“It’s strange what desire will make foolish people do…”
– Wicked Game by Chris Isaak

Well, isn’t that the truth.

We have all witnessed either ourselves or others behave in very odd ways when love, romance and desire is in the room. Good normal sound thinking people become foolish and not always in great ways. Sometimes love induced foolishness is sweet and fun to be a part of or to watch in others. Sometimes love induced foolishness is downright ugly and toxic.

Foolishness comes in many shapes and sizes. Sometimes it’s not recognizing when an emotional game is being played and only one person of the couple knows the rules. Wicked game indeed. The games people play within relationships are things that heartbreak, anxiety and ulcers are made of. As a counselor I have seen a dozen variations of the games that get played between two people who supposedly love and adore one another.

Sometimes people play a game of Cat and Mouse wherein they engage in a battle of pursuing and running away. Come close and flee.  Be emotionally and/or physically connected and then run away; while leaving the other one to take to the chase and pursue what was once enjoyed but has now vanished. We have to restrain from assuming that men are stereo-typically the ones who come close and run away, with women being the pursuer of the bonding that was shared. Women run too.

Now I do need to say that some form of cat and mouse is normal and even healthy for a couple. Every relationship includes times of the couple coming close and then needing to have space to give the relationship some breathing room. It’s great when both partners understand the need to maintain their individuality and interests separate from the couplehood. It’s especially great when both partners know that time apart is not intended to be an emotional Siberia or wicked game. Couples have to talk about how their time will be managed so that confusion and hurt feelings are not the outcome of what otherwise is a healthy component to a relationship.

The toxic version of Cat and Mouse involves calculated and deliberate attempts to control the emotions of another person and to maintain some sense of power within the relationship; one pursues emotional bonding and one runs away as a game. That’s not healthy.

If you find yourself in a Cat and Mouse relationship, I encourage you to watch for patterns and see how and when the Mouse runs away. Is he/she trying to manipulate your emotions or simply needs some time apart? If manipulation is the game, I suggest you immediately stop running towards the Mouse and deal with the situation.

Communicating how your partner’s actions feel for you is critical. Then wait and see what they do with that information. Married folks, don’t let this issue sit idle without being addressed. It is the type of behavior that will create the walls that separate you two. Single people, think long and hard about whether this is the type of life you want to live for years and perhaps decades to come because if the Mouse isn’t willing to change their emotional manipulations now while dating, it might be time to find another Cat who knows how to be in a relationship that is free from wicked games.