There are few unpleasant things than realising that you were a means to an end for someone. I’ve had a one-way friendship I put up with for many years. When it came time for me to ask for support, there was no time or space. A big deal would be made when they needed something, and I wasn’t making myself available.
It’s perhaps more painful when it’s a friend or family member, but it’s just as tricky when someone less well-known uses you for their own gain.
Most people want to get along with each other. A significant portion of that getting along is steadily and securely building relationships of all kinds. We entrust ourselves to others and hope that they will do the same. But, unfortunately, every now and then, we get burned, which can affect our wanting to reach out to others in the future. It can be quite some time before we realise that the relationship is one way and this person is just using you.
In the case of a romantic relationship, it’s not until you discover something hidden or you realise they don’t reciprocate or compromise. With a friend or family member, you might find that there using you after it’s too late and some severe damage has been done.
There are ways to prevent someone from using you and confront the issue.
Spot The Signs.
A few things could indicate being used, but these are not exclusive, and you should weigh them against other information you know about the person. Also, seeing some of these signs does not mean they are using you; they should just be understood as indicators.
Does the person share information, details, stories and events as freely as you do with them?
Do they stop talking or shut down conversations quickly when you come over?
Do they only come to you seemingly when they want something?
Are they keeping you out of the loop of meaningful conversations?
They don’t need to share everything with you, but a relationship that flows two ways should have a sense of transparency. You don’t need to know every conversation and the ins and outs of the daily movements, but if the chat isn’t free flowing and there are vital details missed, you may have a problem.
A way of discovering this is something that emerges in conversation that they could have told you or had the opportunity to say to you but chose not to. If this happens on a few occasions, it may be a sign.
Remember, these should only be seen as indicators, don’t get overly suspicious if you see things happening. Just be aware that you might need to dig deeper and see what is happening.
For some of those early warning signs, you might want to quickly set some boundaries. Verbalise where your lines are and work the conversation to a point where you can explain what you accept in a relationship.
We often share stories of past hurts and tell someone why we value honesty or trust. This opens the conversation and allows you to share more about your life while communicating boundaries.
Even saying things like “I’d like to hear more from you on this.” can be a great way to open up the conversation.
Don’t give away hard work, effort, time, care, attention and ideas too cheaply.
Of course, you want to stay generous, but make sure everything you bring to your relationships is valued. Whether work or personal, you need to establish a sense of respect for yourself and from other people. If somebody will take from you and offer nothing back, that is not a sign of respect or value.
Sometimes we are too willing to put up with a bad relationship because we are worried that if we’re not agreeable, we may not have a chance in the future. Unfortunately, that fear of loss makes us compromise on who we are.
The sad irony is that if we don’t draw a line and expect to be treated well, we get stuck in relationships where we get taken advantage of.
It is never okay to be taken advantage of.
Disallow Them The Opportunity.
“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice; shame on me. Fool me three times; shame on both of us.”
– Stephen King
You may find that someone uses you in the first instance. Don’t be too hard on yourself if this happens. We trust people and should continue to do so until they give us a good reason not to. But if they have betrayed your trust, you need to have a long hard think as to whether you want to give them that opportunity again.
Everyone deserves a second chance, but if it’s clear that they don’t value the relationship or are selfish with no evidence of a desire to change, then you must not allow them the opportunity to take advantage of you again.
Some people are comfortable using others, and if allowed, they will continue to do so. Cut them off, don’t give over too much to them in future and walk down a different path.
Change The Dynamics.
If it’s clear that someone has been using you, you may want to challenge it directly or indirectly.
For example, if someone has taken credit for your work, slip into the conversation the nature of your involvement. If it’s a personal relationship, state your frustration firmly but kindly that it feels like a one-way situation. If you don’t want to verbalise your frustration, you need to know that the dynamics may never change. Or, things carry on until the situation blows up.
Don’t be passive in situations where you’re not valued. Instead, take control by bringing the conversation forward before it comes to a head.
Cut Out Toxicity.
If the person is toxic, my supreme and unbreakable rule is simply to cut them out. Everything within us wants to salvage a relationship or return to ‘when it was good’. However, toxic people generally won’t change, and you will lose years of your life putting up with nonsense in the hope that they do.
By all means, allow room for change. Be open to apologies and indisputable evidence of a changed heart, but don’t wait for it. The onus isn’t on you to be patient; it’s on the other person to get their act together.
As I get older, I have less room in my life for waiting on change that never comes. Be honest about the situation and recognise that you have to move forward and cannot stand still just because somebody else is not ready to take responsibility for their life.
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