This article focuses on nasty and manipulative games women play during dating and courtship.
But for a broader understanding, keep in mind we already discussed mind games women play on this website.
For a quick overview:
- Games women play: an overview of some of the major dating games women play
- Games women play to get relationships: the games women play when you’ve been dating or having sex for a while
- Manipulative games to control relationships: same as this article, but more focused on relationship and relationship control
But in a recent forum thread, we made the point that it’s important to differentiate between “fair” dating games and “nasty” dating games.
- Fair games: when male and female strategies and goals diverge and there is no way of reconciling them, it’s fair to expect women to follow strategies and play games that do not necessarily benefit the man
- Nasty games: when there are win-win, more collaborative approaches, or less win-lose approaches available, but she deliberately chooses the behaviors that are the most win-lose, most harmful, or most disempowering for her partner
As a general rule, men should consider nasty games as important red flags for a more serious future together -or even just for dating-.
And as a general rule, I generally advise women to reduce or eliminate nasty games because they tend to work on lower-quality men, but drive away mentally healthier men, as well as higher quality men. Higher quality men generally have the experience and intelligence to spot nasty games, and generally have more options that they don’t need to put up with them.
So let’s start reviewing these manipulative games women play:
- 1. Win-Lose Power Moves
- 2. “I’m The Prize” Games
- 3. Manipulative Under-Investing
- 4. “I’m Better Than You” Games
- 5. “I’m Your Judge” Power Moves
- 6. Exploiting Honest Vulnerability (Power Scalping)
- 7. Sexual One-Upping
- 8. Passive-Aggressive Attention Seeking
- 9. Tit for Tat Power Move
- 10. Standard Games… Taken to the Extreme
- Do Nasty Power Moves Work?
1. Win-Lose Power Moves
Power moves can be neutral, win-win, or win-lose.
Nasty power moves are only win-lose, or lose-lose (value-subtracting).
Nasty power moves is an umbrella category, and it would be impossible to list them all.
That’s why I advocate for developing emotional intelligence and an awareness of power dynamics. With power-dynamics awareness, you can assess and appropriately deal with any behavior you experience, even if you’ve never seen or read it before.
However, to give you an idea, nasty power moves include:
- Triangulation: parading, playing up, or pretending she has other attractive suitors. See a text example here
- “My hot exes games”: triangulating with her exes, who all magically seem to be so cool and attractive. See a video example here
- “He is so great games”: using someone else, including a celebrity, to set up an (unreachable) ideal of how a great man should be
- Spurning his advances to make him chase: even after intimacy, she will still rebuff his advances to increase her power and keep him on edge. See a pictorial example here
- Demeaning him: any private or public behavior that embarrasses him, disempowers him, or decreases his status and self-esteem
- Games of chicken / threats: any game with the premise of “either you do this, or this will happen”, including threats of breaking up
- Being purposefully late on the date, without warning: for men, handle it like this
- Canceling last minute: for men, handle it like this
But nasty power moves also include extreme forms of common, everyday standard games, which we will review later (definition of standard games here).
See an example here of extreme forms of hiding interest to make him chase and worry:
Me: are we still on?
Her: “no” (pictures says “I’m not doing anything, just don’t really wanna meet you”)
As you can see, nasty power moves are not necessarily about throwing dishes or destroying his game console with a sledgehammer. It’s the smaller things like the one above that poison relationships.
And it’s the “small” things like this that women should be cautious about, and that men should consider as big red flags.
Why It Backfires
Let’s start with the example above.
I was truly looking forward to seeing the woman of that text exchange.
We had had an amazing first date and, just between you and I, I woke up in the middle of the night with a big boner.
And I later got to know she was falling for me, too.
That could have gone the unforgettable romance way.
Instead, she chose the power move road.
That one single text doused all my passion. And not only it made me look less forward to our date, but it truly made me realize she was probably a bad woman, and that I really needed to look for new ones.
And, as a general principle, win-lose power moves backfire because high-quality people with options are not going to accept win-lose relationships.
That simple truth is a staple of this website’s dating advice for women. The (invariably) female dating authors who invite women to play win-lose games teach women techniques to acquire power that only work with below-average men.
Why it backfires for both
And win-lose games tend to quickly sour relationships.
As a rule of thumb, the longer the relationship is, the more win-lose games tend to turn into lose-lose.
There are usually three ways a relationship can go with women who play win-lose games:
- Vicious circles of toxicity: if the man understands anything about life but has no other options, he will engage in one-upping back and lead to a lose-lose vicious circle
- High quality men disappear: men who undestand the game and have options will quickly drop her
- Low-quality men stay and become doormats: men who do not understand the game and have no other options are the ones who are most likely to stay. She will lose even more attraction for him and will find the relationship highly unsatisfying
Better Alternative: Virtuous Circles
Compare the above example to the total opposite approach this other woman had:
Me: are we still on?
Her: yes, and I look forward to it!
Her answer was the total opposite and the effect was the total opposite.
I was working hard those days launching this website, so if she canceled, I would have been happy to keep on working.
But when I read she was “looking forward to it”, her enthusiasm was contagious, and I immediately also looked more forward to our date.
This is an example of positive, value-adding vulnerability which leads to virtuous circles.
2. “I’m The Prize” Games
“I’m the prize” games and power moves include:
- Taking without giving back: that’s the core of being the prize, and it’s her way of conveying, with actions, that she is worth more (the prize)
- Entitled attitude to receiving: the “entitled princess”
- Little princess games: see a definition here
- Demeaning him: by pushing him down, she looks better by comparison. See a video example here
- Ridiculing and looking down on his efforts: a manipulative woman I once dated told them who picked her up with pink roses: “oh, you brought pink roses?”, with an inflection as if to say “are you stupid?”
See here one example:
Me: I’m inviting you out and payinig, so I pick the place
Her: No, you’re inviting me out, I also pick the place, plus I talk down to you
Yep, definitely relationship material there (sarcastic).
Why it backfires
There is a place and time for “I’m the prize” games.
And it’s if she wants to milk some poor schmuck out of his money.
However, if we’re talking about general dating and effective female dating strategies, then “I’m the prize” power moves are most likely to backfire.
It’s because of the social exchange rule: relationships and requests need to be balanced.
Asking without giving or without providing some value is a negative-balance request. And it’s the equivalent of withdrawing more than you have.
The haughty attitude of “I’m owed everything” without working for it or without providing value back: the worst aspect of any wanna-be relationship prize
So, who will submit to “I’m the prize” power moves?
It’s simple, really:
On average, only those men far below her value will be willing or happy to pedesalize her.
And, maybe, inexperienced men whose life goal is to serve a woman. But also those, usually they’re not the highest value men around.
Pedestalizing is indeed a way to make up for a value-difference between the partner. So only lower-value man will do it.
Hence, if she seeks a relationship with a man of similar or higher value, and if she wants a healthy relationship, then “I’m the prize games” are most likely to backfire.
Better alternative: becoming each other’s prize
If you really wanna shoot for the moon, then the top 1% of the closest relationships pedestalize each other.
It’s like an extreme version of supporting each other and building each other up.
To some of those watching from outside, it can feel somewhat “corny”, or too “sugary” and “lovey-dovey”. But deep down, some of those same people are actually a bit jealous of those couples.
- How to make him invest (the healthy way)
3. Manipulative Under-Investing
This must be one of the most annoying power moves around.
Man and woman agree on dinner together.
He proposes that both prepare something, and then they will mix. She agrees.
But… She shows up with nothing.
- She says “next round is on me”, but she does not volunteer to pay
- She talks about Saint Valentine and gifts-giving, but makes no gift of her own
Her goal is to become the prize of the relationship by feigning collaboration in words, but investing nothing in deeds.
Why it Backfires
Who wants to be with someone who says will contribute, and then doesn’t?
Every time a woman showed up and didn’t bring or do what we agreed on, I can’t help but fall out of love a bit more.
4. “I’m Better Than You” Games
“I’m better than you games” are essentially social climbing and power-climbing games within the relationship.
There are three types of women (and men) who play these games:
- Low self-esteem: need to re-assert their value to feel worthy
- Partners who feel lower value: need to advertise their superior value to feel safe in the relationship
- Power-hungry partner: they need to have power in the relationship and feel like they are the relationships leaders (men do it more often than women)
These types of games are also typical of uncollaborative relationships, and it sometimes takes just one partner to start them.
Such as, when one partner starts them, then the other partner is forced to play ball and attack back as a way of defending their own value and worth within the relationship.
Her: I have over 37.000 followers, thank you so much
Him: 36.999 of which are mine
Her: (gestures as if to say “there you go, he wants to hear from me”)
Why it backfires
What’s the point of being in a relationship if you’re going to tear each other down?
That’s what most men with options and/or with other life pursuits are going to think.
True, there are some rare exceptions, and a few men can get stimulated by the competition. However, these men are the exceptions, not the rule. Plus, you’re not going form great bonds if the underlying theme of the relationship is to “how to beat your partner”.
5. “I’m Your Judge” Power Moves
Here we come, the judge.
In brief, the judge is the person who evaluates the other, providing emotional rewards -or punishment-, against their own evaluation.
Most women naturally take the judge position in relationships. But some women, when they feel they are not making any headway on the judge position they crave, will “force” their hand to gain judge power vis-a-vis the man they’re dating.
See an example here:
Me: (describing what I was doing in the company) a graduate talent programme
Her: (completely ignores the opportunity to say something nice) good that you weren’t a driver!
(keeps on building herself up) I was at headquarters…
Me: (thinking: so cheap… )
When she said “good you weren’t a driver”, she sought to position herself as the demanding judge of my life/career, and as the dispenser emotional punishments and rewards.
6. Exploiting Honest Vulnerability (Power Scalping)
We already talked about being vulnerable on this website.
In dating and relationships, almost anything that moves the relationship forward is an act of vulnerability. From saying hi, to inviting her out, to inviting her home, to initiating intimacy.
Vulnerability, leadership, and power are tightly interlinked.
It’s somewhat of a conundrum, but to lead, one must not be afraid of losing power.
Whenever we take the lead to move the relationship forward, either physically or emotionally, we open ourselves up to the possibility that someone will reject us. That rejection will hurt us both emotionally, and from a power dynamics perspective.
In brief, an act of vulnerability opens up the possibility of being rejected, empowering the rejecter, and disempowering the rejected.
And that’s exactly what nasty power movers exploit.
Manipulative women capitalize on the man’s vulnerable position to gain power.
Some examples of power scalping:
- He proposes, she pretends to think about it, then purposefully says “yes” without conviction
- He asks her out, she says “wait a second”. Then, little later “what were you saying”?
- He says “you know, I really like you”, she says “thanks”
Example: Exploiting a Flirt
The first time a man seeks to go from friendly talk to more couple talk is also an act of vulnerability.
And so is flirting.
Flirting is sexual. But it’s also two important things more:
- Flirting is an act of vulnerability
- Flirting is a collaborative frame
It says “I like you” and “we might be good together”.
If completely unreturned, flirting will leave the flirter down in power.
See this example:
Me: (flirts to potentially lead to a date / meet)
Her: (makes fun of my attempt, spurns me to gain power)
I sought to move the interaction from random chit chat to something more intimate, and sexual.
It’s a sexual flirtation I’m going for, but getting sexual first is also an act vulnerability.
A collaborative woman would have answered more warmly. Flirting back, or laughing. Instead, she seizes on that opportunity to gain power.
This is what the reply says:
Him: It’s too bad we met on your last day (… Or we could have been lovers / a great couple)
Her: ahaha, that’s how it goes, sweetie (ahah, you like me, joke’s on you)
Why it backfires
Analyzing the example above:
That lady, liked me, somewhat.
That’s why she wrote to me, and that’s why she asked me questions.
However, instead of collaborating and moving the relationship forward, she decided to one-up me and seek personal short-term gratification.
A burst of power makes some people feel good. And that’s exactly what a nasty power move is all about: nasty power moves are al about gaining short-term pleasure for the self, while sacrificing longer-term, bigger gains for both.
In the example above, I thought whether I should reply in a way that shamed her power move -see definition of “collaborative shaming“-, or simply drop it.
I decided to drop it.
7. Sexual One-Upping
You will see this manipulative game when things start escalating towards intimacy.
Sexual one-upping here is not the rejection per se, but the dramatized, exaggerated feint of disgust
In the fundamentals of frame control, one-upping is a win-lose power move or frame that gives power to the frame-setter (one-up) and disempowers the victim (one-down).
Sexual one-upping is also often a form of vulnerability-exploiting.
Initiating sex is a moment of vulnerability for many men (Brown, 2012).
When she spurns his advances while making a show of not being excited, she is pushing him down, while framing herself as the (sexual) prize.
The basic premise of sexual-one upping is this:
You want me more than I want you.
And I will decide when (and if) we will have sex.
Example: you get horny, I won’t
I once had a small girl home.
Small, but… With huge boobs.
The moment I started touching them, she cautioned me that “it wasn’t good for me”.
What was she doing?
She was implying that since she wasn’t going to have sex that night, me touching her would get me horny, not her, and ultimately leave me dissatisfied.
That’s sexual one-upping.
More examples of sexual one-upping:
- “You can’t touch me”
John: (touches her)
Her: I can touch you, but you can’t touch me
Obvious power move, and obviously win-lose.
See the forum discussion here.
- “Don’t be angry with me (if we don’t have sex)”
She sets herself up as the dispenser of sex.
He wants sex, she doesn’t want it as much as him, and she decides when and if sex will happen.
- Leaving your place at once when it’s getting hot
They try to leave you home alone at your horniest, in an effort to gain power and make you chase.
A couple of women have done this to me.
One of them is the girl in the video of covert power moves whom I met years later waiting my table and who still remembered my name and surname.
The other one just texted me a few minutes ago (no kidding).
Women go crazy when they think you should chase them, but you don’t.
Now, repeat after me: never pursue a nasty game player.
And never, ever, get into a relationship with a nasty game player. Not even if she was the last woman on earth.
- “Eeew, not here”
This is the sad tale of the guy who fell for nasty sexual one-upping games. See the pictures in the forum.
Why it backfires
Sexual one-upping is based on her not being sexually aroused.
And what’s less arousing than a person who doesn’t want you?
Any self-respecting man would rather masturbate than get together with a woman who plays sexual one-upping.
There are few things as arousing as mutual sexual arousal.
And few things bond two people together as the consummation of that arousal.
That is obviously not to say that she should always be aroused, pretend to be aroused, or always be ready for sex.
However, instead of going for win-lose one-upping, she can deflect his advances without capitalizing on them for power.
Or, even better, with the following techniques:
- How to reject sex effectively: a guide on rejecting sex in a tactful way that preserves sexual attraction and the potential for a relationship
8. Passive-Aggressive Attention Seeking
This is the realm of women who are not confident and assertive enough to state their feelings and needs clearly.
The idea behind passive-aggressive attention-seeking, is that, if she can create enough problems, he will have to pay attention and chase her to fix things.
A text example from a woman I had just seen twice:
This is passive-aggressive jealousy. Specifically, hiding her jealousy and true feelings behind the passive-aggression.
Single instances of this type of behavior are understandable. Especially early on, it can be difficult to be assertive and forthcoming about one’s feelings.
But it turns nasty when it’s a repeated game, or when she just cannot manage to state her needs and feelings clearly, without resorting to manipulative games.
A pattern of passive-aggressive attention-seeking is a value-subtracting game that seeks to acquire power by making the man chase. Chase her to fix this or that problem, fix the relationship, or fix her.
Him: so let’s meetup one of these days
Her: but why, you have other girls to meet
This one uses insinuation, passive-aggressiveness, and guilt-tripping to make him justify, chase, and declare his love and devotion.
Extreme examples of this game consist of troubles and self-harm to attract attention.
Why it backfires
It’s plainly annoying.
Men with goals and options aren’t exactly looking for drama. That’s a time-draining distraction, and they don’t want distractions.
- Better solution 1: Keep your jealousy for when the relationship is official, or in a more advanced stage
- Better solution 2: Be jealous and say it clearly that you are disappointed. Potentially, you can use the occasion for the “what are we” talk
- Better solution 3: State clearly that you were hurt and disappointed, and say that you lost some respect and attraction (the truth might just the best way to get him to “win you back over”)
9. Tit for Tat Power Move
The tit for that power move does onto him exactly what he did onto her.
Here is an example:
In this case, it felt odd and out place.
Yes, there was a power component in my first request. But it was a fair request. Confirming dates is what every sensible person does. And at 3pm, I seek confirmation for a date happening just a few hours later.
Why it backfires
It’s not the nastiest power move, but it just feels cheap.
Especially if the first request was fair.
Tit for that power moves feel like she’s getting into a power struggle, and she is more concerned about power, than about being efficient and/or being good together.
If the woman feels like he was overly aggressive or brutish, she should not let that slip.
But instead of playing the same back on him, or planning revenge, she should enforce her boundaries with clear talk.
In the above example, if she felt I was too demanding, a joke would have been a good way of drawing attention to it.
Something like this:
Her: lol, are you putting a stopwatch on me? I was working :). See you at 7pm
What a high-value reply, that would have been.
10. Standard Games… Taken to the Extreme
This is probably the most important category.
Keep this in mind:
If the man and woman are roughly matched in terms of personal value, the woman is worth somewhat more in the dating marketplace.
See “sexual marketplace power dynamics” if you are interested in the reason why.
But the first important corollary of that rule is that when and women are roughly matched, it’s fair and expected that during courtship the man invests somewhat more than the woman does.
And by that “investing” I don’t necessarily mean “paying” or “writing her first”, albeit those can be part of that mix. I mean that it’s the man who, on the overall mix of approaching, initiating contact, making plans, taking her out, and following up, has put in most of the work.
A second important corollary is that it’s normal, expected, and “fair” that some of the women’s standard games are designed to make sure that the man does invest a bit more, and seeks her out a bit more.
However, now comes the important difference between “fair games” and “nasty games”.
Albeit standard games are generally fair and expected, those same standard games turn nasty when they become extreme.
What’s extreme varies from culture to culture and case to case, but as a rule of thumb:
- Waiting too long for intimacy: in the West, longer than 3 dates for a woman who is not a virgin or very religious begins turning into a nasty power move
- Expecting to be chased too much: if during the courtship she never initiates contact, it can be considered a nasty power move
- Demanding too much investment: if during the courtship she never offers to pay for anything and he is not wealthy and she is not poor, it’s a big red flag of a potentially uncooperative woman
- Hiding interest too much, for too long: it’s sensible behavior not to say “I love you” during the first date. But hiding interest too much, too long, can become a nasty power move to control the relationship by keeping him guessing (dread game)
Do Nasty Power Moves Work?
Do nasty power moves “work” sometimes?
To answer that question, we go back to a theme I often described on this website.
These nasty power moves do work, but the real question is who do these power moves work on, and what type of relationship do they lead to.
This is who they work on:
- Inexperienced men: are more likely to idolize and pedestalize women, which predisposes them to accept “I’m the prize” games
- Very conservative-minded men: they are more likely to see it as their duty to invest, protect, and “make her happy”, which makes it more likely they will accept win-lose frames and unbalanced relationships
- Lower-value men: when men are or feel lower value than the woman, they are more willing to “pay up” the difference with more chasing, investing, and generally accepting more shitty behavior
- Men clueless about power dynamics & relationships: men who just don’t see social and power dynamics are more likely to fall for nasty power moves simply because they don’t know any better. This category includes men who grew up with low-power fathers who also had poor relationships. And they don’t know there are kinder and more cooperative women out there who would make for better partners and better relationships
That nasty power moves can “work” with some men comes with an important caveat, though.
Unbalanced relationships where one partner takes advantage of the other partner tend to provide lower overall satisfaction, including for the partner with power, since the attraction and pleasure of the shared time together will be smaller.
Who they don’t work with
nasty power moves don’t work much with high-quality men.
It’s very simple: men with options, driven men, as well as mentally and emotionally healthy men… These are not the types of men who exactly long for a relationship with an uncollaborative woman.
Yes, even here, there are some exceptions. Men high in power will relish the challenge of possessing the woman who tries to overpower them. It’s a power and domination thing.
But as we often repeat, you don’t make the rule with the exception. And even these men, if they are busy with their lives -which they often are-, they are far more likely to end up with women who are more available, and play no nasty games (also see “common dating mistakes women make“).
Keep in mind that many successful and driven men are quite fine with being single. So it’s either they take on women who add value to their life, or they will be quick to next and ghost.
Nasty and manipulative games women play are win-lose, or lose-lose.
And while they can work with the (lower-quality) men who happily jump through her hoops and keep investing and chasing more and more, those are rarely the best men she can realistically end up with.
That’s why my dating advice for women is, generally, to avoid highly lopsided win-lose games. Not just out of considerations for morals and ethics, albeit that’s also a plus, but out of pure effectiveness.
Nasty games have the opposite effect that good dating strategies should have.
Nasty games screen lower value men in, and screen same and higher value men out (plus screening out all the emotionally healthier men who seek a good partner).