In an ideal world, a relationship has a lot of give and take. But relationships are rarely ideal — and being used in a relationship is way more common than you’d like it to be. It normally starts out simply enough with someone who seems really sensitive and interesting and reflective and ‘not like everyone else.’ You know the one, right? And yet before you know it, once they make you feel comfortable, you’re in total f*ckboy territory. It’s happened to the best of us.
While it often sneaks up on us, we all know what being used looks like on someone else. “I think the signs that you are being used are actually pretty clear,” relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein tells Cosmopolitan UK. So the key is to know the signs and make sure that you’re being honest with yourself about what’s actually going on in your relationship. No matter how difficult it is to a admit. Here’s what you need to look out for.
1. You’re making excuses for being treated badly.
Are you always explaining to your friends that your partner is just tired or stressed — saying that’s why they’re being rude to you or not making the effort? That’s a huge sign. “The basic yardstick for telling whether you are being used or not is to take a good look at how you are being treated,” Aimee says. “…if you find that they are disrespectful, don’t treat you well, and you don’t feel good with the person then chances are you might be being used.”
Chances are, if this is happening, you won’t want to admit it. You’ll either make excuses for their bad behavior or pretend it isn’t happening at all. In this instance, you really need to take a look at why you’re trying to bail this person out all the time.
2. They make you feel small.
And actually, feeling good with the person is also a sign that you are not being used. The person you’re with should build you up, make you feel happy and like life is better than it is without them. “If this is a person who is nice to you, treats you well, and seems to enjoy your company then it’s likely you are not being used,” Aimee explains. But if you’re constantly feeling small, underwhelmed, let down — you know, that knot-in-your-stomach feeling — you need to take a look at the relationship. Something is really off and there’s a good chance you’re being used.
3. Your friends and family are worried.
“The reason it sometimes gets confusing is if people don’t want to see the signs and end up in a bit of denial,” Aimee says. When you’re being used, you may not want to see something that’s right in front of your face, but your friends and family won’t have the same problem. So if they’re worried about you, you really should pay attention. They normally have a more objective view of the situation and they have your best interests at heart.
4. Your needs aren’t being met.
You show up with soup and medicine when they don’t feel well, but they’re nowhere to be found when you’re under the weather? Pay attention if you’re the one
always making the effort. Whether you’ve been dating for five days or five years, it should still be a two-way street. “You can generally use your own feelings and comfort level as a good yardstick,” Aimee explains. If you find your needs aren’t being met or you’re becoming resentful, something’s up.
5. You’re not OK with how the relationship is defined.
Having mutual respect means that you’re both OK with the dynamic between you. It doesn’t matter what the relationship looks like — something that’s casual and just about sex can still have a lot of respect. “They might not want any sort of serious relationship, but they like you and you might generally feel good in this situation,” says Aimee. But you both have to be on the same page. If you’re not comfortable with the relationship and they know you want more than they do, they’re using you. And it’s not OK.
If you really like someone, admitting you’re being used is likely to be the last thing that you want to do. You may feel like the fact that they’re using you is embarrassing — that it’s finally acknowledging they’re not as into you as you are into them. But screw them. Because admitting that you’re being used just means that you’re with the kind of assh*le who uses people. And that’s all on them. You can do way, way better.