Are You Friends or Are You Being Used

Everyone wants to be liked - we all want friends. Sometimes the hunger for friendship and acceptance can become so great that a person becomes blind to a painful reality: you have not been befriended by another, you are instead being used.

Lean On Me
The line between a healthy friendship and unbalanced dynamic can often seem blurred. In the natural give and take of a friendship, there are times in which one friend leans on another. The thought is that, as situations shift over time, each friend serves as a supporter as much as she is supported. As a friendship stands the test of time, you can look back and note the way a friend has been there through the good times and bad: breakups, loss, job promotions, wedding days, childbirth, even death of loved ones.

Used and Abused
If your relationship, however, focuses more on the trials and tribulations of one person than other, it is possible that you are not in a friendship at all. It is easy to fall into the trap of becoming more of a personal assistant or sidekick than a friend - the desire to be liked and accommodating leads to a slippery slope.

If you think that you might be on the losing end of an unbalanced relationship, look for these red flags:

  • Are you hanging out or are you doing a favor? Are your shopping excursions a chance for you to bond or merely opportunity for you to weigh in on your friend's fashion choices? When you go out for the night, are you always serving as a wingwoman or helping to get your friend into a club? If you are the one always doing the favors in this relationship, ask yourself if your friend likes you or the services you can provide.
  • When do you hear from him? If your friend only gets in touch with you when you can help him or when he's having a crisis, this is not a balanced friendship. You're not viewed as a valued friend - or, at least, not a good one.
  • Does she ask about you? You know all every detail of your friend's latest date with that guy she met online, but she hasn't bothered to ask you anything about how you're doing. If you have fallen into the role of a yes person or perpetual sounding board, be concerned. Your life is just as interesting and important as her life is.
  • Are you a part of the rest of his life? Does he include you in plans with others? Does he introduce you to his other friends or members of his family? If you have never been brought into the rest of his social circle, this might be a red flag. You could exist to him in a nice little compartmentalized package - one that is all about the good you can do for him, not about any form of genuine friendship.

How to Restore Balance
If you feel that you are being taken for granted or used, raise the issue with your friend. Explain that recent events - or your entire relationship - make you feel as if you are not being valued for who you are as an individual. In some cases, your friend might not even realize that she has been taking advantage of you - balance could be restored quickly.

In other cases, a person who has knowingly been taking advantage of another will try to angrily defend herself. If she won't listen - or if she comes to repeat the behavior that has frustrated you - you can either grin and bear it or decide to part ways and develop more balanced friendships with other people.

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