Excerpts from


Games People Play


Eric Berne



Marital Game 3: Frigid Woman


This is almost always a marital game, since it is hardly conceivable that an informal liaison would present the required opportunities and privileges over a sufficient length of time, or that such a liaison would be maintained in the face of it.

The husband makes advances to his wife and is repulsed. After repeated attempts, he is told that all men are beasts, he doesn’t really love her, or doesn’t love her for herself, that all he is interested in is sex. He desists for a time, then tries again with the same result. Eventually he resigns himself and makes no further advances. As the weeks or months pass, the wife becomes increasingly informal and sometimes forgetful. She walks through the bedroom half-dressed or forgets her clean towel when she takes a bath so that he has to bring it to her. If she plays a hard game or drinks heavily, she may become flirtatious with other men at parties. At length he responds to those provocations and tries again. Once more he is repulsed, and a game of ‘Uproar’ ensues involving their recent behaviour, other couples, their in-laws, their finances and their failures, terminated by a slamming door.

This time the husband makes up his mind that he is really through, that they will find a sexless modus vivendi. Months pass. He declines the negligee parade and the forgotten towel manoeuvre. The wife becomes more provocatively informal and more provocatively forgetful, but he still resists. Then one evening she actually approaches him and kisses him. At first he doesn’t respond, remembering his resolution, but soon nature begins to take its course after the long famine, and now he thinks he surely has it made. His first tentative advances are not repulsed. He becomes bolder and bolder. Just at the critical point, the wife steps back and cries: ‘See, what did I tell you! All men are beasts, all I wanted was affection, but all you are interested in is sex!’

...In its everyday form this game is played by unmarried ladies of various ages, which soon earns them a common slang epithet. With them it often merges into the game of indignation, or ‘Rapo.’



Eric Berne, Games People Play, 1964.




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