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The Common Relationship Game of 'Gotcha'

Have you ever made a quick decision and then come to realize that you had made the wrong decision and then wondered how you could right the situation?

That's exactly what Martha did when she "broke up with her partner prematurely" because she didn't give him the chance to talk over a misunderstanding.

After she realized that she had made a mistake, he wouldn't talk with her. She asked us if there was any hope for their relationship.

One of the common relationship mistakes Martha and her partner found themselves making was what we call the "Gotcha" game.

Martha created the first challenge in this situation by jumping to conclusions and not allowing her partner to explain what had happened. To make matters worse, instead of trying to understand the situation, she made the unilateral decision that the relationship was over.

Martha's partner chose to react from his pain and withdraw from her when she realized that she had made a mistake and tried to mend the situation .. So now, both people feel a great deal of hurt, anger, mistrust and being misunderstood.

"Gotcha" is typically what you do because of the pain you feel when you perceive that someone else has inflicted pain on you. It's a pay-back. Although "Gotcha" is usually an unconscious protective device, it ends up being an intentional act to make someone else pay.

"Gotcha" can come in many different shapes and sizes such as:

  1. Withholding love, affection, or sex
  2. Cutting, satirical remarks
  3. Physically walking out or refusing to talk
  4. Physical and emotional abuse
  5. Superiority
  6. Busyness and avoidance

(and many other ways)

Most people don't make the connection that when they are trying to pay someone back because of a perceived wrong, they are acting from their pain, fear and from past patterns.

In order to not allow the "gotcha" to creep into our relationship, we committed very early on to not run away when things get tough. We agreed to listen to each other, no matter how difficult it might be at the time, and to stay with the process until we understood one another.

What a difference this has made in our relationship compared to others we've been in!

What we realized was that the game of "gotcha" just brought us pain and if we wanted to have a truly wonderful relationship, we had to commit to not playing it.

Here are some suggestions to help you quit playing the "gotcha" game in your relationships:

  1. Come into an awareness about your part in the "gotcha" game. Ask yourself when you first started playing it and with whom.
  2. Recognize your patterns. Which of the behaviors that we listed in this article do you fall into when you start playing this destructive game?
  3. Ask yourself what types of situations and behaviors trigger you to react from the "gotcha" position.
  4. When you have this information and you feel safe enough, talk with your partner or whoever you play the game with about what you've learned. Choose a time when you aren't playing the game.
  5. Talk about your part in the game and ask if your partner sees the dynamic and if they see their part. Make sure you listen without getting defensive.
  6. If your partner refuses to talk about it or take responsibility for their part in the game, you have the choice to keep playing the game or to withdraw yourself from it by speaking what is true for you and not from your pain and pattern.
  7. Recognize when you go into your pattern of "gotcha" and choose healthier ways of expressing yourself.

"Gotcha" can be a very destructive game that many couples play. When we start playing it, we stop and choose a more loving response.

We suggest that you stop when you find yourself playing it and choose love instead.

Susie and Otto Collins are married, life partners who are Relationship and Life Success Coaches, and authors of several books on relationships, including "Communication Magic" and "Creating Relationship Trust." In addition to having a great relationship, they regularly write, speak and conduct seminars on love, relationships and personal growth. To read more free articles like this or to sign up for their free online relationship tips newsletter visit:

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