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In wireless ad hoc networks, nodes communicate with far off destinations using intermediate nodes as relays. Since wireless nodes are energy constrained, it may not be in the best interest of a node to always accept relay requests. On the other hand, if all nodes decide not to expend energy in relaying, then network throughput will drop dramatically. Both these extreme scenarios (complete cooperation and complete noncooperation) are inimical to the interests of a user. In this paper, we address the issue of user cooperation in ad hoc networks. We assume that nodes are rational, i.e., their actions are strictly determined by self interest, and that each node is associated with a minimum lifetime constraint. Given these lifetime constraints and the assumption of rational behavior, we are able to determine the optimal share of service that each node should receive. We define this to be the rational Pareto optimal operating point. We then propose a distributed and scalable acceptance algorithm called Generous TIT-FOR-TAT (GTFT). The acceptance algorithm is used by the nodes to decide whether to accept or reject a relay request. We show that GTFT results in a Nash equilibrium and prove that the system converges to the rational and optimal operating point.