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Chess & Checkers

After a few years of working with individuals who have been abused or chose to abuse others, I began to notice an interesting parallel. Abusive relationships are very similar to the games of Chess and Checkers. If you are familiar with the basic components of an abusive relationship, you’ll quickly recall that tactics of power and control can take different forms based on individual circumstances. Feeling “out of control” or “fear” seems to be a common thread that lights the fuse for most abusive actions. When I cannot control what is going on around me – life circumstances, recession, loss of a loved one – the chances for me to project from my overwhelm onto those closest to me increase dramatically. If I do not feel supported and I have not built up my resilience, I reduce my ability to cope with negative stressors in positive ways. Resilience is my capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; and I can make it through with help from those who love me.

A partner who handles relationships like a game of Chess is a master manipulator. He or she will already have 4 steps planned ahead of what they think you will do next. They feel like they have to be ahead of the game so they are not caught off guard when you make a decision for your next move. Whether it’s connecting within your community or ending an abusive relationship with them, they are already thinking of how to manipulate your decision to remain bound to the relationship.

A partner who moves through life like a game of Checkers is reactive. Their response to your every move often leaves you feeling cornered or overpowered by their plans or wishes. You may feel like they mirror your movements and do not allow you to move freely throughout your community connections at work, school, church and family activities. In either game, your partner might say things like, “I just love you so much… that’s why I want to be around you all the time,” or “You complete me and I don’t WANT to be around anyone else but you. Don’t you feel the same way about me?” If you find that they cannot respect your decision for a moment of independence and they respond with anger or abuse, remember, you are NEVER obligated to stay with someone who doesn’t treat you with respect and kindness.

If I find that I am the manipulator and I really love this person, I must choose to treat them better. The steps may be small, but I must choose to do better. I can choose empathy and kindness instead of trying to manipulate things that are OUT OF MY control to make myself feel IN control. Manipulation occurs when someone tries to control your decisions, actions or emotions. Manipulation is often hard to spot, because it can be expressed in subtle or passive-aggressive ways. You know you’re being manipulated if someone is trying to convince you to do things you don’t feel comfortable doing, ignores you until they get their way, or tries to influence your feelings. (

If your partner is trying to get you to “bend” your values to accommodate their requests, or demands that they are NOT trying to control you but “help make you understand how things should be”, this can be early warning signs of a relationship that is not healthy.

Potential solutions to this relationship issue:

  1. Learn to give ourselves and others the support and space they need to process emotions in safe ways.
  2. Practice listening skills to help us understand the meaning behind the emotion. Loss and suffering of any kind can be a very complex route to navigate alone.
  3. Choose a time when the moment is not heated to have a cool, calm conversation with your loved one. Let them know that you feel the relationship seems out of balance and would like to talk about ways you can support each other’s independence and time together.
  4. If your partner insists that their voice or desires are more important and continues to minimize your need for space and independence in making decisions for yourself, this may be a good time to create space or distance from them. Consider calling Care Lodge to speak with an advocate who can help you think of safe ways to end the “game of Chess and Checkers” and move on to meeting your goals.
  5. Remember… it’s perfectly fine to talk to a professional about your health and wellness. It’s just as important as calling the doctor about a medical concern!
If you need help escaping from an abusive home environment, consider calling Care Lodge today at 601.693.4673 and speak with an advocate who can help you plan your exit strategy.
Want to dive deeper into this topic? Check out this link on manipulation HERE
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