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How To Defend Against Manipulative Dating Games: Part One

Learn how to defend yourself from being manipulated while dating.

Welcome back to The Attraction Doctor

While I believe most men and women have good dating intentions, a few individuals are indeed manipulative users. They sour the experience of others and can ruin dating for everyone. In this series, I'm going to help you defend against such manipulations.

Let me start by saying I believe there are two valuable reasons for studying persuasion and influence:

  1. To create mutually-beneficial exchanges with others (where both people get something of value).
  2. To identify and defend against being manipulated (where others take from you, without giving back).

Therefore, even if you have no desire to be more "influential", it is still a good idea to know how to defend yourself against being conned. In that spirit, I will define for you tactics that I call "Manipulative Dating Games" and provide defenses against them. Let's look at one...

Manipulative Dating Game: False Promises

What distinguishes "manipulation" from" influence" is the intention of taking without giving in return. The game of "False Promises" serves this manipulative purpose very well. In this game, the manipulator gets something in the immediate moment, by promising something at a later date. Of course, the promised favor never happens. The "victim" is then left feeling cheated and betrayed.

There are many examples of "False Promises" in dating. Some are mild (e.g. if you go to the restaurant they want tonight, then they promise to go to the one you want next time - which never happens). Others are more severe (e.g. if you give your lover one more chance, he/she promises to stop drinking, cheating, etc.). Unfortunately, even sex and marriage commitments are sometimes given under the pretenses of false promises.

Defense Against False Promises

False promises are particularly tricky to defend against for two reasons. First, it is common to want to trust your partner. In most cases, that is not only acceptable, but healthy too. Second, it is hard to determine the difference between a "well intentioned promise" that falls through and a manipulation that your partner never intended to honor. However, there are some strategies to sort out the difference:

1) Get Yours First - If the promise of an exchange really is sincere, then it doesn't matter who gets theirs first. So, you should be able to go to YOUR restaurant "this time", and they can take "next time". Similarly, they won't mind being forgiven AFTER they are sober or faithful for a defined period of time.

Therefore, when a promise is requested, ask for what you are being "promised" upfront. If your partner's intentions are good, then he/she will be fine with giving you your part of the exchange initially. If your date gets mad or upset at that request, however, you are being manipulated.

2) Define Consequences - There are some promise situations where you can't get what you're promised first (e.g. loaning money). In these instances though, you can set consequences. You can tell the other person 1) how the relationship is going to change until the promise is fulfilled, and 2) what will happen if it is not fulfilled.

For example: You explain that you will loan them money, under the following conditions... You expect them to pay you back when they get paid. Until then, you are not paying for any dates. Also, if they don't pay you back when they get paid, then you're never loaning them money ever again.

Here again, if the promise is sincere, your date will be fine with the "terms" you set. However, if he/she starts getting upset or defensive, then your partner has intentions to manipulate. So, state the consequences and see how they react.

3) Appeal to Self-Image - When others don't care about you, they still care about themselves. Even liars like to think of themselves as good people. So, you can test their sincerity by reflecting back how a promise makes THEM look and feel.

For example: You say something like, "I trust you because I know you're not the kind of person that wants to look like a liar or a failure. You will keep your word and do what you say. You're not like those losers who make promises with no intentions of keeping them".

Such a statement will make a sincere partner feel very good about himself or herself. But, it will make an insincere partner feel very bad. So, if you say something like the above and your partner gets hostile, then beware. You're about to be manipulated.


A big motivation for learning about persuasion and influence is to defend yourself from the insincere manipulation of others. I hope you find this series helpful in that regard. Please leave a comment below with any "Manipulative Dating Games" you'd like me to discuss. I will describe them and share defenses against them in future articles.

Continue to Part 2 Here

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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.