Mind Fuck: A Guide to Mind Games


In the age of Tinder, texting, and fuck-persons, romance might be dead, but the complicated aspects of dating are definitely still giving us a run for our money. From ghosting to snap streaks, the rules have changed for our generation, yet we’re still dealing with the age-old bullshit that is mind games. Dating is supposed to be a fun time for all ages and everyone involved; it’s not meant to be a competition regardless of what the players say. If your significant other is making things more complicated than Monopoly, it’s time to have a talk. However, sometimes things aren’t so cut and dry. You might not even realize you’re in a game until you’re too far in for things to end fairly.

For you, we have created a guide to the popular tactics of the mind games in the dating world to keep you from getting played. To be honest, our list could have been longer than Hasbro’s:  


1. The Question Curve

Probably the most basic and straightforward of the mind games all around, “question curving” is when a partner simply refuses to give you an answer. This game is identified by a jumpy attitude, blatant ignoring, and random and inappropriate subject changes by a significant other. It is commonly used when the status of a relationship, a jealous comment, or someone’s general emotions are inquired about.

2. The “I Don’t Want You...Until I Do”     

My own father recently called this one the age-old  “Dog and Treat” game, when we discussed the young dating scene during a trip home.  The “Until I Do” game is also pretty straightforward, and is the most essential and obvious way people tend to string others along.

Whether it’s the friend who turned you down, but got weird when you moved on to someone else, or the fuckboy/girl who insists they’re indifferent to your presence, until they don’t hear from you for a while, this game is based on chasing and power dynamics. The person perpetrating the game typically wants to feel wanted and in control, regardless of if they have feelings for the other person or not. Which is the worst part—you never know if the longing is real or just a power move.


3. The “Now You See Them, Now You Don’t”

Not quite ghosting, not quite not ghosting. This is the play used by all the lovers who came around, swept you off your feet, and then couldn’t be pinned down for another few weeks. Often characterized by the insistence that they don’t have time, don’t like texting, or have just been “busy lately,” even though they expect you to be available and ready to pick right back up where things left off.

4. The “You’re Special”

“I Never Do This...” is another variation of this game. You’re so different from everyone they’ve ever met, and make them act like they’ve never acted before. There’s just something about you. Not enough to really get involved, but they just can’t lose you. You’re like...maybe the one. Strong maybe, if they were into that sort of thing.

Honestly, there’s a 98% chance that their last partner was special, too.

5. “I Don’t Like Labels”

There’s the people who mean this, and then there’s the people who use this. They’re usually easy to discern between, since the people who mean it will openly tell you what they want, even if they don’t call it by a particular name. The fakers? They’ll probably try The Question Curve next.

6. It’s not me, it’s YOU

It’s one thing to call a partner out for being unfair or to talk over a relationship issue that you don’t agree about.  The “It’s You” game is played on a separate field.

Often used to deflect blame, this one has several levels. There’s the common “I’m sorry YOU feel that way,” an indifferent response typically used when another person doesn’t want to take responsibility for their part in making you feel a certain way or doesn’t want to listen to your feelings. And then there are the more severe forms, like when a partner blames you for everything that goes wrong in a relationship, insists you’re unworthy, or should feel “lucky” to have them, and in general belittles and berates you.

ANY and ALL of these forms of this game are NOT OKAY, and many of them can actually be used as systems of gaslighting or emotional abuse.

In general, the only games you should be playing with a significant other have boards or apps. If you think you are seeing any of these behaviors in your relationship, it’s important to have a conversation with your partner and fix situations in which you think you’re being treated unfairly. If things do get out of hand, know that there are resources out there to help.

The National Domestic Abuse Hotline: 1-800-787-3224

Photography by: Lily Walsh