Did you try that game couples played this past year while working from home and driving each other crazy? My husband and I did. It went something like this.
Holding up limp socks, I smiled at my husband through gritted teeth and said, "Rodger left his socks jammed between the couch cushions again."
"Rodger," he said, shaking his head. "I think he hid the remote too. Why do you think he can't remember to put it by the TV?"
"No idea," I said. "Rodger clearly has issues."
There is no Rodger in our house.
This is a marriage-saving (and, yes, passive-aggressive!) game of blaming your spouse's shortcomings on "the intern." We named ours Roger. "The intern did it" adds a touch of fun to the blame game and diffuses anger.
I love hearing about couples' quirky games and inside jokes. Naturally, one ended up in my latest thriller. In Confess to Me, Heather and Trevor play a game called "I wouldn't divorce you if..."
Heather says, "You could cheat on me with a hot, young man. You'd better f***ing not--but I wouldn't divorce you."
Trevor says," You could shave your head and grow a full beard. I would help you comb it out."
"What if my head got bashed by a falling branch in a thunderstorm," Heather says, "and my head injury made me act like a dog, barking and crawling on all fours?"
"I'd scratch behind your ears and feed you gourmet dog treats."
Trevor explains, "We would explore the most outlandish, far-fetched, marriage-straining scenarios. Heather would laugh so hard. She loved this game to such an extent it was almost disturbing. But it was a game, we kept it silly, and we never brought real-life horror into it."
My psychological thriller has been described as "creepy," "vicious," and "dark," so real-life horror obviously slips into the story, but this game itself is glossy, light-hearted, and creative. Like most games, it makes life more bearable. That's what games are for.
"The intern did it" and "I wouldn't divorce you if…" are idiosyncratic and unusual, but adding fun games to a relationship can yank a couple from the doldrums of monotony and boredom or rescue a relationship from resentment. Games can take a wee bit of effort and planning, like most things in life that are of value do. Here are a few fun ones to spice up your marriage.
1. Ask ice-breaker questions. You might be surprised by what you don't know. For example: what's your favorite quality about yourself, favorite movie, best childhood memory, most embarrassing moment. You can find lists of questions online!
2. Leave each other love letters.
3. Go on a blindfold hike around the house or outside. Adventurous and aerobic activities (especially ones involving touch) release dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin in the brain. These neurochemicals are also released during attraction and falling in love. You can boost feelings of love, happiness, and calm by adding adventure and exercise to your relationship.
4. Hide-and-seek. Don't knock hide-and-seek. Children's games like hide-and-seek, pin the tail on the donkey, and Twister similarly boost feel-good neurochemicals and make you giddy. These games are a safer and cheaper version of sky-diving or jet-skiing.
5. Take Taylor Swift's advice. Rearrange the furniture.
6. Play naughty games (board games, love dice, dress up). Sex releases dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin, causing that feeling of cosmic union. Cheers to brain chemicals!
7. Make a treasure hunt. Honestly, I'm too lazy to do this for my husband, but I do this for my kid, and it delights her. The effort, creativity, and generosity involved in making someone a treasure hunt is flattering. Treasure hunts make for a memorable and spontaneous gift.
And then there are the mind games to watch out for:
1. Manipulation. Does your partner make you feel guilty for everything? Do they make you doubt yourself? Do they say you never remember things correctly? Do they trivialize and accuse you of being too sensitive? Classic signs of gaslighting.
2. Flirting with other people in front of you? Your partner is insecure and disrespectful. Yikes.
3. Can't commit to dates? Do they go "off-grid" for a few days? They're hoping for a better offer and want to keep their options open. Yuck.
4. Nagging or put-downs. A neg is a backhanded compliment intended to make someone feel insecure and unconfident. You deserve better.
5. "See what you made me do?" Does your partner blame their choices/actions on you? This mind game can be particularly dangerous.
Maybe you recognize a slighter, dimmer version of one of these mind games in your relationship? None of our relationships are perfect unless, of course, they are the ones posted on social media. Here's a life-saving relationship game (tool) that life coach Bréne Brown recommends. It involves vulnerability, communication, and a bit of storytelling.
Let's say you dress up (makeup and hair, the works!) for your partner. They don't notice, and they're complaining about the house or something you forgot to do. Instead of giving them the silent treatment, you can communicate using this method.
"The story I'm telling myself is that you don't think I'm attractive and you don't appreciate the effort it took for me to look nice…" or "The story I'm telling myself is that you think you do all the work and don't realize I did the dishes, laundry, paid bills, and…"
And, if all else fails and you need to feel better about your relationship or yourself, pick up a psychological thriller like Confess to me. Filled with deceptive, cruel, manipulative, and dangerous characters, it will highlight how normal you actually are. If your relationship is feeling unhealthy and pathetic, read it with your partner. In comparison to the relationships in my novel, you will both feel incredibly normal