Defense Against Manipulative Dating Games 2: Taking Too Much

Defend against your dating partner's games of taking too much.

Posted Jun 22, 2011

Welcome back to The Attraction Doctor

Thank you all for the great feedback on the last article in this series. Given the support, I have decided to continue writing about "Defense Against Manipulative Dating Games". If you missed the first article, you can find it here.

From your comments, there appears to be a lot of questions about "giving and taking" in dating interactions. When is giving okay? When is taking appropriate? When are each manipulative? Etc.

I will address the question of taking becoming manipulative in this article. I will save the questions about manipulative giving for the next post. Before I can answer those questions, however, I need to clarify a few terms.

In my work, I make the personal distinction between "influence" and "manipulation". I believe that we all use influence every day, to get peers, family, children, and partners to see our perspective. Essentially, tactics of influence can be used to create a mutually-beneficial exchange. Both individuals get something. In contrast, I believe such tactics turn into manipulation when they are used to take advantage of another person. In other words, when the exchange created is only one-sided, unequal, and someone is conned out of something. For example, if someone persuades you to buy a good car at a fair price, that is influence. However, if they persuade you to buy a "lemon" car at a high price, that is manipulation.

Now, on to the game of "taking too much".

Dating Game: Taking Too Much

Everyday giving-and-taking between people is based on the social rule of Reciprocity. Essentially, reciprocity means that someone should be willing to return a favor in-kind, when one is done for them. This rule protects a "giver" from being taken advantage of by someone who takes, but never gives back. This also keeps people motivated to give freely...and our exchange society running smoothly.

Manipulative Taking - Given the rule of reciprocity, if a person takes a gift without appreciating it and intending to reciprocate in-kind, then he/she is being manipulative. This is especially true when the "taking" occurs multiple times, without the taker making any movement to repay and balance the exchange. Such a person is essentially "scamming" the system - and getting something for nothing.

Such a taker may further manipulate and attempt to justify their actions by saying that "the giver should not be keeping tabs". For example, they might say, "you shouldn't give and expect something in return". However, it is they who are failing the social rule of reciprocity, where they " shouldn't be willing to take things without being appreciative and planning to care about the giver's needs in return". Don't fall for their manipulations or justifications.

Overall then, repeatedly taking, without appreciating the gift and intending to reciprocate, is manipulative. This is true no matter what other circumstances are present. If it is creating an unfair and grossly imbalanced exchange, then it is manipulative.

Defense Against Manipulative Taking

There are a few techniques to defend yourself against dates who "take too much"...

1) Don't give so much, so quickly - Be conservative in your giving, especially early in relationships. Don't be so fast to invest heavily. Also, don't be quick to do big favors for a new partner early on (and be suspicious if they ask for them). If someone is going to like you, then they will like you regardless of how much you spend or do for them. A lobster dinner, or cleaning their house, isn't going to make a difference. Giving doesn't lead them to love (see my article here). So, don't "bend over backwards". A good rule to follow is not to give so much that you will resent it if it isn't returned. If you give to a point where you feel your partner "owes" you, then you have over-extended yourself.

2) Look for appreciation and reciprocation - In conjunction with limiting your giving early on, it also pays to look for signs of your partner's appreciation and intention to reciprocate. When you do nice things, do they thank you? Do they do nice things in return? If they do not, you might want to make a gentle, general request from them and see how they respond. If they are open to giving and helping you, then you can continue with your giving. A healthy relationship can develop when reciprocity is there. If they are not appreciative and giving in return though, then you might want to reconsider giving more. Better to cut your losses early than have your kindness further manipulated.

3) Make trades, not gifts - If you are looking for something specific back from your partner, then be upfront about that. In that situation, what you really want to do is "trade" your thing for theirs. That isn't a gift. Saying your traded item is a "gift" and then asking for something specific in return can also be manipulative (I'll discuss this next week). This doesn't mean that others have a right to manipulate you back (two wrongs don't make a right). But, it does mean that, if you want something specific, you should ask for it upfront as a trade. You have a much better chance of negotiating and getting something specific under conditions of open trade anyway.


Giving is part of all normal and healthy relationships. Under conditions of reciprocity and gratitude, care and favors are returned (usually without great prompting). But, no matter how much you wish it, if someone doesn't love you, then heaping caring and gifts on them will not change his/her feelings. So, don't over-extend yourself early on. Instead, give a little to start and see whether they reciprocate. If they do, continue to give and enjoy the reciprocal exchange. However, if they keep asking and taking without giving instead, cut them loose. Further giving will just be your loss.

Click here for the next article in the series, where I discuss the other side of the coin - manipulative giving.

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Until next time...happy dating and relating!

Dr. Jeremy Nicholson
The Attraction Doctor

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© 2011 by Jeremy S. Nicholson, M.A., M.S.W., Ph.D. All rights reserved.