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How do you know if you’re being used in a relationship?

Being in a one-sided relationship where you feel used or taken advantage of can be extremely painful. However, unhealthy relationship dynamics can develop slowly over time, making it difficult to recognize when something is wrong. Here are some signs that may indicate your partner is using you in the relationship:

They frequently ask for favors but rarely reciprocate

One of the most obvious signs of a one-sided relationship is when one partner constantly asks the other for favors and help, but rarely reciprocates. They rely on you for rides, money, emotional support and more, but never go out of their way to do nice things for you or be there when you need them. This type of selfish, lopsided behavior is a major red flag.

They ignore your needs and feelings

In a healthy relationship, both partners listen to each other, compromise, and try to meet each other’s needs. If your partner seems completely disinterested in your feelings, needs, and concerns, it’s likely they are using you. For example, if you’ve told them several times that you would like them to accompany you to an important event but they always have an excuse for why they can’t go, they aren’t concerned about your happiness.

They frequently break plans and commitments

Everyone has to cancel plans sometimes. But if your partner consistently breaks commitments, doesn’t show up when they say they will, or flakes out on important events, it’s a sign they don’t value or respect you. You’re always stuck waiting around for them while they go do whatever they want. Their lack of dependability reveals how little they care.

Your interactions are mostly on their terms

In a balanced relationship, both people initiate contact, make plans, and reach out to each other. If you find you’re always the one calling, texting, making plans, and initiating affection while your partner just passively goes along with it, be wary. They are fine with the relationship only when it’s convenient for them, indicating you are much more invested and engaged.

They ignore boundaries

Partners who repeatedly ignore your stated boundaries don’t respect your needs or comfort. For example, maybe you’ve told them you don’t like when they invite other people on your dates or discuss private matters with their friends. But they keep doing it anyway. This shows a lack of concern for your feelings and a willingness to cross lines.

You feel pressure and guilt

Manipulative, using partners often try to apply pressure and lay on guilt trips when they want something. Statements like, “If you really loved me you would…” or “I’ve done so much for you and this is how you repay me?” reveal an unhealthy dynamic where they expect the relationship to be all about them.

You feel anxious and insecure

The way someone treats you always impacts how you feel about yourself and the relationship. If you frequently feel anxious, insecure, self-critical, and like you can never do enough, it may stem from a partner who puts you down or manipulates your emotions. You deserve to feel valued and confident in a relationship.

They lack empathy for you

We all need empathy from our partners during difficult times. But someone who uses others typically has very little ability to put themselves in someone else’s shoes and express genuine care. If you’ve noticed a severe lack of compassion from your partner when you’re going through something, it’s a warning sign.

They don’t share responsibilities

In healthy relationships, both partners pull their weight and contribute, whether it’s through housework, childcare, meeting each other’s families, planning dates, or providing emotional support. Someone who doesn’t even try to balance responsibilities and always leaves the work to you is taking advantage.

You feel lonely and neglected

Feeling lonely and neglected is different from just wanting more attention. It’s the sense your core emotional needs for true companionship are not being met. Using partners make you feel this way through a lack of meaningful connection and only engaging superficially. Listen to these feelings.

They compare you unfavorably to others

Putting you down by comparing you to their exes, friends, or other people in their life is a way using partners boost themselves up and make you feel bad. Comments like “My ex never had a problem with that” or “Jessica always dresses so nice when we go out” undermine your self-worth.

They invalidate your reality

Gaslighting and other crazymaking techniques are common among using partners. This looks like them flat out denying their behaviors, telling you your version of events is incorrect, insisting they “never said that,” and generally distorting your sense of reality. Over time, you start to mistrust your own perceptions.

You feel drained and exhausted

Being in a one-sided relationship is emotionally exhausting. You pour everything into it, compromising yourself and going above and beyond without getting back. Pay attention to daily feelings of being worn out, drained, and fed up dealing with their needs. You may be giving too much.

Their words don’t match their actions

Your partner may swear they’re so devoted to you and this is their dream relationship, but if their actual behavior reveals disinterest, apathy, and only sporadic engagement, something is off. The way they treat you is more important than exaggerated declarations about their feelings.

You make excuses for their bad behavior

Do you catch yourself justifying your partner’s actions, even when they do something that hurts or upsets you? “He’s just really busy with work right now.” “She didn’t mean it like that.” Making excuses is a sign you know deep down how they’re acting is unacceptable but don’t want to face that reality.

They shut down conversations about problems

Stonewalling and avoidance when you try to have meaningful conversations about issues in the relationship demonstrate a severe lack of care for you and the partnership. Your needs don’t matter to them. Healthy relationships require open communication.

You feel trapped and stuck

Think about your motivations for staying in the relationship. Do you stay because you genuinely feel loved, fulfilled and valued? Or do you stay out of obligation, fear of being alone, or because they made you dependent financially or emotionally? Using partners weaken your self-worth and independence.

What can you do about being used in a relationship?

If you identify with several of the signs above, you may be caught in a one-sided relationship with someone using you. Here are some tips:

  • Listen to your intuition. Don’t ignore red flags or make excuses.
  • Build your self-esteem. Work on believing you deserve better.
  • Establish stronger boundaries. Stick up for your needs and priorities.
  • Speak up. Communicate clearly how their behaviors make you feel.
  • Pull back support. Reduce what you invest in the relationship.
  • Consider therapy. A professional can provide guidance.
  • Prepare an exit plan. Get your ducks in a row should you need to leave.
  • Prioritize yourself. Put your well-being first for a change.

In Conclusion

Being used and taken advantage of by a partner can seriously damage your self-worth and mental health. While only you can decide if it’s time to end things, remember that you deserve reciprocity and respect in any relationship. Don’t let someone you love continue taking more than they give back or leaving you feeling dismissed and neglected. With some self-care and potentially difficult conversations, you can build the courage to stand up for what you need in a relationship and recognize your true value.