Couples Therapy – The Comfort Zone
To play the difference game, you can use any content that’s going on in your relationship. It doesn’t matter what it is. I have had couples fight over how to slice the chicken, in trying to prove that one is incompetent in slicing the chicken. So there is no end to the content. You can use all content as an opportunity to prove that you’re better or less than your partner in hopes that they will join in by defending themselves, and reacting back. One thing to know about The Game is that in order to play it effectively that you need to be unconscious about it. The difference game doesn’t work as well in the light. It doesn’t work if you really know what’s actually going on. You want to play the game unconsciously, and in the dark, while never admitting that you’re playing the game, so that your partner believes that the content you’re talking about, such as going to the movies, or whatever it may be, is really what you care about and not that you’re just using that an opportunity to prove that you’re better than them.
And You Want To Use The Opportunity To Prove That You’re Better Or Worse So that you keep from Getting Close?
In the difference game you’re always looking down on someone or looking up at someone. That does not support intimacy, and it’s not supposed to. The difference game supports protection. That’s what it’s designed for. As long as you’re looking down or up at someone you stay protected. In contrast, looking at the person at eye level, where you have a sense that we’re both equal and we aren’t’ trying to prove or defend anything, is much more dangerous to someone who doesn’t want to take any risks. So you must avoid being on eye level.
Is It Because They Don’t Want To Reveal Themselves To The Other Person?
They either don’t want to be seen, or really see the other person. They just want to see whatever they make up about the other person, and get to hold on to their predictable perceptions.
Is It Perhaps Because They Don’t Like Themselves?
At the deepest layer the only thing that would allow you to fully play the difference game is that you don’t fully accept yourself. You feel that there’s something wrong with you but you’re going to try to protect that and not expose it and pretend that you’re quite comfortable with yourself. But in truth if you were totally comfortable with yourself you wouldn’t be playing the game at all. People who have high self-esteem have nothing to prove and nothing to defend.
In Your Opinion, What Percentage Of Couples Play The Difference Game?
Well what about the 50% of couples who divorce?. Any couple that gets divorced is pretty much getting divorced because they have been playing the difference game for so long that they have burnt the other person out or themselves. Remember only unequals will divorce, but equals will not. The difference game is the best way to create inequality in a relationship.
It seduces many people at various levels. We can do this on the level of communities, and even between nations, where we are constantly trying to prove that one nation is better than the other. So the difference game is something that affects the world. Anytime anyone has gone to war is when they were playing thr game. If you didn’t play the difference game, you’d have no interest in going to war.
How About the Remaining 50% of Couples That Don’t Get Divorced?
You have to think of it as a continuum. You can play the difference game occasionally, where it may only happen in 10% of your relationship and the rest of the time you’re not playing that game. You can play it 30% or 40%, etc. But for couples who divorce they are probably playing the difference game during 50% or more of the time they spend together. All the love, and passion, gets burned out of the relationship. After a while, they’re totally convinced that what they have been trying to prove for so long that it is a fact that they are truly better than their partner.
Author: Bruce Derman Ph.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice for couples therapy in Woodland Hills and Los Angeles, California who specializes in working with people in all stages of relationships. You may reach Dr. Derman by calling (818) 375-7194.