It can happen in any relationship, whether it be with your boss, your partner, your friends, or your family. Someone starts asking for a few too many favors, they guilt trip, or are suddenly nowhere to be found when you need a helping hand. And pretty soon, you start to suspect you're being used.
Such suspicions may arise in the form of a partner who only texts when it's convenient for them, or when they want a late night hookup. It could also come from a boss who kind of expects you to work late, and even hints at your lack of job security when you don't. Or it can come in the form of a friend who's never around when she's needed, but is quick to run to you with her own problems.
Such people are users, and they create an unbalanced, impossible-feeling relationship. The funny thing is, however, that it's often a two way street. As Kim Chronister, Psy.D., tells Bustle over email, "When someone is being used they are typically sacrificing their own needs for someone else in order to fill a void."
If that sounds like you, don't worry — there is something you can do. "If you are being used, fill yourself up with what therapists call 'self-care.' Fill your schedule with activities, get reconnected socially, and foster meaning/purpose through your work, business, spirituality, volunteer commitments, etc.," Chronister suggests.
Hopefully, you'll be able to build yourself up enough to no longer take anyone's crap. But until then, here are some tell-tale signs that someone is using you.
1. They Make You Feel Uncomfortable
Relationships should be comfy and easy, and yet they often so aren't. Of course this can happen for any number of reasons, but sometimes discomfort comes from the lack of balance in a relationship. That's why, if someone is using you, you may start to feel increasingly uncomfortable around them, Chronister says. It's definitely not a good sign.
2. They Make You Afraid To Say No
In the same vein as above, if someone is using you, they may start this weird sort of power play that leaves you afraid to say no. As New York City-based life coach Julie Melillo noted on her blog, "Users send messages that denying their request would spell doom for you — and this is how they manipulate you." Whether it's the threat of being fired, de-friended, or dumped, such fear tactics are a big sign to watch out for.
3. They're Only Nice When It's Convenient
Beware of people who are only super sweet and thoughtful when they want to borrow something, or ask a favor. These are the same people who will cold shoulder you once they get what they want. As Jessica Padykula noted in Canadian Living, "One of the biggest red flags indicating that you're being used is having a friend suddenly do an about-face after getting what she wants." It may be tough, but try not to wrapped up in such fakery.
4. They Only Call At Night
This one is classic when it comes to dating: the oddly timed text message. Unless you're both on board for midnight hookups and last-minute dates, don't settle for this sort of treatment. It's often a sign the other person is just keeping you around until something better comes along, and that can really hurt.
5. They Are All About The Favors
A user will often paint themselves as the most helpful person on the planet. But, somewhat creepily, they are often only doing so to benefit themselves. According to Melillo, "They'll do a (very small) favor for you and then use that to create a sense of guilt and obligation in you." When it comes time to for them to ask a favor, they'll bring up "all they did for you." It just screams of guilt-tripping.
6. They Create A Sense Of Resentment
With all the favors, the guilt-tripping, and the outlandish requests, be prepared to feel some resentment, Chronister says. This won't be the case in a balanced relationship, where everyone's needs are being equally met.
7. They Don't Focus On Your Needs
Think about the possible user in your life. Does he or she ever focus on your needs? Probably not. As Melillo said, "This is why they are a user ... if you mention your needs, they will ignore them, or even argue with you." Once you realize what they're up to, it can all seem pretty obvious.
8. They've Used You For Personal Gain
Is your friend betraying your trust, and trying to snatch up everything you love? As Padykula said, "This could mean anything from flirting with a person you mentioned you were interested in, or stealing your ideas and claiming them as her own in order to get ahead at work." If so, run for the hills. This person obviously does not have your best interests at heart.
9. They Rope You In Again & Again
Anyone can pull this age old trick, but it's especially common in romantic relationships. Think about the partner who ignores you just until you're about to give up, before suddenly asking to hang out, noted Michelle Elscultura on LovePanky.com. It's the classic move that shows this person is keeping you around for selfish, user-y reasons.
10. They Always "Forget Their Wallet"
Keep an eye on how often you reach for your wallet, whether it's with your SO, friends, or family members. As Toya Sharee said on Madamenoire.com, if you find yourself constantly covering dinner, the movies, and all of their expenses, it could be a sign they are using you for cash.
11. They Never Give Anything In Return
Many people have experienced relationships that seem entirely one-sided. When that's the case, you may feel like you're the only one putting in any effort, the only one making plans, the only one buying gifts, etc. etc. Again, relationships are about balance. If your partner seems unwilling to occasionally return the favor, don't be surprised when you start to feel used.
Now I'm not saying you should resent doing favors, or working late, or occasionally picking up the tab. But do pay attention to these little red flags, as well as why you've turned yourself into the proverbial doormat. With a little self care, as Chronister says, you can start to even out these unbalanced relationships.
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