Maria asked me to comment on the tactic of manipulation often employed by narcissists: gifts or the promise of gifts. I've held off on this topic in the past because I'm not sure people want to know my thoughts on this subject especially since I put the complete onus on the receiver, not the giver. Anyway, I'll forge ahead. If you don't like what I say...you'll just have to cope.

This tactic relies on certain vulnerabilities in the target. Namely, either a lack of a sense of self-sufficiency or covetousness. Dependency or greed. An examination of the lure of gifts is really about the receiver more than the "giver". No one can manipulate you with gifts or the promise of gifts if you are self-reliant and have a lock-box on your greed button.

From where I sit, the question boils down to this: what do you value most? For me the answer has always been freedom. There is no gift...or promise of some future gift...that will entice me away from my autonomy and freedom. I would rather live under a bridge and have my freedom than have an illusion of security or wealth given to me by a narcissist along with the gigantic baggage of obligation that comes along with it. And trust me, at best the sense of security it is an illusion. What the narcissist gives, the narcissist can take away. The narcissist lies, cheats, steals. Why would you entrust any sense of security or financial freedom to a serial cheater, liar and thief? When I was a kid we used the term "Indian giver" to describe someone who would take away from you a gift they'd given you previously. The term has fallen into disuse due to political correctness, but the concept still exists. (The term is a denigration of the white man, not the Indian. If that was understood, the term would still be in full use.) The narcissist is an Indian giver. What they give you with one hand, they take away with the other hand.

Let's look carefully at the definition of a gift before I proceed further.

Gift: n. 1. Something that is bestowed voluntarily and without compensation.

Both parts must be in play for it to be a gift. Voluntary. Without compensation. It is that last part that is usually missing when dealing with the manipulative gift giver. When a gift is truly given...all rights pertaining to the gift are now in the hands of the receiver. It is now fully owned by the receiver and is theirs to do with as they will without having to justify themselves. After gratitude is given to the giver, the giver is owed nothing more for the gift. A gift is not rightly called a gift if there are strings of any kind attached. If there are strings, then it is something else entirely. A deal. An arrangement. An obligation. A debt. But don't call it a gift.

If the gift giver demands frequent and perpetual demonstrations of gratitude that is a sign that you were not given a gift. In the mind of that giver you were put into their debt. Their demands for perpetual payment in the form of obsequious thank yous from you at their merest mention of their previous generosity is a type of payment. They did not give you a gift. You owe them something (in this example that would be frequent adulations at the altar of their sainted generosity) for what you received from them. Only they get to decide when you've paid your debt in full. Probably never. So, what I'm saying is that even if the "payment" for the gift is only in the form of your perpetually and frequently expressed gratitude then you didn't really receive a gift. You incurred a debt. One that you're expected to pay whenever the "giver" makes the smallest hint at their past "generosity". Reject such "gifts" because otherwise it will represent a theft of your freedom.

You don't have to surrender to someones attempt to extort long term payment for something you received from them believing at the time it was a gift. You don't have to go along with their game. If you thought that the person was truly giving you something and you had no reason to expect they were going to try to manipulate you with it then your attitude about the gift will define it as such. Don't now start acting like you were bought. Say that you thought you were given a gift which means you don't owe them anything.

This doesn't apply to inappropriately large gifts that you know in your gut is an attempt to buy you. Don't play that game in your mind. When a girl goes on one or two dates with a guy and he suddenly presents her with a new car...that is not a gift. That is purchasing stock options to buy her in the future. The woman accepts that inappropriately large gift knowing she is allowing that man to think he has bought some level of obligation from her. The woman with self-respect and a handle on her greed will adamantly refuse the "gift" and then abruptly end the relationship because she knows this man has chosen to misread her character. He thinks she is greedy. He thinks she is willing to pretend to be in love with him in light of his large check book and willingness to spend its contents on her. She will be insulted by his decision to see her as nothing more than a whore.

It is a rare time when you don't know in your gut that there is a price tag attached to a "gift". For that rare exception when you take what you thought was a gift only to find out later that it wasn't really a gift you don't have to surrender on the spot. Proceed on your original assumption. Behave as if you believe now as then that it was a gift. If the intention was to manipulate you with that gift, believe me, you'll be seeing the last of that person's "generosity" if you don't allow their "gift" to become a Trojan horse right into your life. They'll likely go trolling for much more lucrative pay-outs for their future "gifts" with some other poor soul.

Again, don't go telling yourself you didn't realize there was a price tag when you knew in your gut that there was. That is a mental game you play to keep yourself from admitting that you just whored yourself out for bauble or stack of cash. Let's consider the oldest profession for a moment. A prostitute offers her body in an act that simulates emotional as well as physical intimacy . For a short time and the right price she is willing to act like she feels affection for the dude with the cash. He hands her the money, he expects her to act a certain way with him. He expects her to simulate a relationship, an intimacy, that doesn't really exist. If she accepts his offer do you really think she can get away with now withholding her body and behaving like she is disgusted by him? No way. They both know he isn't giving her a gift. It is a deal. A transaction. An exchange of goods for services rendered. If she accepts his money, she also accepts that for a determined length of time she will behave like a woman in love.

There is very little difference in my mind between the whore and those who will accept the cash or gifts from a narcissist knowing they will have to simulate a relationship, a closeness, that they don't want or feel. Far too often have I heard ACONs justify staying in a relationship they feel is loathsome because they want the goodies. "After all I've been through, it is the least they can give me" is the reference to a future inheritance that they are already banking on. So sure are they that the lying, cheating and malevolent narcissist will actually give them them cash at the end, the ACON is willing to give up their freedom and autonomy in the present with this vague hope of future reward that is by no means guaranteed. You might be able to convince yourself that the cash is as good as yours, but if that was the case, then it wouldn't be dependent on you behaving in just the way the narcissist demands for its surety. You know that the "gift" of inheritance is by no means guaranteed...which is why you continue to dance the dance with the narcissist parent. The whore is smarter. At least she doesn't do what she does with the hope that eventually, someday when the bastard dies, she'll get her payment.

My position on gifts is that you can only be bought with them by your consent. It is a manipulation tactic that can only work with your knowing cooperation. The gift giving manipulation exploits your character weakness. At best, it is a form of prostitution. At worst, it is a form of slavery that you sell yourself into. I have little sympathy with people who decide to sell themselves and their families for the "security" of Mommy or Daddy's money. If you choose to stay in the crucible because the lure of money to your soul is irresistible then there is nothing I can do for you. You've made your bed. Only you can choose to get out of the bed and take possession of your own life.

Maria, I have been speaking generally of my thoughts on gift-giving manipulation tactics, and not to your specific situation. More specifically, I commend you and your sister for wising up and realizing how your mother has been using divide and conquer with you two, as well as seeing your mother's gift-giving as just a form of manipulation. Obviously, the spell is broken for you. Hold your ground. Your mother is unlikely to give up on trying to use gifts to buy you in some way. You're just going to have to draw a line and then hold it. There is nothing else to be done short of going completely no contact. Narcissists don't learn. They are extremely unlikely to reform their behavior. They will only appear to do so if they are forced to by someone with a backbone. But they will never stop believing that at some point they can wear you down. This is why I always go back to recommending no contact. The war is never over with narcissists. Life with them is a perpetual series of battles. Every interaction is some kind of chess game move in their minds. Power plays are constant. To my thinking, life is too short to be constantly distracted and my energies drained by this undeclared yet unremitting war. My only advice to you is make your policy on gifts clear and then hold the line without apology or equivocation.

In conclusion and in general, no one can buy you with gifts unless you're greedy or unless you are unwilling to be self reliant. Know yourself. Take responsibility. If you are bought and paid for then there is no one to blame but you. Admit that you're engaged in the "oldest profession" and stop complaining. I'm not the only one who sees the deal you've made. Others see your choice to stick with the old monster for the cash or trinkets and have lost a great deal of respect for you. If you don't respect yourself more than that...why should we?

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