Imagine you and your spouse are discussing the cost of groceries. You are the one who buys the groceries, and you try to be frugal without sacrificing good food in the fridge. It's a gray area for you, and you would like to have your spouse's honest input. Your spouse, who pays the large bills and is used to receiving and paying out money in large sums, acts like it's a big deal to pay 25 cents more for the brand of spaghetti sauce you normally buy. In fact, you realize that when it comes to groceries, your spouse prefers to nickel and dime his way through the store. So far, you're okay with this. But then, he lets you know in a roundabout way that he wishes you spent more money so that he would feel better about spending more money on things that he buys.
How do you listen to and respect your spouse without going crazy?
Mind games can be complicated, and they can ruin good communication patterns. If your spouse seems to be implying two contradictory things at once, you may need some outside help to get your relationship back on track.
First, give your spouse the benefit of the doubt. If the issue at hand isn't urgent, then let it go. Maybe your spouse is going through a rough spot in life, and his communication became unusually mixed-up. Allow some time to pass before confronting your spouse on the issue again. Chances are, given time, the mind games will disappear and you can move forward normally.
But if they don't, don't despair. You are not going crazy, and this is not your fault. Believe in your own sanity and seek outside help. Do you have a friend you can trust to be fair? Ask her opinion. Can someone else talk to your spouse about the issue? Try that. Gentle, non-combative ways of confronting your spouse are possible. Let him know that you don't understand, and you don't appreciate the mixed messages.
Mind games can seriously frustrate a good relationship, but relationships are worth working on. Take it slow, and wisely move forward to untangle the knots.