Playing for Keeps

Stop playing these mind games and start strengthening your marriage.

When my niece, Carye, was young, she'd frequently ask me to play a board game with her. If I agreed, Carye would reappear, game in hand, exclaiming, "Now this is my game, so I'm going to win!"

Carye's now in her twenties; we still laugh over how she always had to win at her own games. But it's no laughing matter that many adult women still play games, insisting on winning at all costs. I'm not talking about board games; I'm referring to the mind games women play in marriage. Many of us subconsciously assign roles, make up rules, and attempt to win so we feel better about ourselves or get our needs met. Some of these mind games can cost a woman her husband's respect and affection—or worse, her marriage.

What follows are some of the most common games wives play in their marriages. If one of these has been a flame-killer in your relationship, take heart. You can begin to inspire, rather than require, intimacy in your relationship.

The "Mommy/Child" Game

As women, one of our greatest attributes is our natural mothering instinct. We're not afraid to roll up our sleeves and dive into sibling squabbles, slumber parties, field trips, vomit, poop, blood, or anything else for the benefit of our children. After all, we're responsible for their well-being until they're able to take responsibility for themselves.

However, your husband is already grown up—and he doesn't appreciate being treated like a child. As one spouse, Peter, explains, "It's unnerving how my wife harps on me like she harps on our kids about doing something around the house. She can't just ask me once and trust I'll do it. She keeps bringing it up until I do it out of exasperation. I feel as though she has no more respect for me than she does for our preschoolers. When she treats me like a child instead of a man, the last thing I want to do is have sex with her. That would feel like having sex with my mother."

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May 25

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