A basic understanding our relationship games

These are some of the key parts of the psychological games that can be acted out in relationships, based on the Game Theory of Eric Berne made popular in ‘Games People Play.’

 What is a relationship game?

A game is a series of communications between two people that seems to be going in one direction when there is a sudden switch and it heads off in a completely different direction. So you might be talking about going to the cinema and suddenly you are defending something you said yesterday and wondering where that came from.

 There is a moment of confusion when the switch occurs followed by a familiar feelings and thoughts which tend to be negative and accompanied by the thought, oh here we go again. There is also the feeling that whatever you do it won’t stop the charge.

There is a negative benefit for both people and it is usually something that reinforces our beliefs about ourselves such as: I’m not loveable; I’m too difficult to live with; I never get what I really need and so on.

 Games are a way of both avoiding intimacy and of attempting to gain intimacy…. they have advantages and disadvantages. They can be a way of managing the fear that one day the other person might leave and so the constant back and forth reduces the pain of loss.

 Understanding your own game pattern

 This is a way of understanding them from your own experience by asking the following questions. You can both do this on your own and compare answers or just on your own.

 These questions are based on patterns in relationships where things happen over and over and you wish they didn’t but you feel helpless and hopeless to change things.


 1) What is it that happens over and over again between you?

2) How does it start? Be as detailed as possible.

 3) Then what happens? How is the game continued and perpetuated? Who does what/says what?

 4) What happens next? So does it escalate, do you get angry, storm off and so on.

 5) How does it end?

 6) How do you feel when it ends?

 7) How may the others feel when it ends?

 Can you do anything to stop games?

 Yes, but it is important to know that once a game is in progress it is impossible to stop (or nearly impossible, of course nothing is impossible)

 The trick is to be able to track back to events before the start of the game and notice what it is. Is it a build up of resentment, is it a fear of losing the relationship, is it an underlying feeling of worthlessness.

 Sometimes when we can answer these questions we discover what it is that we are afraid to ask for:

Will you love me? Will you hold me; I am afraid you will leave me; Do you love me even if you know everything about me, everything and so on? The knowledge of what we really need can lead us to be more able to ask for what we want from a partner and it is this level of intimacy that breaks games.

Games are sideways means of getting what we want where we end up with the things we want least , fights, storming off, separation, rejection, loss of love and so on. Being authentic means that we can let the other person into our inner world and they can let us into theirs, means that we can know and ask for what we want and need and we can share our selves with people that we love and trust.

 These are links to two of the psychological games that Eric Berne identified. The first is NIGYSOB and the second CORNER. If you click on them you will find lists of all the games he identified but all are based on the previous paragraphs.