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11 Signs Someone Is Using You and What to Do About It

Jorge's relationship advice is based on experience and observation. Let his trial and error be your success (hopefully).

Can you tell when a friend is using you? Sometimes it can be difficult to tell. This article walks you through the 11 signs your friend is a user.

Can you tell when a friend is using you? Sometimes it can be difficult to tell. This article walks you through the 11 signs your friend is a user.

Is My Friend Using Me?

It hurts to realize that someone you considered close is using you and that they don't actually want to be a real friend. In situations like these, it's easy to shy away from the truth at first, ignoring the signs and living in a state of denial. The fact of the matter is that until you face the situation and truly take a deep look at your friend's behavior, nothing can improve.

Do you get a sinking feeling that your friend doesn't even really like you that much? Don't feel too bad about it. Some people are actually quite incapable of a real friendship, and they don't know how to do anything else besides use people.

If you suspect that one of your friends fits this description, take a look at the signs and strategies for confronting the wrong-doer. This article covers the following 11 key signs that your friend is a user:

  1. Your friend doesn't call you unless they need something
  2. They do everything they can to do as little as possible
  3. They never seem to think of you
  4. Your friend knows surprisingly little about you
  5. They speak poorly of you to others
  6. When you have a crisis, they disappear
  7. You only hang out with them under specific circumstances
  8. They get pushy or manipulative if you don't give them what they want
  9. They've told you that they're using you
  10. They always need to be in charge
  11. They know all of your buttons and push them accordingly

1. Your Friend Doesn't Call You Unless They Need Something

If your friend is using you, the most glaring sign is that they don't contact you unless they specifically need something. It may not be obvious at first what they need, since they may be self-aware enough to obscure their intentions.

For example, maybe your friend calls to hang out with you. They spend a few hours with you, and sometime during the encounter, they mention a problem that they have. Maybe their car broke down, maybe they need to cut down an overgrown tree in their front yard, or maybe they are short on laundry money.

An expert user won't ask you for anything up front. They will build some rapport, then mention the problem. Before you know it, you might be offering to give them a ride to work, to fell their tree with your chainsaw, or to let them use your washer and dryer.

Obviously, there's nothing wrong with doing favors for your friends—that's part of friendship! The problem begins when your friend wants something from you almost every time they see you.

"Happy Holidays. It's a box of mini-candles because I just realized that I don't actually know you or what you like."

"Happy Holidays. It's a box of mini-candles because I just realized that I don't actually know you or what you like."

2. They Do Everything They Can to Give You as Little as Possible

When someone is using you, the whole point of the "friendship" is that they get more out of it than you do. If they're reciprocating too much, or worse, if they're giving more than you are then they are going against their agenda. You definitely have to give more over the long-term for them to "profit" from your relationship.

First, notice whether they're willing to offer the same kinds of favors that they demand from you. Most solid friendships involve people helping each other, even if it's inconvenient at times. Are you the only one who is going out of your way, though?

Don't ask for anything outrageous; just test to see if they'll agree to something on the same level as what they tend to ask you for. If they consistently deny helping you, or they even seem bothered that you asked, this is a bad sign.

Worse still, sometimes they may grudgingly comply with your requests, but they won't be interested in actually solving your problem because they're just trying to appease you for reasons of appearance.

For example, maybe your bicycle snapped in half and now you need a way to ride to work. Instead of actually trying to solve the problem by giving you a ride or a bus ticket, your friend offers you a rusty old bike with flat tires that has been sitting in their garage for half a century.

Read More From Pairedlife

This way, they can say "I helped you," but not actually have to invest any time or resources into actually caring about your life and your problems. This actually brings us to the next sign . . .

3. They Never Seem to Think of You

Unless they need something from you, they never seem to think about you. They don't tend to say, "Oh, I heard this one song that I think you'll like!"; they don't tend to call you during the holidays; they don't tend to bring back gifts for you when they go on a trip.

You're low on their priority list, and they hardly ever think about you...unless they're thinking about how to get something out of you. Friends who are using you are almost always inconsiderate.

4. Your Friend Knows Surprisingly Little About You

Another sign that someone is using you is simply that they don't really care to get to know you. After all, it's not you they care about in the first place.

If your "friend" doesn't seem to pay much attention to what you have to say, forgets important things about you, and overall just seems uninterested, then obviously they must be hanging out with you for another reason.

This goes beyond being simply forgetful.

5. They Speak Poorly of You to Others

It's true that some people just can't stop themselves from gossiping. It's like an addiction.

One of the hallmarks of a user, though, is that they won't think twice about throwing you under the bus. They'll speak poorly of you when you're not around because they don't actually care about your reputation.

Anyway, if they have tons of complaints about you, and yet still hang around, then clearly they're not friends with you for your beautiful personality.

6. When You Have a Crisis, They Disappear

Did something suddenly derail your life and you need some support? Sometimes it's not even about money or resources—on occasion, we may just need someone to talk to when our world is crashing down.

When something tragic happens, does your friend show up for you? Or do you hear nothing but crickets chirping?

It's one thing if you're a Negative Ned and are always complaining about every little thing in your life—that would drive anyone away. But if you're a reasonably positive person who is having an emergency, you should be able to expect a real friend to sympathize.

7. You Only Hang Out With Them Under Specific Circumstances

Sometimes the fact that your friend is using you can be obscured by circumstances. For example, maybe you only ever meet each other when you're going out to your favorite nightclub. In this situation, if they were using you for your social status because you are popular and it makes them look good to be seen with you, it may be hard to tell.

Switch things up a bit. See if your buddy is willing to hang alone or do something that's totally different from what you usually do. Unless it's an activity that your friend hates, they should be happy to spend time with you—if they actually like you.

"Oh good! He didn't see me."

"Oh good! He didn't see me."

8. They Get Pushy or Manipulative If You Don't Give Them What They Want

Good friends understand boundaries. Crappy friends who only want to use you for resources might get angry if you don't give in to their requests. Often, they may even try to manipulate you by guilt-tripping, or saying things like, "I thought you were my friend!" when you tell them no.

Watch out for this controlling behavior. Real friends respect your free will and they'll like you even if you have nothing besides your friendship to give.

9. They've Told You That They're Using You

This may seem way too obvious, but sometimes it's not. Many times a friend who is using you will disguise their own confession as an apology.

They'll say something like, "I know I keep asking for stuff. It seems like I only ever call you when I need something, I know. I'm sorry." If someone tells you this, but doesn't make any effort to change the way that they approach your friendship, then they've basically told you themselves that they're using you. Listen to them!

10. They Always Need to Be in Charge

Your friend's unwillingness to set aside their own your point-of-view for a moment to see yours is a common pattern of behavior in someone who is looking to double-cross you. These people usually have a compulsive need to remain in their ways even if a logical way in why things should be done differently is presented. Often times you will be punished for not complying with your friend's wishes.

11. They Know All of Your Buttons and Push Them Accordingly

Deceitful friends start out as someone who was interested in getting to know you and will present themselves as being concerned with your overall well-being. That is until the opportunity to get over on you appears. When this happens, don't be surprised when they use your insecurities or other sensitive information against you. Emotional manipulators have a good awareness of your emotions and will quickly use them against you.

Characterize people by their actions and you will never be fooled by their words.

— Anonymous

How to Confront Your Manipulative Friend

There are productive ways to confront someone who has been using you over the course of your friendship. Below are some helpful tips to help end the cycle of exploitation.

  1. Stay Calm: Be on guard without being defensive. Anger keeps you from being levelheaded, and that might be a part of your friend's plan. Try not to call your friend's character into attention. For example, instead of calling them a "liar," say that you "disagree with their position." Adopt a global perspective, and examine the situation from all angles.
  2. Resist/Be Direct: Stop being baited any further. Inform your friend that you have noticed an ongoing pattern in the way they treat you. Allow them a chance to clearly articulate their thoughts and intentions on the matter.
  3. Stick Up for Yourself: Be firm, trust your gut, and don't lend excuses or justify your reasoning behind declining to help with any more favors.
  4. Deploy Consequences: It may become necessary to determine and assert certain consequences if the perpetrator refuses to accept "no" for an answer and/or insists on continuing to violate your boundaries. Effectively communicating consequences for violations can help disarm the manipulator and lead them towards positive behavioral changes.

Sometimes You Just Have to Say "No"

There are scenarios where the problem between you and your friend is simply a matter of miscommunication. Sometimes friends don't intentionally use you; they just get used to hearing you say yes all the time, so they ask for things and might not be mindful about it.

It takes courage to say no and speak your truth, but you'll always feel at peace with yourself when you do. Being able to firmly say no and mean it will also build your confidence and will prevent you from being used in the future. This article gives advice on saying no without feeling guilty.

Letting Go of a Bad Friend

After you've confronted your exploitive friend and identified their behavior sometimes it is necessary to release yourself from the relationship completely.

  1. Realize That It Will Be a Process: The truth is breaking the mental, physical, or emotional hold that somebody has on you is not always easy. They didn't respect you in the past so why would they now? Prepare for some pushback as you distance yourself.
  2. End the Relationship Directly: If you can, avoid having your words misconstrued and used against you by having the conversation in person or over the phone. Ask your friend not to contact you in a serious, straightforward manner.
  3. Don't Argue / Avoid the Guilt Trips: A part of refusing to buy into the toxic dynamic is by not arguing or fighting with the manipulator. Avoid falling into a trap by restating your boundaries, and making it less attractive to continuously pursue you.
  4. Create Distance: Give yourself some space to get used to being away from the person. Wait a few days or weeks before responding to calls and texts, and disregard personal invitations. Get involved in activities that they are less likely to be involved in. If mutual friends inquire about your behavior, just say you have been busy. You don't have to cut the person off completely, and it is okay to be cordial and make small-talk if you happen to run into them.
Pro tip: A dog will always be your friend and will never use you—except for treats.

Pro tip: A dog will always be your friend and will never use you—except for treats.

Recognizing the Signs of a Bad Friend in the Future

Now that you have stated your demands and created distance between yourself and your friend, it is important to reflect on the lessons that the situation presented. One of the most important takeaways is to not repeat the mistake of being caught up in a toxic relationship in the first place. I

t can be hard to determine if someone intends on taking advantage of you upon first meeting them. Be on the lookout for these common traits of exploitive people:

  • They Bully or Insult Others
  • They Do Not Tell the Full Truth
  • They Play Innocent or Minimize their Behavior
  • They Blame Others
  • They Lack Boundaries and Crowd Your Space

A Friend That is Using You is No Friend At All

The basic principle to keep in mind is this: a fake friend who is looking to use you will be focused on all the wrong things. Everything in your friendship will be a means to an end, and you'll find that you have a hard time enjoying the moment with them.

A genuine friend, on the other hand, will never hold the friendship hostage to conditions. Since they like you for who you are, even if your external life circumstances change—like your social status, your income, or your youthful glow—they will still care about you nonetheless.

In that sense, you could say that a true friendship is unconditional, but a "friendship" with a user is highly conditional. After all, when a friend is using you, they just want to get something out of you. Anything else in the friendship is at best a distraction from the ultimate goal, and they may even be frustrated with your pleasantries.

So be picky with who you spend your time with. Don't waste your life entertaining people who only want to use you. That time is much better spent forging real bonds with people who love you for who you are.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: How can I stop my friend from using me?

Answer: You can't make anyone do anything. As implied in the article, if someone is using you, that's just their pattern of behavior--they use other people, too, probably.

The best you can do is accept them for who they are, and then distance yourself from them. There are plenty of other people in the world to be friends with.

Question: How do I deal with someone who only wants to hang out when it's convenient?

Answer: If you like hanging out with them, then only hang out when it's convenient for both of you. There is nothing wrong with that. If it's never convenient, or you feel like you're the only one going out of your way, then stop if it bothers you.

Question: I'm not the one being used, but I think my best friend is being used by her other friends. I told this to someone else, but they just assumed I was jealous. How can I tell her without seeming jealous?

Answer: Well, when you talk to her about it, try to be as non-judgmental and objective as possible. For example, instead of saying, "Sally, I think George is using you," you might say, "I'm worried about you, Sally. It seems like George only calls you when he needs a ride to work or wants to borrow money. When was the last time you two just hung out?"

Just state the facts as you see them, and let the other person draw their conclusion. Don't force the conclusion "He's using you!" on her, and she'll be more likely to listen.

Question: How do I walk away from a person that only cares about what I can do for them?

Answer: No, but seriously, you might want to sit down somewhere quiet and think deeply about why you feel that you "need" them in your life. What is it that keeps drawing you back? Sometimes we develop weird patterns with people. For example, sometimes we might be co-dependent and not realize it, and a part of us enjoys being with a selfish person because we feel needed.

In your situation, I don't know, of course. There's not a whole not of context there for me to go off of.

© 2017 Jorge Vamos


Sam on May 23, 2019:

In class,my seat got moved because I talked to much with my friend, I was moved next to this "nice" guy named Ryan.He was nice to me and we got on very well, we had been friends for about a month and I realized something. I was starting to get a crush on him, but he liked my best friend Molly. I didn't know what to do at first. But then I noticed something, it seemed like he was only asking me things about Molly instead of just talking to me. At first I thought this is completely normal, I mean who wouldn't ask things about their crush? Since I go done to the office with Molly and my other friend Claire for office helper, he kept asking me to talk to Molly about him and see if she liked him. Then he would only text me asking about what Molly says and seeing if I can email someone for him. He never speaks to me in other classes, and I'm in all his classes! And whenever he's with his friends he pretends I don't exist. I really wish it could be anything but true that he's using me, but everything he does is in this article. And the worst part is that I still love him.....

Toki on April 17, 2019:

I have a "friend" that doesn't fit all the signs but 1 or 2 really stood out. I'm sharing this to illustrate that while sometimes what your friends do may not seem terrible, if it leaves a sour taste in your mouth, your probably right about them.

1. We would only hang out at her house or run her eerands.

2. Never ask what I had to do, or tell me what we were doing or asked me what I wanted to do(almost stole me and drove me 40 min away in traffic for an eerand)

3. I Felt like she never wanted to be alone.

4. Asked to use my washer and dryer several times.

5. Would ask for help cleaning her apt.

6. After her new roommate moved in she kind of dumped me. (Fyi I really like her roommate she is very sweet)

7. Only asked to hang when her roomie is busy.

9. Called me awkward resently.

The last straw

About 2 months ago I thought I was having lunch with my friend and her roomie before she left on her trip. I was wrong, we ended up getting weed for her roomie cause she had lost her ID and they needed another person to get it!! I am very helpful and I would have done it if she ask, but it just got dumped on me. It was the first time we had hung out in months. I also found out in the car ride that they had plans to go clubing together that week. I never felt so left out and abused.

I went home after that and have not spoken to her sense. There were other things as well I could point out but wont. I was in denial about it before but writing this has affirmed that she is better out of my life.

Im still hurt by her actions and am choosing to ingore her if she ever calls and not tell her im moving out of the state. I honestley cant take the disappointment. I hope this will help anyone who is in this position.

yanoosh on April 05, 2019:

To me, used in a friendship is like a paradox. When one is 'used' in a friendship they are really 'abused'. And when one is 'used' in a friendship, they are not in a friendship. They are the prey of a predator. I can pray for it to be not true. I can pray for it to change if I know its true. If its not true, great! If it changes for the better from where it was, great! If not, I pray for protection and healing. Then I shall be vacated of their company.

hannah. on March 28, 2019:

i have a hard time saying no to things. i've spent $200 on my girlfriend before at the mall, my christmas money was completely gone after that. in school, everyone steps all over me- but of course i just let it all happen. they all seem to think that i'm not a human with feelings, one girl called me an emotionless robot.

... on March 19, 2019:

I just realised that I’ve subconsciously been using my friend, I have no bad intentions towards them, or want them to be used. But I noticed that I’ve been using them, they do as well and I regret my actions. But it’s too late, they hate me now. What do I do?

Fred on March 01, 2019:

My friend of 5 years lost his job, his car, his house. He has a bad back and can't work. I am his only friend. I found him a cheap room he can afford on his social security income. I drive him to the doctors, shopping for food, haircuts, picking up prescriptions, I get his mail at my house and deliver it to him. I have to see him 3-5 hours a day up to 4 times a week! He has no family and he is bi-polar. How can I put a stop to this without letting him starve to death?

; on February 24, 2019:

My friend has lost all respect for me. I want to break off our friendship How do I do it nicely?

lisa on February 12, 2019:

Yes, I have a friend that is always pick this up for me, do this for me, do that for me. I will pay you Friday. The thing that rubs me wrong this friend always wants to go to breakfast but NEVER offers to buy mine when I constantly do things for this person. I give them food I make as well. It never occurs to them to do one little thing nice for me.

Jason Judas on January 25, 2019:

My two best friends only talks to me when he's in emotional need. They don't say hi or offer to hang out or play games or go to the movies unless they are doing bad... They don't ask for money but they only talk to me when they are doing bad. Whenever I try to answer their questions they blow my answers off. When I tried to talk about what's going on with me I either get accused of trying to seek attention and/or they bring it back fast to their own problems. I don't know what to do. I'm supposed to move in with them.

Paul Gould on December 19, 2018:

I've an ex partner that seems ok with me one min but when i show her a text to prove that I'm not lieing i get blamed for playing with her head and it just kill me inside as all i wonna be is truthful and she just turns on me

Freya on December 15, 2018:

My friend has done all of these things except maybe 1 or 2 i confronted him and he said that this website was lying (i even went on to another website he did the same things) and 2 he started bringing things up from ages ago and said to me i was a really good friend and he didn't want to lose me as if even though i really think he is using me i can't do anything about it he always finds away its kind of getting annoying now he makes other accounts to talk to me every time i block him and persuades me every time that hes not using me please tell me how to stop this i know he will say i thought we were over this if i confront him again i cant really trust any of my friends now

Anthony on December 08, 2018:

My friend Jake is exactly like that i always had a feeling he was using me he made me lose so many friends :c now its payback

Nat on November 25, 2018:

I have a brother in law that uses me constantly; he uses me to watch his kids for his “dr’s appointments,” but it honestly feels like he uses me so he can get away from his kids for awhile. I stay at his house, sometimes for days at a time to watch his kids. I don’t know a polite way to tell him I don’t want to continue doing this.

Kiwi on October 16, 2018:

Thanks for this! Really helped - great righting, I wouldn't be surprised if you were in a job of journalism or writing of some sort haha.

Have a nice day person who is reading this. :D

Makenzie Morris on October 13, 2018:

one of my friend´s i´ve been best friends with since 3rd grade talked to me the whole last week, and yesterday all of sudden she didn't even talk or hangout with me so i think she only might of been hanging around me is because so she can get answers for other people because she is friends with my cousin and were not that close or anything but it´s like everytime she wants to talk to me is only when she needs answers for my cousin and her best friend but i feel used so i need your help please.

aileen on October 10, 2018:

i have a bff and she, well i think she is using me... first of all, she's like

"hey are you gonna get me a present for my birthday?" EVERYTIME, it bugs me and also she's like "hey im only using you for presents... JUST KIDDING" like dude.. wtf and everytime im with her. she's goes with someone else and tries to stay away from me. and every time i wanna talk to her she's like "oh what did u say?" i have a feeling she's using me... and im here for her i help her out with her problems.. but nope! seems like she is using me..

Elizabeth on September 20, 2018:

Neighbor - always asks for things, rides presents and money - I said no for the first time - she will not answer phone and I need my appliance. She is 60 years old and still a child.

anjo on September 18, 2018:

pls dey gossip me and i always think im a fool to trust em

Ella on September 16, 2018:

A girl in my class really likes this boy, but the boy likes me, so she said that she wanted to play with me, and me being me, not wanting to be rude said okay. A bit later in this 'friendship', she said that she only hangs out with me because I do what she says. Several times, I tried to hang out with other friends of mine, but she makes it seems like I am forbidden to hang out with me. I don't want to be rude, but I been in many... situations where this happened to me. And, after I find out that happens to me, I get like unsure if I should hang out with others because I don't want to get hurt again. I don't know what to do in those situations. I never would want to be rude or mean to others, but I feel like that girl is using me because I am popular at school, as to the fact that many people in my school know me although I don't know them. How do I handle this although I don't want to seem mean or unpolite in any sort of way? Besides that, the girl also is really popular, and the group of friends she has is the group of girls that if you don't do or upset them in any way, they make your life miserable. (I know that from experience) like, they start rumors about you (Bad rumors), they bully you, and they make everyone that isn't your good friend hate you. Also, she gets really mad if I say that I don't want to do what she says. So, she 'gets all upset' and if I still don't submit, she finds someone who will do what she says. And, when some other girls in her real friend group come around, that girl ignores me and acts like I don't exist. How do I handle this without being rude?

Dan on August 15, 2018:

I have known a woman for over a year now, she was from another country, well to cut a long story short about how we met and not going into too much details, well not long ago she said she had to go back to her country for something personal and she needed me to send her money due to a problem, but on Facebook she looked like she was good and having a great time, and she asked me to send money, but whenever I text she very rarely replied and only I made effort to keep in touch and she did very little. What would you say that is?

Lauren on August 11, 2018:

Well now I understand what it really was he used me a little bit he never brought me back anything from his trips but it could've been that he doesn't have that much money to spend on anyone he only comes around when I compliment him like when I tell him he's sweet everything is fine it's just when I disagree with him on something he has a problem he really doesn't treat me like a big priority or a priority at all sometimes all I've ever asked him for is some time with him and that he lets me give him a little love

Lauren on August 04, 2018:

I had a friendship end recently he made me feel like I wasn't good enough for him maybe I should have explained that to him but I didn't he constantly put his girlfriend first and never made me feel like a priority sure he texted me and gave me support but I know it takes more then that to be a good friend to someone but he wasn't being a good friend to me he put his girlfriend first all the time

Daniel on June 21, 2018:

My friend Richard, who i thought was a friend and is actually not. Only calls when he needed help with his girlfriend. was not there for me when my mum had a heart attack told me to keep my family stuff private, after all i have done for him and been there for him. he lied to her about me and bad mouthed me. only calls when he needs something, complete toxic person.

Linda on May 11, 2018:

All i wanted was a friend at school in my class who stands up for me, keeps you in company, thinks about me, includes me, won't speak bad about me, doesn't ignores me and help me out with any problems.

dashingscorpio from Chicago on December 28, 2017:

10. You're always the one who pays for everything!

Just as there are takers and users sadly there are people so desperate for friendships and love that they'll attempt to buy people in order to get them to "like them" or spend time with them.

They give and keep giving until it because painfully obvious this person will never value them. It's your job to look out for you!

Each of us (chooses) our own friends, lovers, and spouse.

Each of us has our own screening process/must haves list.

'A man can't ride you unless your back is bent.”

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

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