Romantic Games 1: The Most Common Romantic Games

We will define what a romantic game is exactly and take a survey of the most come romantic games people play.

Most people would acknowledge that people play games in relationship, especially romantic relationship, but what exactly do they mean? What is a game exactly?   We are in luck because there is a form of depth psychology called Transactional Analysis that focuses specifically on the games that people play. In fact, that is the name of Eric Berne’s (the founder of Transactional Analysis) book “Games People Play”. The book was a smash hit in the 1970’s and brought a “here now”, a ‘how are you being?’/ ‘how are you acting now?’ focus to depth psychology.

Berne defined a game as:

“A game is an ongoing series of complementary ulterior transactions progressing to a well-defined, predictable outcome. Descriptively, it is a recurring set of transactions… with a concealed motivation… or gimmick.”

Basically, a game is an inauthentic interaction with someone. One’s real objective is hidden. For example, one may be acting extra nice but the real goal might be to pull the other person in and then reject them and feel superior to them. Or the opposite, someone might be acting hostilely toward someone with the real objective of hiding feeling inferior.

Games often revolve around acting superior or inferior to an other in order to manipulate them some how as Thomas Anthony Harris pointed out in his classic book “I’m O.K. – You’re O.K.” He points out that the manipulative positions people tend to play games from are:

  1. I’m Not OK, You’re OK
  2. I’m Not OK, You’re Not OK
  3. I’m OK, You’re Not OK 

“I’m O.K. – You’re O.K.” being the healthier adult position.

Almost all games are some type of victim routine. They are described in the literature as “rackets” or “racketeering” because we get an ‘under the table’ payoff. The payoffs often involve avoiding risk, feeling superior, avoiding responsibility, winning or dominating, feeling safe and avoiding difficult emotional states. It should be pointed out that Transactional Analysis has been criticized by some for not emphasizing enough that the payoff is often hiding difficult emotional states that underlie the game, like feeling inferior or sad. This is an important point that allows us to bring compassion to ourselves and other’s when they are playing games.

Nowhere in life are games played more often that in romance. Even animals use deceptive maneuvers in mating! So what exactly are the most common romantic games? In our combined 35 years of supporting singles and couple’s in their romantic lives Alicia and I have seen a wide variety. Here are some of the most common. Write down which one’s might apply to you and what the payoff might be. Don’t worry if the games conflict with each other. Human being are complicated!

  1. No one’s available
  2. I can’t find anyone who meet’s my standards
  3. I’m not good enough (for anyone, for you, to have a partner, etc.)
  4. You’re not good enough (for me, for anyone, etc.)
  5. Neither of us is good enough – basically resignation and collapse
  6. The black widow – pulling someone in only to spit him or her out once you are intimate
  7. Let’s fight – a way of staying together while avoiding the risks of intimacy
  8. False seduction – Seducing someone and then telling him or her you didn’t do it
  9. I’m not attracted to you anymore
  10. Too busy – “I just don’t have time for romance/for you” etc.
  11. You did this to me!
  12. I’ve done so much for you
  13. Longing for the impossible or some ideal – deceptive rejection
  14. Everything is fine (when it’s not)
  15. I don’t know which of you to choose
  16. He/she made me do it (when we actually intended it ourselves, consciously or unconsciously)
  17. I couldn’t control myself

I think you get the idea. It takes a great deal of courage to expose the games that we play. They are often played unconsciously and can take some effort to uncover. Also, don’t feel limited by this list. Just look for your persistent romantic complaints or where you are stuck romantically. You’ll find a game there!

Alicia Davon