It’s never fun to be used for someone else’s benefit, with zero regards for your own well-being.
But it is sadly a fact of life that we’re all likely to run into at least one or two people who try to do just that to us at some point in our lives.
It can be a romantic partner, but it can also be a fake friend or a way-too-demanding boss who threatens to fire you if you keep complaining about working later than your scheduled shift.
Because the sad fact of reality that people exist who will try to take advantage of you in myriad ways, it’s important to arm yourself with the knowledge and understanding needed to nip this kind of behavior in the bud, and remove those toxic users from your life before it gets really bad.
With that in mind, let’s go over some common signs that you’re being used for someone else’s benefit, so you can identify the problem early on.
1. You Feel Uncomfortable Around Them
You shouldn’t feel uneasy around someone who’s supposed to love or care about you.
A good relationship—whether it be a romantic entanglement, a friendship, or a familial relationship—should be comfortable and feel easy, so if that’s not the case, consider it a red flag.
Do note, though, that there are a lot of reasons you might feel uncomfortable around someone, and it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being used all on it’s own, but that kind of unease can stem from unbalance in a relationship, so it’s a warning sign that means you should probably try to figure out exactly why it is you feel uncomfortable.
Even if you being used is the furthest thing from the truth, it’s still a good idea to identify and deal with such discomfort for the long-term health of any relationship.
2. They’re a Fair Weather Friend
The phrase “fair weather friend” is an expression for someone who’s around when things are good, or when there’s something you can help them with, but never when you need help or want a favor.
This is an enormous red flag.
It can indicate anything from just an immature and selfish person who doesn’t realize what they’re doing, to someone who is intentionally using you to their benefit and doesn’t care at all about your feelings as long as they get what they want.
If you see this going on, consider having a serious talk with this person and/or beginning to remove them from your life, if possible.
3. They do Tiny Favors and Guilt Trip You Over Them
Many times, users will do very small things for you and act like they’re a really big deal.
They’ll bring up these tiny “favors” every time you try to say “no” to them and refuse to give them what they want.
If the words “but think about how much I’ve done for you!” sound familiar—specifically right after you’ve tried to politely turn them down and explain you’re not up to helping them with their latest “emergency”—you might want to sit down and think about how important those little favors actually were, or if they did them out of actual care for you or just to guilt trip you later when you refuse to acquiesce to their demands.
4. You Resent Them
If you’re finding you have a feeling of generalized resentment towards someone who’s supposed to be your partner/friend/etc, that’s another red flag to watch out for.
This feeling can seem to creep up out of nowhere with no indication of where it’s coming from, but there’s always a reason.
Even if we aren’t conscious of it, most feeling come from somewhere.
If you resent someone you’re supposed to be close to without knowing why, it might be worth stopping to ask yourself exactly why this might be the case.
Reflect on the feeling whenever you notice it, and try to trace it back to its source. Bring it up with a therapist if necessary.
Just don’t let it fester indefinitely without trying to look a little closer.
5. They Don’t Care About What You Need
Do you ever notice when your partner, friend, or family member only seems to care about what they want or need?
That when you try to discuss your own needs and desires, they stonewall you, change the topic, or somehow twist the conversation to be about them again?
This is a huge sign that someone isn’t really with you because they care about you, but only because there’s something they stand to gain out of it.
The moment you stop being of “use” to this kind of person, they’ll toss you out like last week’s trash.
Do yourself a favor, and confront this kind of behavior if you ever notice it, and—if necessary—get rid of them before they seriously hurt you, if they haven’t already.
6. They Only Ever Talk About Themselves
Related to the above, but a little different, try to watch out for people who are only ever interested in talking about themselves.
They always want to regale you about how their day went, or about their plans for next week, but they get bored instantly if you try to talk about yourself.
This doesn’t automatically mean you’re being used or manipulated, and someone who does this may in fact still care for you a great deal.
But if nothing else, it’s an immature and selfish habit, and you should point it out to them at the earliest convenience and ask that they try to correct the behavior.
7. They Don’t Actually Know Much About You
Have you ever been in the situation of realizing that a loved one doesn’t know very much about you—your likes, dislikes, hopes, dreams, personality, etc—and keeps forgetting things you know you’ve mentioned about half a million times?
Maybe they always forget your favorite color even though it’s practically all you ever wear, or they give you gifts or treats of things that everyone knows you don’t like, but they seem genuinely surprised, even dismissive, and don’t seem to feel the need to apologize for forgetting?
This could just be a personality flaw or indicate someone who’s a bit scatterbrained, but it could also mean they don’t really care about you, and haven’t made the effort to really get to know you as a result.
8. They’re Evasive
You know the kind of people who just sort of change the subject, twist the conversation around, or otherwise simply refuse to give you a real answer when you confront them with a serious question?
Some people are like this despite being perfectly kind and caring people otherwise, but it is also a possible warning flag for manipulative behavior.
If you’ve tried to confront someone about any of the other behaviors on this list, and they’ve been evasive in this way, then you really might have something to worry about.
9. They overturn your success for benefit
This one is particularly insidious and can make you feel like your accomplishments don’t really matter.
It generally looks something like this: you tell your SO, friend, family member, etc, about something you did lately you’re proud of, and instantly, without a second thought, they immediately start thinking about how they could capitalize on it for their benefit. Here’s a good example.
You: “Hey, did I mention my boss loved my proposal? I think she’s even gonna promote me for it!”
User: “That’s great, I’ve been looking for a new job opportunity. Now that you’ve impressed your boss, I bet a recommendation from you would go a long way to getting me hired!”
Obviously, this is incredibly toxic and thoughtless behavior, and you shouldn’t have to deal with it in your life.
10. The Relationship is Totally One Sided
Last, but oh-so-definitely not least, the biggest, worst, most incriminating sign that you’re being used is when a relationship feels entirely one-sided.
Like you’re the only one who ever puts any effort into maintaining it.
Like you’re always covering up for their mistakes, and rushing to their rescue when they’ll hardly give you the time of day unless they need something from you.
Or they do just enough to make it seem like they’re holding up their end of the relationship, just to keep roping you back in again and again.
But it’s never really that much, and it’s certainly never because they care about you or want the best for you.
There are several signs you can get from someone’s behavior. If you see these kinds of behavior, run for the hills and don’t look back.
Cut them out of your life like you know they’ll do the moment they realize you’re not useful to them anymore. Nobody should have to suffer this kind of bullshit.
You do deserve more.
Remind yourself you’re a worthwhile person all on your own, and don’t need anyone else to validate that.
Practice self-care, which just means doing things that help you feel good, help you relax, help you feel better about yourself, etc.
You are worthwhile, you are beautiful, and you do not deserve to be used by someone who doesn’t care about you just because they decided you were a convenient doormat.