Every relationship has its problems and challenges, but they can be even worse when you don’t know they’re problems, or when they’re compounded by a manipulative guy who’s just stringing you along for his own benefit. What follows is 12 signs he’s playing mind games with you, and indicators he's not really in the relationship for the long haul. 

While some of these might just be character flaws, it’s more than likely it's something slightly more sinister. 

Maybe he’s got a sidecar, is controlling or abusive, or just a bum who likes to have women around to look better:

woman checking phone at work

1. He Rarely Initiates Contact

Generally, men are physical people and express intimacy through touch, and sex is a priority in their lives and relationships. 

While “Asexual” is increasingly recognized as an orientation, he should tell you if that applies to him.

If he’s not initiating contact, especially if he has frequently in the past, he feels distant. 

This could be a fixable problem with your relationship, but if he’s using it to manipulate you or get even for something, re-examine your relationship.

While having a fight may reduce the desire for sex from either or both partners, it should never be a reason to withhold affection. You should love each other through your arguments. 

If you have trouble with this, seek help from a professional relationship counselor, but you should look at it in the context of your relationship as a whole.

Signs that this is a more serious issue include the following: 

—A lack of contact, for an extended time, after a fight.

—When he uses it to get what he wants (he initiates contact again after you give in to some request).

—He’s distant in other areas of the relationship.

—He’s affectionate towards other people in his life, but not you.

—It comes with a passive aggressive attitude.

signs hes playing mind games with you couple arguing

2. He Has A Lot Of Excuses

If he never takes responsibility for his mistakes, his faults, or his actions, and rather comes up with excuses, it’s one of those signs he’s playing mind games with you. 

While he might just be immature, there’s a chance he’s playing you.

One possibility is that he just doesn’t think he’s at fault for anything or is incapable of taking responsibility. 

This is a classic sign of Narcissistic Personality Disorder and may be a sign he’s at risk for other abusive behaviors. It won’t be long before he’s blaming you for his faults.

Even more seriously, he might be willfully manipulating you. He might make the excuse and tell you he’ll do better in the future, but has no intention of doing so. 

He might fake taking responsibility for things just enough to get you off his back.

Either way, if you allow all the excuses, you’re empowering him. He’s never going to change, and when the going gets tough he’s either going to leave you, throw you under the bus, or withdraw even more. 

He’s not a support system, he’s just baggage.

sad woman looking out window

3. He Disappears Regularly

He might just need a lot of alone time, but communication is key. You don’t have to know where he is or what he’s doing at all times. 

But if he goes “incommunicado” for days at a time, doesn’t return your phone calls or text in a timely manner, or actively hides what he’s up to, it’s a huge red flag.

Some of the following are signs he’s doing something he shouldn’t:

—Goes out of town without telling you for what, how long he’ll be gone, or what work wants him to do (presuming he’s going out of town for work).

—If he consistently works late and doesn’t let you know beforehand or until he gets home, or if he doesn’t tell you why he needs to work late.

—He won’t tell you who he’s spending time with.

—He frequently gets home in the early morning or “the next day” from social engagements.

If he does any of these as more than just a mistake occasionally, you need to have a serious talk with him and be prepared to end the relationship.

guy ignoring his girlfriend

4. He Acts Aloof

He might just be a spacey guy. Everyone has their moments and some are more prone to it than others. 

Still, that’s something we all need to get better about if we’re going to live up to our potential in life.

There are times, however, when a guy might act aloof so he can get away with stuff. 

The following are techniques guys use to shirk responsibility:

—He might conveniently “forget” you asked them to do something. Then, he'll hope either you’ll do it, forget you asked, or they can put it off as long as possible.

—He pretends to forget conversations you’ve had. It’s possible they weren’t listening, but this can also be the first step in gaslighting you. If he asserts you didn’t tell him something that you know you did, he might be trying to make you doubt yourself.

—He might even “forget” to give you messages. This could be a sign of jealousy, of laziness, or manipulation. If it’s someone he doesn’t want you to see or talk to, he’ll pretend he never got it or forgo to give it to you.

If the guy’s not taking steps to get better, it’s a sign he might be faking it so he doesn’t have to be held accountable. 

This can be the first step he takes in trying to control you as well. Be vigilant about his motives and respond accordingly.

signs hes playing mind games with you annoyed girlfriend

5. His Praise Comes With Criticism

This is often a primary tactic of emotional abusers and gaslighters and is one of the signs he’s playing mind games with you. 

There’s a place for loving criticism in every relationship, but if your man is unable to give you a compliment without criticism attached to it, it’s a bad sign. 

At best, he’s just kind of a jerk. At worst, he’s emotionally manipulating you so he can control you…

Some of examples of a “backhanded” compliment are the following:

—Your body is looking great, but you could benefit from some makeup.

—It’s a good thing you’re pretty, because you’re not that smart.

—I really appreciate that you cook dinner, I just wish you could make it taste better.

—You’re a good partner for me. We work really well together, but you could never get another man. They wouldn’t put up with your stuff like I do. I’m just understanding.

Obviously, when we read these, we know that they’re not really compliments. 

But when someone you love and care about says them to you, not only might you start to appreciate them, you will start to internalize the criticisms as well. 

He’s trying to make you into the person he wants you to be and make you doubt yourself.

confused woman after an argument

6. He Never Shows You His Cards

Intimacy and vulnerability are important in a relationship. Trust is foundational. 

If he’s never willing to be vulnerable by telling you what he’s thinking or feeling or letting you in on the most personal aspects of his life, there’s something wrong.

Either he doesn’t trust you, he doesn’t plan on being around long, or he has something pretty significant to hide. 

Does he deflect or avoid your question when you ask him how he’s feeling or what he’s been up to? If he does it’s probably because he’s hiding something from you.

On the other hand, he might just have a communication issue or be a really quiet guy. 

While this can still hurt your relationship, it’s something that is more easily fixed and isn’t malicious or of bad intent.

girl eavesdropping on her boyfriend

7. He’ll Play The “I Have Options” Game

Saying he has options for relationships, or that he could get any woman he wants, is basically threatening to leave you unless you do what he wants. 

Threatening divorce, breaking up, or taking a break should never be said lightly or as manipulation.

So when he says things like “I have options” or “I could get any girl I want,” it’s emotional abuse, even if that’s not his intent.  

Another form of this is when he compares you with other women. He might say “well other girlfriends let their men stay out all night,” or “other wives give their husbands more sex.” 

That’s not helpful and can even be outright mean depending on the context and tone.

The truth is, it’s likely he doesn’t have options… 

Most people won’t settle for that toxicity, and neither should you! If he keeps this up, call his bluff and let him treat some other woman like garbage.

signs hes playing mind games with you sad woman on couch

8. His Insecurities Become Yours

If you find yourself doubting something you were previously confident about, it’s likely his insecurities are rubbing off on you. 

Everyone has insecurities, that’s to be expected, but if he’s overly negative about them or hyper focused on them, it’s bad for the relationship. 

Even worse is when he tries to project those insecurities on you!

Whether it’s his weight or how he looks, his career choice, a particular talent, how likeable you are, or if the government is out to get him, negativity is contagious. Misery also loves company, and this type of people don’t like other people being happy.

At best, he expresses his insecurity frequently enough that you’ve subconsciously taken them on yourself. 

At worst, he’s manipulating you to be insecure, so you’ll never leave him. 

Either way, insecurities are fine, but if you’re not working to overcome them, they’ll sabotage your relationship.

sad woman on park bench

9. He Keeps You Away From His World

One of the sure signs he’s playing mind games with you is if he doesn’t involve you in his life. 

When people keep their relationships out of the rest of their lives, it’s for a bad reason. He should want to involve you in his life.

If he’s keeping you from the following, it’s not a good sign:

—Meeting or hanging out with his friends.

—Meeting or spending time with his family.

—Attending work parties or important events.

—His interests and hobbies.

If he keeps you from his world, it could mean a few things. 

While he may have dangerously low confidence in himself or rampant insecurities, it’s also possible it’s you he’s embarrassed by. Even worse, he could be trying to isolate you from the outside world.

couple arguing at a restaurant

10. He’ll Rarely Compromise

Relationships run on compromise, because when you care about someone, one way you show that is by sometimes sacrificing your good for theirs. You want the other person to be happy. 

If he’s rarely or never willing to compromise, it’s a good sign he doesn’t really care about you. 

He’s keeping you around for some other benefit like sex, a housekeeper, or his image:

—He should be wiling to do some of your housework for you sometimes.

—He should be willing to let you pick where to eat sometimes.

—You should have some say in what you do for fun.

—He should be willing to do something nice for you with no benefit to him other than your happiness.

If he can’t do these things, he might be overly controlling, which doesn’t bode well for the rest of the relationship.

signs hes playing mind games with you couple fighting

11. He Shuts Down Easily

Communication is essential for any healthy relationship. 

If he shuts down easily, gets too frustrated to speak, refuses to talk or listen, or changes the subject, he could be playing mind games with you. 

It’s possible he’s just not good at communication. It’s also possible he’s trying to make you feel guilty, avoiding the subject, or hiding something.

Signs of easily shutting down may be the following:

—Changing the subject to something superfluous or unrelated.

—Getting angry and refusing to talk.

—Telling you he’ll talk about it later and then never following up.

—Getting unduly angry at you for nagging, not “getting off his back,” or being negative.

guy making his girlfriend jealous

12. He Introduces Jealousy

Jealousy is one of the quickest ways to destroy a relationship. We all feel pangs of it at one point or another, but if you trust your partner, it shouldn’t be an issue. 

If he introduces jealousy into the relationship, he’s probably getting ready to control you completely. 

Early signs of jealousy are the following:

—Getting angry when you talk to certain people, especially men or your mother.

—Checking your phone messages, asking who you’re talking to, or eavesdropping on your phone calls.

—Prohibiting you from seeing certain people, especially men and family members who don’t like him.

While many of the signs could also just be rather severe immaturity, in many cases they’re also signs he’s playing mind games with you. 

His motive could be just to string you along even if he’s not that interested but could also be an intent to control and abuse you. You deserve better, cut the loser loose and find a better guy!

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