It’s not only romantic relationships that can bring you to the point where you’ve had enough. Toxic relationships can exist between friends, co-workers, or family members.
If they act like it goes without saying that you’ll do whatever they want, there’s a great chance that they might be using you.
When people use you, it can lead to you feeling like you’re trapped in a relationship that’s making you unhappy, but you continue it for one reason or another.
We’ll see how to tell if someone is using you, why people use you, and what to do if it happens to you.
Why Do People Use You?
Selfish people use you to fulfill their own needs.
In a healthy relationship – built on a foundation of respect, empathy, and communication – both people meet each other’s needs. Equality and kindness inform every aspect of such a relationship.
People who use others for their own gain while disregarding your feelings think they’re entitled to everything they take from you without giving anything back.
Some of them do it on purpose, and some don’t even realize that how they use people is wrong.
Either way, there are certain traits and behaviors that can often be observed in people who take advantage of others.
Some people are simply selfish and ungrateful. They look for any chance to get something for nothing.
The first time you offer a selfish person anything, they immediately decide it’s their right from then on. They start to demand it and take for granted that you will provide it.
To them, kindness is always an invitation to use the person who offers it. They never stop to think about what it’s like for the other person.
For example, a family member who assumes that it goes without saying that they will stay with you every time they have business in town.
They never stop to ask or even consider that they might be inconveniencing you.
No matter whether you really can’t do them a favor or are just trying to stay away from selfish people, if you tell them no once, they get mad at you for ruining their plans.
Insecurity is a feeling of being inferior or inadequate, a lack of trust in oneself, and a sense of isolation. Most people sometimes feel like this to a certain degree.
People who are extremely insecure feel hostile, pessimistic, and needy.
They can end up directing their feelings into their relationships and turn into manipulative people who use their insecurity as an excuse to lash out at others.
Take, for example, a friend who makes you feel bad about yourself every time you see them. Your day was going fine, and all of a sudden, you feel anxiety and self-doubt.
If you’re usually not insecure but only around this person, they might be projecting their insecurities onto you to make themselves feel better.
These are fake friends who only hang out with you to make you miserable the way their own lives make them.
When some people lack control in certain areas of their lives, they become bullies in others.
Infuriated by their powerlessness, such people look for an outlet where they can get it, and it’s usually on someone who shows them kindness.
An example is a selfish husband who has problems at work and can’t do anything about it. This frustrates him, and he takes it out on his family.
When he comes home, he is demanding, careless, and manipulative to his wife. His dissatisfaction with his circumstances and inability to do anything about it turns him into an emotional abuser.
At the root of narcissism is low self-esteem. Narcissists cover up these feelings with an extreme sense of entitlement and superiority.
They believe they deserve certain things and that it’s other people’s obligation to obey them. In order to elicit admiration, they brag about their accomplishments and exaggerate them.
For instance, a co-worker who takes credit for a project they were only marginally involved in while being absolutely convinced of their own story.
Narcissists have no friends. They live in a fantasy world where they’re the best at everything, and others don’t matter.
The co-worker in question might be positive that their contribution was crucial and get furious if anyone suggests otherwise.
How Do You Know When Someone Is Using You? 10 Signs
If someone is using you, there’s a high probability that you’re already aware of it. Toxic people aren’t your true friends, and eventually, this comes to light.
Someone like this might seem like a nice person at first, but in time, you realize that something is wrong.
They might act like your best friend one moment and exhibit passive-aggressive behavior the next.
Hanging out with this person becomes a chore and gives you anxiety.
Is this person using you? Here’s how to tell when people use you.
1. It’s all about them
When you begin to notice that your relationship is focused only on them, you’ll know for sure that someone is using you.
Everything revolves around their wishes, interests, and moods. You’re always accommodating only one person, and they’re never around when you need them.
At one point, you realize that they view themselves as the main character and you as their sidekick. You’re always doing what they want to do and going where they want to go.
Such people think of others as wholly unimportant, and basically, anyone will do as long as they serve them.
2. They don’t listen
Your role in the relationship is to listen to their tales of their own brilliance and rants about anyone who doesn’t act in accordance with their expectations.
You’re there as an audience. Such a person won’t listen to you but expect you to listen to them.
They don’t really know anything about you because on the rare chance you get the opportunity to talk about yourself, they don’t pay attention.
The only interest in your life they ever show is feigned when they’re trying to placate you if they imagine you might start to rebel.
3. They’re in charge of the relationship
You’ll know you’re dealing with a toxic person if you can never do anything on your terms.
You only hang out when it’s convenient for them. They don’t have the time, or they’re doing something more important.
Usually, they only contact you when their other friends are busy, or if it’s a romantic partner, they only call when they want to hook up.
You find out that they exclude you from things, and they feel entitled to join in whatever you’re doing.
This kind of controlling behavior has no place in a good relationship.
4. They always want something
A friend of yours disappears during a hard time when you need them most. No texts, no phone calls. When you run into each other, not even a “How are you?” as a matter of courtesy.
You might be hurt until the distance makes you look back and realize that throughout your apparent friendship, this person was using you.
They only reach out when they need something, be it money, company, or attention.
They never spend time with you without expecting something, so when you can’t do anything for them, they’re gone.
And if you dare deny them what they want or ask for something in return, they react with anger and indignation.
5. You always pay
This is an obvious one. A person who’s using you probably never reaches for their wallet when it’s time to pay.
It might happen little by little. At first, they only pay their own share, and then they forget their wallet a lot, then it becomes expected that it’s on you.
They ask to borrow money, and to show what a good friend they are, they promise to pay you back.
They never do, of course.
6. They don’t appreciate you
In equal relationships, both people think of each other as valuable, not because of things they can get out of each other, but because they’re both people and deserve respect.
If you help them or do them a favor, the other person is going to show gratitude and look for ways to make you happy too.
People who use you never show any appreciation. They don’t do anything thoughtful, don’t offer any support when you need it, and don’t make any effort when it comes to you.
They act like whatever you do for them is due to them and only demand more without any shame.
7. They’re manipulative
Someone who is trying to exploit you for what they can gain from you is willing to manipulate you in a number of ways.
For instance, they’ll do something small and then make it seem like they did you a huge favor and make you feel like you’re indebted to them.
They’ll act nice when they need something but won’t think twice before betraying your trust if it suits them.
A manipulative person will look for your vulnerable points trying to undermine your self-esteem to make you easier to control.
8. They’re all talk
Your feelings, comfort, and well-being aren’t important to someone who uses others, only their own benefit.
They lack empathy and don’t think of other people’s needs, so they’ll never actually contribute to your relationship in any way.
They’ll make plans with you and forget them instantly or say they’ll do something, but it never happens. If you ask for something, they’ll say ok but ignore your wishes.
They’re going to do as little as possible for you, only what’s absolutely necessary to get what they want.
At some point, you’ll realize they’re liars and stop taking them seriously. After breaking their promises so many times, it’s obvious that you can’t trust them.
9. They don’t respect your boundaries
If someone is using you, you’ll notice that they have no regard for your boundaries. They don’t care about what you want or don’t want, and your self-respect is irrelevant to them.
When they want something that you consider unacceptable, they’ll ignore you. They don’t take no for an answer, and they’ll manipulate you so you can’t say no.
Such people won’t hesitate to guilt-trip you into doing what they want. If you show resistance, they’ll gaslight you until you start doubting yourself and wondering if they’re right after all.
If you say something about their behavior, a toxic person will get defensive and turn it back on you, making you feel like you’re the problem.
10. You feel they’re using you
The biggest sign that someone is using you is your feelings.
When people use you, you start to resent them. They may be presenting your relationship as normal, but trust your gut.
Feeling uneasy and uncomfortable around someone usually happens for a reason. When our intuition tells us something, it usually means we’ve come to a conclusion without consciously thinking about it.
If someone takes advantage of your kindness, pretends to care for you, and ignores your feelings, eventually, you’ll start to dislike them.
At this point, you might start wondering where to go from here.
What Should You Do If Someone Is Using You? 5 Ways To End It
When you’ve had enough of a toxic relationship, you shouldn’t let the person who used you turn you away from kindness but inspire you to ask for respect.
Kindness isn’t a flaw. Most people react to it with happiness and spread that kindness to others.
There are some people, relationships, and experiences that might make it seem like compassion is for suckers, but don’t let them discourage you from being kind.
How to deal with people who use you
The scope of the problem might be different if you’re dealing with a selfish wife or a random bad person who caused you grief, but generally, the steps are the same.
1. Realize you’re more than what you can do for someone
You’re good enough as you are. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you have to!
A person’s worth isn’t measured in what they can do for anyone else.
Your time, attention, resources, or love should all be given freely and not out of a sense of duty. It’s your choice what you accept and what you reject.
It’s incredibly important for your self-worth to realize that you don’t owe anyone anything.
2. Create and enforce boundaries
It’s often the kindest people who get taken advantage of, but it doesn’t mean that being kind automatically makes you a pushover or a target.
Learn to say no.
First of all, you need to know your boundaries: what are the things you need and want, and what won’t you accept?
You can still be giving and helpful while asking people to respect your boundaries. Be courteous, but stand your ground.
3. Expect equal relationships
If you think that the person who is using you could be a real friend at some point, you probably want to fix and not end the relationship.
You can start off by addressing your issues. Call the person out, remind them that respect is a two-way street and ask for an apology and a change in behavior.
Some people who use others aren’t really malicious about it, and there might be hope for change.
Still, focus your attention on their actions rather than their words.
4. Ask for what you need
Asking for what you need is emotional self-care.
Everyone has needs to be met, but until we make them known, other people won’t know what they are.
Most of the time, people in a healthy relationship will be happy to provide things the other person needs.
For instance, your need for personal space, the need to talk to another person when you’re having a hard time, or asking someone to respect your opinion.
If you want to get what you need, speak up.
5. Walk away
There might come a point when you realize that there’s no helping it and that you’ll only be miserable if you continue the relationship.
You’re done with the other person, and it’s time to cut them off for the sake of your mental health.
It’s never wrong to remove yourself from a situation or a relationship that makes you unhappy.
Trust your instincts. You can tell if the other person has your best interests at heart or if they’re only there to take advantage.
If they don’t feel bad using you, you shouldn’t feel bad walking away.
When People Use You Quotes
1. “The opposite of love is not hate; it is use. Use is the abuse of love; in fact, it betrays love. When we use another person, we place their needs below our own, but worse yet, we place their value and dignity below ours.“ ― Leah Darrow
2. “What most people need to learn in life is how to love people and use things instead of using people and loving things.“ — Zelda Fitzgerald
3. “Trust is built when someone is vulnerable and not taken advantage of.“ — Bob Vanourek
4. “Spend your time with those who love you unconditionally, not with those who only love you under certain conditions.“ ― Suzy Kassem
5. “People know who they can walk over and who they can’t. If someone is walking all over you it’s because they know you’ll put up with it.“ — Sonya Parker
6. “I’ve grown tired of being used; And I’m sick and tired of being accused; Now I’m walking away from you; And I’m not coming back.“ — James Morrison
7. “If you don’t get the better of yourself, someone else will.“ — Evan Esar
8. “Immature love says: I love you because I need you. Mature love says: I need you because I love you.“ — Erich Fromm
9. “There is no such thing as a people who are all wicked or even all good. Everyone chooses. But even they, even they looked at people and saw only tools. No one is a cup for another to drink from.“ ― Catherynne M. Valente
10. “The more you are at everyone else’s disposal, the more you will feel like garbage.“ — Christine E. Szymanski
See also: Why Is Everyone So Mean To Me? It’s Not You. (Or Is It?)
In A Nutshell
When people use you, it can be annoying at best and permanently emotionally damaging at worst.
With people who take advantage of others, a certain pattern of behavior can often be seen: selfishness, lack of appreciation, and a tendency to manipulate you.
To protect yourself and still be able to offer kindness to other people, you can protect yourself by being firm about your personal boundaries.
When you consistently ask for respect, people will start to value what you give them more, and those who want to use you will have a hard time doing so.
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