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3 Signs You May Be Dating a Player (and How to Protect Yourself)

Ms. Carroll is a retired paralegal who now works as a certified professional aromatherapist. She enjoys freelance writing in her spare time.

Players, by definition, are charmers and manipulators. A natural consequence of that skill set is telling lies. And players are like most liars—they are very good ones! While their ultimate goal may vary somewhat, the most frequent reasons players target you are:

  1. A desire to maintain more than one relationship without being caught; or,
  2. Simply to scam you.

Sadly, players may actually want and intend to have a long-term relationship with you. Ultimately, however, they cannot help but have one or more flings or even another serious relationship throughout the course of your relationship. One reason is a sex addiction. Another reason may be the need of money to support a drug habit or to pay off debts. Another reason, believe it or not, may be that they use multiple relationships to bolster their low self-esteem.

Whatever a player's motive, you need to ensure you avoid their snare. Unfortunately, I am writing this article because I myself have been played and it's not a pleasant experience. The rose seems to have no thorns at first. Unfortunately, the more time you have invested in a relationship with a player, the more likely you'll get caught up in a sort of Stockholm syndrome where you begin to justify being in the relationship, telling yourself as many lies as you're being told.

Here are some common ways to identify a player, along with a few important steps that you can take to safeguard yourself against harmful relationships.

A Rose Always Has Thorns - photo by Vicki Carroll

A Rose Always Has Thorns - photo by Vicki Carroll

Red Flags Are Signs You Should Not Ignore

The traits of a player are usually the same, but the more cunning your companion, the more unique their tactics and the more danger it poses to you. The top three traits are easy for you to identify and should not be ignored:

  • Players pay you far too many compliments.
  • Players generally avoid commitment.
  • Players can be very accommodating while you oddly feel like something's amiss.

Let's take a closer look at these three tactics.

1. A Player Gives Too Many Compliments

Are you made to feel like you are the most wonderful person your new companion has ever met? A player will be attentive and tell you how beautiful and intelligent you are. A player is quick witted and can convincingly talk themselves out of any jam. At the outset of a relationship, a player will carefully and quickly learn details about you in an attempt to get to know you, when you may learn little about them. The information a player seeks about you is to advantage him or herself so it will appear inappropriately timed, overly aggressive, or ingenuine.

2. A Player Prefers Spontaneity and Avoids Commitment

Do you feel like your new relationship is going nowhere while oddly feeling like it's the best relationship you've ever had? A passive-aggressive pattern begins with most players and once knowing they've disappointed you, a player will even make up for distasteful behavior in grand style with apologies or gifts. Players aren't usually defensive as that gives away their game, but conversely, they can be overly defensive when they've been backed into a corner. The reason is they have indiscretions to hide. A player likes to be spontaneous so they can avoid what they perceive as entrapment.

3. Is Your Date Accommodating Yet Elusive?

How can this strange dichotomy exist? A player will tailor his or her game around your lifestyle. In other words, a player will sort out your strengths and weaknesses and play them like a fiddle. It might be differences in work schedules which permits them the free time needed to cheat. It might be a weak phone signal where they can contend lost calls are frequent giving them unexplained time away. It could be a needy relative that always needs rescue. Whenever you confront a player with something that has upset you, they will remind you how good they are to you at other times. Players are score keepers so that they can stay on top, but you know what is secretly calculated is never genuinely offered.

How Does a Player Treat Others?

One of the most important things to take note of is the way your companion treats you versus others. You will be treated like gold, at least initially, but you may quickly recognize inconsistencies. A player may openly demean waiters or waitresses, be rude to his parents, or even subtly demean you in front of his friends and family. These are also characteristics of someone who has the capacity to physically abuse you, not just emotional abuse you.

If your companion is not as equally charming and kind to others as he is to you then your antennae should go way up. Consistency in behavior is an important trait and an indicator of solid character.


How Can You Separate the Wheat from the Chaff?

The best way to distinguish a player from a non-player and protect yourself from the former is to set boundaries. For instance, since a player likes to call you affectionate terms rather than use your name, tell them you'd prefer to hear your actual name. A player calls you things like 'baby' or 'sweetie' to make you feel secure, but in reality, it's an attempt to avoid calling you by the wrong name.

Here are a few more ways to protect yourself from a player.

1. Protect Yourself at the Outset

From the very beginning of any relationship, be slow and methodical to give out information. A player seeks too much information too soon. If there is a quest for information that makes you feel uncomfortable, trust yourself—don't give it out. If he or she seeks to spend the night too soon, question it and voice your concern. When sharing information, be sure you obtain equal information in turn.

If something just isn't making good math, don't feel guilty for contemplating a background check if the relationship starts getting serious. It could be very revealing and you don't necessarily have to reveal that you did it.

"He lived 1500 miles away. It was hard to believe that I wasn't a girl at another port. So I tested some of the information he gave me with a background check. I was glad that I did. I discovered not one, but a pack of lies. It still broke my heart, but it saved me a lot in the long run." ~ Sandra

2. Learn Who His Friends and Family Are

A player rarely introduces you to family or will reserve these introductions for as long as possible. Why? Because inconsistencies can be quickly discovered. A skilled player will even be evasive with friends and family, but ultimately, all it takes to prove a lie is two people comparing notes.

If you haven’t met friends and family after a reasonable period, it’s time to ask questions about them. If your questions meet with objection, then your relationship is more likely to fall into the "fling" category barring justifiable reasons.

3. Hone In on the Details

A player’s computer and telephone habits are stealth and superior. They know and understand technology. They know how to hide what they don’t want found. They are careful and deliberate in deleting calls that would expose them, and at the same time may actually show you their phones or computers in an attempt to dissolve suspicion. A player will likely subscribe to software which enables them to hide things from you.

You, in turn, need to become computer savvy and develop a memory like an elephant. The moment you develop doubts about someone, keep a diary of dates, times, what was said, who he or she was with. Sometimes a timeline or a diary of events is the evidence you need to prove things to yourself. The purpose of the diary isn't to confront him or her. It's to bring clarity to your own heart and mind. Being able to check inconsistencies in your notes against a player's own words may become invaluable when the player turns things on you and claims that your memory is flawed (gaslighting).

A diary also helps you see the frequency with which inconsistencies occur. If there are too many of these, you owe it to yourself to cut your losses.

4. Hold a Player Accountable

If something seems like a lie, perhaps it is. After all, truth is perception. A player may create large gaps of time in their schedule for ''self." There may be an exercise ritual or professional commitments that render them "unreachable." A player may go so far as to ensure you are made to feel welcome to drop in on him at any time of the day or night when in reality, it’s an untestable theory because he knows your work schedule doesn't allow that.

You can hold a player accountable by the element of surprise but a better way would be to demand a mutual respect of 'reachability.' For instance, offer to go along on some of the alleged "unreachable" events and see what kind of response you get. It's only fair that you can reach him/her if they can reach you.

If that doesn't work, there is the unplanned visit, but you must prepare yourself mentally for what you might find.

"We were on the phone one Christmas day when 'he' insisted he had to go to the post office. I heard dogs barking in the background so I knew he wasn't at the local post office. I pressed him a bit on the issue because I knew instantly that I had a guilty dog on the phone with me. I guess it's true - the guilty dog barks first." ~ Victoria

5. Better Early Than Later

Catching a player at their game early in your relationship is optimal, but if you don't or can't catch them at their game, you need to ask yourself if the relationship is worth the distrust already displayed.

If you do get played, it's painful and embarrassing. When the moment of realization comes, just be sure to likewise realize that you should not continue being played. You can expect excuses and apologies like those demonstrated before, but you need to quickly and gently back out of the relationship.

Remember, red flags are always present with a player. Don't ignore them and you won't find yourself moving backwards with the relationship at all.

photo by Vicki Carroll

photo by Vicki Carroll