9 Signs Someone Is Using You: How to Tell If Your Friend Is Using You for Money, Social Status, or Anything Else

Updated on January 8, 2018
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After seeing many friends (or himself) seduced by love, only to crash and burn afterwards, Jorge writes advice based on his observations.

Can you tell when a friend is using you?
Can you tell when a friend is using you?

When Your Friend is Using You

Sometimes it can hurt to realize that someone is using you and 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 something like a state of denial.

The fact of the matter is, though, 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 below:

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.

Another common scenario is when they've manipulated you into doing things for them automatically. Let's say for example that they often meet you for lunch, and yet they always seem to expect you to pay. Again, there's nothing wrong with paying for your friend--but if it seems like they're only hanging out with you to get stuff, then this is no friendship.

Try an experiment: politely refuse the next few times they ask for something, or play dumb when they hint that they need a favor. If they quickly stop calling you, then they're probably a user.

Personally, this happened unintentionally when I was friends with a dubious character and didn't realize it at first. She would mostly call me when she needed a favor or wanted emotional support in the midst of her tumultuous relationship.

For the most part, I obliged, but as my life got busier and her demands became more unacceptable, I started to naturally refuse. "Sorry, no, you can't borrow my car. Sorry, no, I can't lend you any money. Sorry, no, I can't help you get your ex back."

And you know what? Eventually, she wouldn't even answer my phone calls. I felt stupid that I hadn't realized what was going on earlier, but it was definitely a relief to be free of that one-sided friendship.

"Hello? Yeah, so I know I haven't talk to you in 3 years, but could you help me move some furniture?"
"Hello? Yeah, so I know I haven't talk to you in 3 years, but could you help me move some furniture?"

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 it goes against their agenda, of course. 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.

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. Which 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.

"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."

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.

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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 anyway 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.

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

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.

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.

"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!

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

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.

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© 2017 Jorge Vamos

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    • dashingscorpio profile image

      dashingscorpio 3 weeks ago

      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.