Although many of us may have experienced this when dating, it helps to clearly define what this tactic looks like: the ‘penny method’ is all about intentionally and methodically weaning someone off the initial effort that was used to win them over at the start of a relationship until they’re happy with just breadcrumbs.  It is a manipulation tactic used to control the other person while chipping away at their self-esteem, in a sick attempt to build a co-dependent relationship.  

Here’s a glimpse into how this works.  The person seeking to win someone over is very charming in the beginning and goes a bit overboard with generous gestures starting with the very first date.  Within a month you will hear “I love you” and maybe even get a commitment ring.  You will get whisked away on romantic trips such as a weekend in New York City or a quick trip to the charming parts of South Carolina.  There’s lots of talk about marriage and locking in the future with plans for more luxurious experiences, like an all expenses paid trip to Greece.  They start referring to you as their spouse, and maybe even add you to their country club membership, with many more promises of a life together with a fairy tale ending.

And yet, ever so slowly in private they start to withdraw their attention and affection.  The little surprise notes and funny texts disappear, and unfortunately get replaced with daily digs that aren’t funny.  Generous gestures are swapped out for constant reminders of how lucky you are to get whatever crumbs are doled out to you, particularly on special occasions, which are now down-played like never before.  Even the compliments that used to come without any prompting before a date night stop entirely, and instead you find these nights now end with horrible arguments that make no sense. 

Rather than feeling cherished and loved, you start to feel like nothing more than a convenient roommate, if that.  Promises are slowly retracted, and every attempt is made to make you feel like you are either too demanding or unstable and perhaps need to get a shrink and get on meds.   (Checking in with your own counselor actually isn’t a bad idea here).  While you struggle to decipher what has led to such a drastic change, definitely go back and retrace all your steps.  It will all make sense when you start to connect the dots.

In certain extreme situations, you may pick up on a disturbing pattern where the number of “accidents” have become prolific.  It’s not okay to wake up to bruises from someone holding on too tight, or to have a bite wound that takes weeks to heal.  No one should ever leave you bleeding from a mistaken backhanded slap, or shove you into a bathtub, which could have resulted in serious injuries.  This is abuse, and you need to get out as soon as you can.

Admitting that this was done to you isn’t easy, but it is necessary so that people can help you and also warn others.  No one should accept crumbs.  Know that you are worth so much more and deserve way, way better!  In the meantime, go get your own commitment ring and make yourself a promise to stop dating a dumbass.

By Regina A. DeMeo