“Dr. Lori Beth, how do I know if I’m being used?”
Inevitably, this question comes up in a relationship where one partner is feeling that they are putting in more than they are receiving. In all ‘ships from grown folkin’ to a long-term partnership, there are ebbs and flows. However, if you are finding yourself doubting the authenticity of your relationship, here are a few “reality checks” you can use.
First, the other person takes more than they give, in any and all areas. This is fairly obvious. There are few excuses for putting far less energy into the relationship than your partner does.
Second, the person only has time for you/attention for you when they want something. This one seems obvious but it can be hard to spot.
For most, the idea of using someone for our own gain is a foreign concept. However, there are multiple reasons someone might ‘use’ a partner. Some people are raised to believe that they are the centre of the universe and that they can use their attractiveness/wit/sex to get what they want from a partner. They learn to trade on their attractiveness to get their needs met so they might not look at it as using a partner, they are simply doing what they feel is needed. The problem is that they are interested in meeting only their own needs and not the needs of their partner.
For a relationship to work, all needs need to get met. There must be a give and take.
What should you do if you suspect you are being used? First, I advise that you carefully analyze the situation as objectively as you can.
If you determine you are being used, try denying your partner what they are seeking. For example, if they are using you for money or an easy life, crackdown on money and luxuries for a while and see what they do. If they withdraw, that gives you some evidence that they are using you. Then, it is time to look at gently confronting them with your suspicions. Make sure you are feeling strong and able to hold your ground when you confront them or choose to do it in a safe environment, like with a third party or therapist.