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Every Strategic Red Flag Your Friend Is Using You

by Ellen "Jelly" McRae 12 days ago in friendship
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They know exactly how to take from you, and you're allowing them to do it.

The smiling assassin | Image created on Canva

Once upon a time ago, I would have said, 

"Hey, you're not stupid. You know when a friend is taking you for a ride."

And that's what I loved about friendship users; they used to think they were being subtle. They thought no one noticed their nuances that fool the unsuspecting eye.

Well, I was no fool, either. I used to see right through most of the friendship users.

And as a result, I've let go of my fair share of friends and cleansed my life of toxic and unproductive relationships. I've vanquished any non-reciprocating relationships from my life for good.

Here's the problem, though. 

I've realised after my latest duping that friendship users are getting better. 

It's almost like they've had a couple of years in solitary confinement to perfect pulling the wool over our eyes.

I've put together the ultimate list, from the exceedingly obvious to the not-so-known signs your friend is using you.

Division of users

Before we begin, "using you" can mean so many things. There are many types of users, so I've divided the signs into sections based on what your friend is trying to get out of you. 

It doesn't mean people only use you for one reason, though. They might use you for all these reasons.

Financial Gain

  1. They don't pay for their share of the bill - This is a dead giveaway, but so we can easily catch many users by how little they pay. Sometimes it's hard to keep track of this in group settings. It's easier to spot in smaller settings. But users will often take advantage of any chaos to underpay their share or let some more generous foot the bill.
  2. They don't offer to shout you anything - They might pay their share, but rarely do they offer to be the generous party and pay for you. As small as a coffee to dinners, trips and even gifts, users avoid putting their hand in their pocket if it's for someone else.
  3. They value "kind gestures" over gifts - When it comes to what they do for your friendship, they value what's free in life. They don't believe it's how much you spend on someone, it's the emotional connection you have with them. It's their justification for never giving gifts, even when it's the right or socially acceptable thing to do.
  4. They don't put themselves in a position where they might be out of pocket - A user won't be the first to pick up the little black folder with the cheque, nor will they be the first to put their credit card down in case it accidentally gets charged all to them. And when doing rounds at the bar, they will be conveniently in the bathroom when it's their turn. Some even hold back, letting others go first to the bar in an act of generosity. In reality, they're avoiding being front and centre to pay.
  5. They tell you they're waiting for a rich friend - This happened to me. A friend said to me they're waiting for one of their friends to get rich so they can live off their success. They were joking, but I couldn't excuse the truth in their voice.
  6. They tell you they're looking for a sugar partner - The way they view romantic relationships isn't too far off from how they view people. If they're willing to use a partner for their money, there's nothing to say they don't share the same view with their platonic relationships, too.
  7. They ridicule people they know with no money - You hear them venting about people they know who aren't well off. Or how little money your friend expects them to have. Your friend looks their nose down at them and wants to unfriend them based on how little money they have. These people aren't valuable now they don't have any money. The user can't take from them.
  8. They act poor (when they're not) for your sympathy - A friend of mine used to say how little money he had to go out, pay for dinner, go to events I asked him to, and asked me to pay for him. Then, suddenly, he said he was going overseas for a month. He had the money; he was saving it for the trip.
  9. They become annoyed when you don't pay - You've paid the last five times in a row, but you don't on the sixth time and they become frustrated. This is when they expect you to pay and show you they only attended because they thought it would be free for them.

Logistical Gain

  1. They only contact you when it's convenient for them - Your friend often contacts you when they're multi-tasking or doing something they hate. They're killing two birds with one stone by reaching out.
  2. They only contact you when you're heading to the same place - You only hear from them when you're both going to the same party, or event and they need a ride. It might not be that they need a lift. But they're making contact so it's not awkward at this event and so you don't think of them badly for having not reached out.
  3. You never hear from them when they move away - They were only friends with you because you were there. A friendship of logistical convenience. They need a friend around them, and now you aren't physically close, they don't want the friendship. Friends you make at work are a classic example.
  4. They chastise you for having a clashing event - If you can't make it to their event, they become irrationally annoyed at you. Even if the event is more important than their event eg. they're hosting a dinner party and you have a wedding on. They don't see the point in your friendship if you can't be there when they want you.
  5. They become annoyed when you drop them off last - When you're sharing a taxi, they insist on not being last in the taxi so they don't have to pay. Or pay as much. Or if you're booking an Uber, they never offer their account to pay. If not the financial reasoning, they become frustrated they have to be alone for the last part of the journey. Someone always has to be with them.
  6. They only speak to you when it's one-to-one (and no one else is around) - They don't reach out to you outside of events. They only speak to you if you're the only other person in the room. Again, they're using you so they're not alone.

Emotional Gain

  1. They always end the conversation before you get to talk - They call you, they talk, and then they hang up. They usually only call to vent anyway, because they know you will answer and listen. You're a glorified dairy to them.
  2. They never ask how you are - Even if they do let you talk or share some interest in your life, they don't ask how you are and what's going on with your life. They don't care if it doesn't involve them.
  3. They don't remember anything about you - You tell them things, but it falls on deaf ears. You know they're listening because they remember things they can use for themselves later. But anything else, they "forget".
  4. They expect you to show up when they wouldn't - If you get an invitation to their birthday party, you must show up, according to their expectation. But when you return the invitation, they have no intention of being there.
  5. They expect you to sacrifice when they wouldn't - You have to give up your Tuesday afternoon at work, but they would never sacrifice to help you. It would be unreasonable for you to ask that too.
  6. They never start a conversation with you - You're always messaging first, calling first, being the one who starts the communication between you.
  7. They only call because they want something - If they do contact you out of the blue, it's because they want something from you. They need your emotional support, your expertise, never just a call to say hi and see how you're doing.
  8. You only have emotional conversations when the going gets tough for them - You try to talk to them about issues you're having or the emotional sides of your relationships, but it gets shut down. Yet, when they want to have this conversation, they're open to getting deep because it helps them. You always find yourself talking about emotional issues "when the timing is right" rather than when you want or need to.
  9. They don't show up during your hardest moment - Someone dies; you have surgery, the birth of your child, and you can't even bribe them to be there.
  10. They tell you how hard you are to be around - They think being friends with you is difficult and emotionally draining. They have high standards for you, in that you're never allowed to need them or take from them emotionally. When you do, they think you're too high maintenance (when it's usually the other way around).
  11. Other people have already figured it out - They lose friends all the time, and people are always getting into fights with them. Those people know they're a user and have let them go.

Attention/Status Gain (to look good)

  1. They're only affectionate when other people are watching - They want to look like they're caring people, so they only do this in person. Behind closed doors, they're ice cold.
  2. They only ask you about yourself when other people are there - Again, to seem like a caring person, they seem like an invested friend to you, when you know it's not like that when you're alone.
  3. They only invite you to big group events - They need you for the numbers game. More friends, the better, in the eyes of the public court of opinion. You're a glorified seat filler.
  4. They tag you in Instagram comps (but not pictures of you) - They need you to help them win social media competitions where you tag your friends. They don't want to annoy the people they care about, so they annoy you instead.
  5. They don't post pictures of you on social media - You hang out with them but you're not cool enough, according to them, to be seen together online. You're the invisible friend, the one they aren't proud of.
  6. They un-tag themselves in your pictures on social media - And god forbid anyone else sees the two of you together. Even if they're not posting the pictures, they make sure their name doesn't appear with yours.
  7. They share other people's content and not yours - Here is another case of not being cool enough. They're willing to support the people who make them look good. But if your project or idea doesn't fit this status they're looking to create, they don't share your content online.
  8. They use your stories/emotional disasters for gossip material - Everyone knows about your misfortunes because this friend uses it as gossip. They have something juicy, interesting, and engaging to tell. You're only around to make sure they can continue this.

Employment and business gain

  1. They want to catch up with you only to pitch you - They take you out to lunch just to get you involved with an idea of theirs. They suck up to you because you have the business and career savvy they need.
  2. They won't tell you why they want to speak to you - A red flag a favour is coming. If they gave you any prior warning, they know you won't show up.
  3. You only talk about their work problems - They're picking your brain on how to solve their career issues. You're seen as a resource on Google, a knowledge bank or a career counsellor.
  4. They only communicate with you to ask about solving a problem - It might seem flattering at first because it means you're good at problem-solving. But they only keep you around because you can make their issues disappear. You might as well be on their payroll, rather than being friends with them.
  5. They don't have a lot of work friends - They befriend you because someone has to help them make the work day go faster. Someone to vent to that understands exactly what they're going through and will agree with them blindly.
  6. They brag about the times they screwed people over - If they've professionally used other people in the past, and they're telling you about it, you know you're a target.
  7. They stop being friends with you after you leave the workplace - You no longer serve a purpose to them. They were only friends with you because you worked together. Now you don't anymore, you're out.
  8. They distance themselves from you when you do something wrong - At work, everyone does something wrong. And when you do, this friend pretends like they don't know you. Their work reputation is why they're friends with you, and if you're tarnishing that reputation, expect maximum distance.

Here's my conclusion about users; they don't change.

I believe everyone can change. We're not leopards. We're human, we make mistakes, and we learn from them.

But users don't learn. They don't even evaluate how they might hurt someone. To do that, they would have to care about the person in the first place.

No, users don't change. They simply hunt for more. More they can take from you, or people like you, whilst working out a way to do less for others.

You can give a user a second, third or fourth chance. That's a decision completely up to you. 

But friends are people who want to be around, who love you no matter what and enjoy a balanced and equal relationship.

Users aren't true friends. They don't have the best intentions for your relationship.

And it's not fair to have people in your life who switch you on and off when it suits them.

You deserve better than that.


About the author

Ellen "Jelly" McRae

Writes about romanceships (romance + relationships) | Loves to talk about behind the scenes of being a solopreneur on The Frolics | Writes 1 Lovelock Drive | Discover everything I do and share here:

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