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Why "Penny Dating" Is So Manipulative and Hurtful

... and 4 key signs to watch for.

Key points

  • In "penny dating," a person strategically reduces how much he or she invests into you and the relationship.
  • Eventually, that person only needs to invest "pennies" to maintain your interest, with an occasional nickel.
  • There are four steps that you can take to determine whether someone is trying to penny date you:
Photo by Andre Taissin from Pexels
In "Penny Dating," one person treats the other person like a "Piggy Bank" throughout wooing and dating.
Source: Photo by Andre Taissin from Pexels

People have coined a term for a rather manipulative dating move that's been trending on TikTok. It's called "penny dating": Someone views you as a piggy bank when first trying to woo you and then maintains a relationship with you. Over time, the person strategically reduces how much they invest in you and in the relationship, down to the point that the person need offer only "pennies" to maintain your interest.

Not exactly the best way to build a healthy relationship: View the other person as a piggy bank. Not surprisingly, this "piggy" move has drawn the ire of a lot of folks on TikTok. Here's how penny dating apparently works:

  1. The initial wooing stage: A person invests a lot of money, time, effort, and resources to garner your interest. This can be considered the 100% full-effort investment level.
  2. The "she already shows interest" stage: Once you're hooked, the other person decreases the investment down to, say, a 90% level. This saves that person's resources and may erode your feeling of self-worth a bit. That's because, deep down, you may be wondering whether you are even worthy of more attention.
  3. The "bump up the investment" stage: In case your interest wanes due to the lowered 90% investment, the other person then momentarily pushes up the investment just a bit, to around 95%, so that you feel an increase. Note, though, that this 95% level is still less than the initial 100%. Nevertheless, the 5% increase in theory further fuels your interest, allowing the other person to benefit despite no longer investing at a 100% level.
  4. The "gradual back-and-forth reduction in investment" stage: Over time, the other person progressively reduces their investment in you in an up-and-down manner, as described in Stage 2. A short period of 95% investment may be followed by a period of 80% investment followed by a short period of a slightly higher 85% level, which is still less than the previous 90% level. After a short time at the 85% level, the other person further drops their investment down to an even lower 70% level, and so on.
  5. The "penny maintenance" stage: Over time the investment level gets lower and lower. The steady decline could eventually get to the point where the other person is investing only a few percentage points of money, time, effort, and other resources—the equivalent of pennies. With you accustomed to such a low level of investment, the other can simply toss in a slightly higher investment—a nickel here and there—to keep you hooked. In theory, that person is able to keep your feelings of self-worth low and minimize the investment needed to keep the relationship going.

Talk about strategy. If you want your self-esteem to get battered and to be around someone who doesn't do a whole lot for you, then penny dating may be for you. There are steps you can take to suss out those who may be penny dating you:

  1. Beware of love bombers or those who shower you with gifts too early: Early on, dating should be more about two people getting to know each other rather than one person trying to win over the other.
  2. Notice when someone pulls back for no apparent reason: Healthy relationships should be the opposite: The more you get to know each other and like each other, the more you want to invest in the other person. A pullback is not necessarily a sign that the other person is penny dating you, but it does suggest that something is happening with the relationship that may deserve further discussion.
  3. Look for other signs of manipulative behavior: Manipulative behaviors usually do not occur in isolation. If someone is being manipulative in one manner, chances are they can be manipulative in other ways.
  4. Have an open conversation with the other person: Don't be afraid of calling out the behavior. If you can't have a frank, honest conversation about your relationship, then it may not be much of a real relationship.

If you do find someone penny dating you, you may have someone who is more into strategy than forming a real honest, open connection. It's probably time for a change, because who wants to waste time dealing with such chump change?

Facebook image: Nataliya Dmytrenko/Shutterstock

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