and cold with you

Another sign your partner is playing mind games with you is if they run hot and cold.

One minute they shower you with love and affection – and the next minute they don’t want to know you!

Some people do this intentionally (more on this on the next point). But some people aren’t so conniving.

Your partner might do this because they have an avoidant attachment style. This means they get insecure and anxious about being close to someone. So they withdraw to protect themselves.

To you, this comes across like they love you and want to be around you one minute – and like they want to be as far away from you as possible the next.

And it can mess with your head – big time.

6) They play hard to get

Once you’re in a relationship with someone, there shouldn’t be any reason to play hard to get.

In fact, in my opinion, no one should play hard to get at all! If you like someone, just say it. Otherwise, what’s the point?

But anyway, when you’re already dating, your partner definitely shouldn’t act like they aren’t interested in you! If they are, they’re playing mind games.

It’s similar to how they run hot and cold with you. They act aloof and distant. They might not text or call you for several days. They might even cancel all your dates together (or not book any dates at all!).

In my experience, people play hard to get so you obsess over them and shower them with affection.

Which is, 100%, manipulation.

7) They “gang up” on you

There are two ways your partner might do this.

They’ll do it by talking to other people and telling you what they said. Or they’ll do it by actually involving others in conversations with you (or should I say, against you).

Say you’ve told your partner that you don’t want to do something in the bedroom.

They might say, “I talked to my friends about it and they can’t believe you won’t do it for me”. Or they might say, “Everyone agrees with me how bad it is that you won’t do it”.

Or if you’re out with their friends, they might bring this thing up and get them involved in fighting the point against you.

This isn’t the behavior of a loving, caring, or thoughtful partner. It’s the behavior of someone who’s playing mind games with you – trying to manipulate you to get what they want!

8) They accuse you of cheating

This is another very common mind game from a partner. It’s also deflection at its finest!

When your partner accuses you of cheating for no apparent reason, it might be because they are the ones cheating on you.

Or they might just be insecure and have had a bad experience in the past…

But more often than not, they’re accusing you of this to get you off their back. Or to just throw you off their tail entirely!

9) They leave you wanting more

I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes it’s good to leave someone wanting a little more from you!

But I think this rule only really applies when you’re dating or if everyone is happy with a little teasing.

When you’re in a relationship, your partner should always be loving, caring, and affectionate with you. And they should always want to spend time with you and do nice things with you.

It’s like if they said to you, “I would take you on a date to [venue], but I’ll save that for when we’ve been together for longer”.

Or, “I was going to buy you flowers yesterday, but I thought I’d wait until they have nicer ones in the stores”.

I learned the hard way that someone saying they “will”, “want to”, or “was going to” is not the same as them actually doing it.

Actions speak louder than words, unfortunately. So if all your partner does is talk about the nice things they’ll do for you, but they never do them, it isn’t good news.

They’re just playing mind games with you to make you think they’re more invested in your relationship than they actually are.

10) They threaten to stop doing things for you

This one is bad, bad, bad!

When your partner threatens you, it isn’t a good thing. In fact, I can’t think of a single example of when it might be considered acceptable!

Which means your partner threatening you is downright manipulative – there’s no doubt about it.

Take the example we used earlier about giving them a ride home. If you stayed firm and said no, you can’t do it, they might say:

“If you don’t give me a lift tonight, I’ll never give you a lift ever again”.

This is threatening and manipulative. And trust me, it isn’t something a loving partner would ever say!

Final thoughts

Loving, caring partners who genuinely care about you don’t play with your feelings. They care about you way too much to do that!

I’ve dated many people who played mind games, especially in my teenage years and early twenties. It reached the point where I thought this behavior was normal. Like I had to simply put up with them if I wanted a relationship!

But now, having met way, way better people, I know that these things aren’t normal – and you don’t have to tolerate them.

If you recognize these behaviors in your partner, the relationship might not be as important to them as it is to you. And maybe something needs to change…

Amy Reed

Amy Reed is a content writer from London working with international brands. As an empath, she loves sharing her life insights to help others. When she’s not writing, she enjoys a simple life of reading, gardening, and making a fuss over her two cats.

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