How to Recognize When You’re Being Used

Cropped shot of a young couple having a disagreement at home

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Have you ever gotten the feeling that someone is manipulating you for their benefit? Or that they care more about what you can offer them than they do about you? In these situations, it’s possible that you’re being used.

When someone says they feel “used” by someone it typically means the person feels their rights have either been violated or they have been taken advantage of in some way, says Meghan Marcum, PsyD, chief psychologist at AMFM Healthcare.

"In some cases, the individual being used may not recognize the pattern until long after the behaviors first start. On other occasions, the individual is keenly aware they have been manipulated for another person’s gain right away,” says Marcum.

Past relationships—sometimes going back to childhood—can play a role in adult relationship dynamics. For instance, people who have grown up in a positive family climate may be more assertive and therefore less likely to be taken advantage of.

This article helps you identify some signs that you’re being used and suggests some strategies to help you put a stop to it.

Signs You’re Being Used

While everyone’s circumstances are different, these are some signs that someone may be using you, according to Marcum:

  • The person asks you for money, favors, or other items. For instance, they may ask you to lend them money or pay their bills.
  • The person imposes on you without consideration for your availability or preferences. For instance, they may move in with you unexpectedly or want to borrow your car at a moment’s notice.
  • The person expects you to take care of their needs. For instance, if you go out for dinner with them, they may not offer to pay and simply expect you to pick up the tab.
  • The person appears disinterested in you after their needs have been met. For instance, they may use you to meet their needs but may not want to spend time with you otherwise.
  • The person is only affectionate or intimate with you when it’s convenient for them. For instance, they may be affectionate toward you until they get what they want.
  • The person doesn’t make an effort to be there for you when you need them. For instance, even though they borrow your car regularly, they may not agree to give you a ride to the airport.

Impact of Being Used

Being used can take a toll on your mental health as well as your relationships. Marcum explains how below.

Impact on Mental Health

Being taken advantage of can lead to significant mental health problems, especially if you have been used or harmed in a previous relationship. It can manifest symptoms associated with anxiety, depression, and trauma. Over time, you may have difficulty trusting others and forming new relationships.

Impact on Relationships

Meghan Marcum, PsyD

Being used is definitely not a sign of a healthy relationship. It means one person is taking excessively while the other is making all the sacrifices.

— Meghan Marcum, PsyD

It disrupts the power balance within the relationship. In a healthy relationship, both partners would be responsible for providing support, trust, and emotional security to their partner.

Strategies to Avoid Being Used

Marcum lists some steps you can take to avoid being used:

  • Set boundaries: Learning to identify violations to interpersonal boundaries and setting healthy boundaries is a great way to start protecting your mental health and ensuring you're not being used.
  • Work on your self-esteem: Working to build self-compassion and recognizing your value can also help limit the possibility of being taken advantage of in relationships. 
  • Seek guidance: Seeking guidance from a mental health professional, mentor, or someone you look up to can also be helpful as you work toward creating healthy boundaries.

A Word From Verywell

Being used is not a good feeling and it can lead to mental health difficulties as well as relationship-related issues. Identifying the signs that someone is using you, setting boundaries with them, and seeking help from loved ones or a mental health professional can help you process how you feel about being used and in turn, work to help prevent it.

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3 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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