10 Ways to Tell That You’re Being Used

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“Lots of people want to ride in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with youwhen the limo breaks down.”
-Oprah Winfrey

You may have recently read YourTango.com’s great tips on setting appropriate boundaries and not allowing yourself to be taken advantage of (“Stop Being Used: Boundaries to Protect Yourself”).  But what about when you’re unaware of people’s ulterior motives?  Just because someone allows themselves to be used, doesn’t justify taking their kindness for weakness, but too many times people manipulate an opportunity for romance or friendship for their own personal gain.

I’m sure Oprah Winfrey has had her fair share of crossing paths with people who otherwise wouldn’t think twice about her if she wasn’t a billionaire queen of media.  So if anyone knows how to spot someone that will be hesitant to get that bus pass, it’s her.  If you can identify with any of the following signs, it may be time to toss that relationship out at the next exit:


1.    “Isn’t my life the friggin greatest?”

As sad as it is, there are people who can only properly function in life if they surround themselves with a great group of “yes men”.  Often, these individuals are insecure and solely base their worth on what others think of them.  They seek out what they perceive as weak-willed people who by comparison make their own lives appear to be far more spectacular than they really are.

Want to test if your friend or romantic partner only has you around to make them feel better about themselves?  Try this: The next time they tell you something that is utterly ridiculous (For example, “I know that I have to buy my kid’s school clothes, but instead I chose to put some rims on my 1997 Geo.”) don’t be polite, tell them about their foolishness.  If they catch an attitude and try to convince you that the silliness makes sense, they only have you there to co-sign. Friends should be a support system, but healthy support includes calling your friends on their foolery.


2.  “Mom and Dad I’d like you meet…what’s your name again?”

You’re dating someone who appears to be sane and have it together, but they are literally hosting a Mardi Gras inside their head because they can’t believe you called back, let alone are dating them.  Congratulations, you’re a banger.  There’s nothing wrong with being a trophy from time to time and it’s OK for your partner to be proud and want to show you off to the world, but if your partner is only concerned about you when they have to make a public appearance, you may want to decline any future invitations.

3.  “You got this babe?”

Do you find yourself constantly covering dinner, the movies and damn near all of your partner or friend’s expenses?  The thing is there are people out there who feel like there is no point in being in a relationship if there are no fringe benefits, but true love understands that especially in this economy it can be hard to solidify a stable income and that shouldn’t mean losing your job = losing your partner.

You don’t have to actively seek someone who is working with a whole lot of nothing financially either.  If you find you’re always the one opening your wallet while your partner/friend isn’t even attempting to contribute financially or they’re MIA until payday, you’ve got yourself a parasite.  Lose the leech.

4.  “You said you work at (insert popular organization/business here)?  Can I come with you to your next meeting?”

I’m a go-getter and I usually surround myself with people who are doing the same, but there’s nothing worse than sharing news about your new promotion, latest business venture or professional success with a friend who immediately manipulates the conversation into how your success will benefit them.  It kind of goes something like this:

You: “Can you believe the marketing manager chose me to head the new advertising project?”

User: “Your marketing manager does know I detail cars?  When’s the last time they had their interior treated?”

Someone who is truly supportive will celebrate your success without using every opportunity to hitch a ride on your coat tails to further their professional status.  There’s nothing wrong with networking, but you shouldn’t be seen solely as one of the stairs on your friend’s career ladder.


5.  “I honestly had no idea my ex would be at this Starbucks that was completely out of our way.  Did I mention they’ve worked here for seven years?”

We’ve all seen at least one version of the “I’m a Cool Heartbroken Teen Who Wants to Win Back My Ex So I’ll Date Someone Who Makes Him Look Like a Complete Loser” movie.  If your partner can’t ever stop stalking talking about their ex and constantly compares you to them well the bad news is that they’re just not into you.  The good news (I guess) is that they thought you were great enough to make someone else feel really bad about losing them.


6.  “I know you haven’t heard from me in weeks, but what are you wearing right now?”

He only calls after 12, and most of your conversations include hotel reservations, occasional guttural cries and are always had in the nude.  But when you want to catch the new Tyler Perry movie, he’s busy…the whole 3 months it’s in theaters.  You might want to plan on a new movie and a new love interest if the only time the one you love cares about what’s going on in your life is if it includes the Victoria’s Secret “Angels” collection.

7.  “Sorry I didn’t invite you to my Vegas birthday trip, but what are you up to?”

You’ve got besties and you’ve got acquaintances and that’s ok as long as the feeling’s mutual.  But if you only hear from someone who claims to ride or die with you when they have nothing else better to do, you might want to devote your time and attention to someone who actually enjoys your company through the good times and bad, and not only when it’s convenient for them.

8.  “That sucks your car was in the shop for the past month.  You want to take a road trip to Canada next week?”

When your engine light was on, so was your incoming call notification.  But now that you’re “in
the Ferrari or Jaguar switchin four lanes” like Jermaine Dupri and Jigga, your friends are lining up in your rearview.  Once again, like Oprah said, true friends will be with you at the Greyhound Station as well as the dealership.  If most of your conversations start with “Can you take me…” or “Don’t you want to give me a ride to…” it’s time to find a new bumper buddy.

9.  “Sorry, can’t help you.”

You’ve lent money even when the creditors were calling your job.  With your last drop of gas you gave your boy a ride around the corner.   Now that you need a favor, you realize that none of your friends have enrolled in the Johnny Gill Academy on how NOT to be a fair-weather friend.  There’s a difference between being unable to help, and not even trying to.  You’ve just been used, but never fear, it happens to the best of us.  The important thing is that you know the signs and how not to let it happen again.

10.  Your intuition tells you so.

Unfortunately, if you’re anything like me, you can think of at least one person who fits one of the descriptions on this list.  Hopefully you’ve shown them the exit already.  The thing about being taken advantage of is that even if you can’t see the forest despite the trees (and all of the loggers
trying to tear it down), eventually people’s true intentions always bubble to the surface.  Much like a tapeworm or tick, a parasite can only go so long undetected before it starts to do some damage to your well-being.  If you find yourself experiencing any of the above symptoms, cut your losses and rid yourself of anyone in your life that only cares about how you make theirs more convenient.  You can be a nice person, without being the victim of opportunists.

Have you ever felt like you were being used?      

Toya Sharee is a community health educator who has a passion for helping young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health. She also advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee. 


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