Tags: counseling | marriage | conflict resolution

Spouses: Stop Playing Games

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Tuesday, 18 Jul 2017 04:03 PM Current | Bio | Archive

I see a couple in therapy who fight about orange juice. Here's the way the scenario goes.

He says, "Will you stop and get some orange juice for tomorrow morning?" She says, "Sure."

That night as they are getting into bed, he says, "Did you get my orange juice?" She says, "I forgot. I got too busy. Besides, if it is so important, pick up your own juice." His response, "I would if you hadn't told me you were going to get it."

She then turns the light out in the bedroom and the two of them lie there feeling frustrated and misunderstood.

He thinks to himself, "After all I do for her, and I can't even count on her for juice."

She thinks to herself, "Why can't he get his own juice if it's so important?" How often does this type of situation occur? About once or twice a month.

How can they get out of this game? He could decide that he will always be responsible for getting his own juice or she could decide to keep him supplied with juice.

Why won't they stop playing? Because each of them gets a payoff from this game. Long ago they established a relationship in which he takes the role of the Critical Parent and she plays the role of the Rebellious Child. The juice is simply the excuse for him to act indignant.

In adolescence, this fellow made a decision that most people are incompetent. The juice script allows him to play out his original decision about people: she's so incompetent she can't even remember my orange juice.

She, on the other hand, made a decision that men are fools based on the fact that her father was usually drunk and acted foolish. To prove out her decision, she "forgets" the juice and watches her husband act like a fool over a little juice.

Another couple that I see played the same game around vacations, although in there situation she plays the Critical Parent and he plays the Rebellious Child.

Each year about January, he starts talking up a vacation. She responds to his enthusiasm by going to the internet, reading up on vacation spots, and making plans. Come May, he announces that they don't have enough money for a vacation. She responds with indignation and outrage.

They both operate from the old script that men are supposed to financially take care of women. Neither question the availability of money until feelings are riding high about the upcoming vacation.

The other thing that supports this game is that as a young child this man lost his father. For years he walked around feeling gypped and inadequate. Not being able to provide a vacation for his family helps him re-experience these old familiar feelings.

Here are a few more examples of how one spouse plays Critical Parent and the other plays Rebellious Child:
 

• When he's late she gives him lectures on discounting her feelings about being on time.
 

• She uses his car and leaves the gas tank empty. He writes her nasty notes on the bathroom mirror.
 

• He wants to keep a running balance in the check book and she doesn't write down the amounts.
 

If you recognize yourself, you're halfway to giving up your part of the game. The other half is changing your behavior.

www.doriswildhelmering.comCheck out Doris’ latest books, "The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World” (a middle grade read) as well as, “The Parent Teacher Guide,” at www.doriswildhelmering.com.

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DorisHelmering
If you recognize yourself, you're halfway to giving up your part of the game. The other half is changing your behavior.
counseling, marriage, conflict resolution
587
2017-03-18
Tuesday, 18 Jul 2017 04:03 PM
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