A common human element seems to be that most people want to be liked by others and so there is a tendency to want to please even when we know it’s not in our best interest. In many scenarios this can go even further where we start to think of the person we’re trying to please as our friend, but the reality couldn’t be more different. Occasionally, the realization that we’re being used does come to pass, and the earlier it can be recognized, the sooner you can focus your time on finding a true friend who values your companionship.
One of the first things to look for if you suspect that all you have is a parasitic relationship, and not a true friendship with someone, is to sit down and list off all the things you’ve done for them. Now, list off all the things they’ve done for you. If you find you’re barely able to list off anything they’ve ever done for you, or if the items you put down for them are simply serving their interests, you may have ended up getting involved with a smooth-talking conman. Do you find yourself driving them all over town and waiting for them? Are you picking them up at the airport, paying for meals, paying for the gas, helping them solve their problems? If as you read this you’re finding it increasingly difficult to think of any point where they helped you, and in fact you can only think of occasions when you helped them, what you have is someone who is self-absorbed, narcissistic, and who will never appreciate all you’ve done for them.
Another thing to look for is whether you’ve ever enjoyed any shared experiences. Did you go to a movie together where each person paid for themselves? Did you go out to meals together where you each paid for yourselves? Did you go away on trips together where you each equally contributed to paying for it? You may have noticed that each question involves whether each person paid a share towards the experience you may have had together. The reason why is there are always people willing to go along on something if you’re willing to pay for it. Now if this is done occasionally because one of you is poorer than the other, that’s perfectly understandable.
However, if for every shared experience you’ve had together you’re always paying then you may have some problems in your relationship with them. If you’re the one always calling the shots on what the two of you do together then you may be picking activities that the other person can’t afford. In that case you may want to let them pick an activity that is more in their price range, particularly if you’re tired of always being the one to pay for everything. Still, if they’re the one picking the activity, and making you pay for it, you are likely dealing with someone who is just using you and you’ll have to make a decision as to whether you want this to continue or not. You may find that once you cut off your wallet the person all the sudden becomes too busy to bother spending time with you.
Looking at the nature of your conversations with the other person is also a telling sign as to whether or not you have someone who is just using you. Does it seem like your conversations are always primarily focused on their lives and their problems and only involves a cursory asking of how you are doing? Do you find that these conversations go on for hours? Does it seem like they never have time for you whenever you call them up to ask their advice about a problem in your life, or they immediately turn the conversation towards themselves? If the response to any of these questions is in the affirmative, you, at the very least, are involved with someone very narcissistic who you will probably not be able to count on when the chips are down.
A true friendship is one in which both people benefit from the relationship. It’s one where you both share experiences, activities, and help each other. The key to it being effective and lasting, is you each get the chance to talk over your problems, and you each try to be supportive and helpful to the other. The friendship should be valued by each of you, and it should help you both learn and grow. While there may be times you feel taken for granted by your friend, as long as you can point to times where both of you have genuinely been there for each other, it should not be insurmountable.