Signs You're Being Used By Your Partner In A Relationship

As much as we want to believe that our partner would never use us, unfortunately, it happens. People can come into our lives for the most earnest of reasons without any malicious intent; then there's a shift, and suddenly they're hanging on for their own benefit alone. When this happens, it's all about what your partner can gain from you — like financial security, power, or simply not being alone — and your needs become less and less important in the relationship. 

"Your subconscious mind might well pick up on feeling unappreciated before it impacts on your conscious reality," therapist Sally Baker told MetroUK. "You can feel uncomfortable, unsettled, and not sure why for a long time before it fully dawns on you that you're no longer held in the same high esteem as before ... Your intuition will know first that something is out of kilter. Your conscious mind may resist acknowledging this uncomfortable truth until the feelings of being taken for granted build and build until they can no longer be ignored."

Though it's painful to admit that someone you love and trust might be using you, if the signals are there and you feel something isn't right, you can't turn a blind eye. When a relationship tips too much in one partner's favor, then it's time to wake up to reality. You owe it to yourself to identify the signs you're being manipulated and get out of the relationship before your partner bleeds you dry of everything you are.

Your partner is never fully present

Relationships should feel like a team effort in which each partner is actively engaged in the present and future, working to grow together, resolve conflicts, and respect each other's time and space. But when someone is using you, they're not part of that team effort. Instead, they're checked out emotionally, mentally, and even physically, with their intentions focused on something else. There's an indifference to your thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and concerns — so much so that when you have a conversation with your partner, you may feel like you're talking to yourself. Partners need to be emotionally invested if they want the relationship to work.

"We're all busy, but someone who wants to be in a relationship with you will prioritize spending time together and will always get back to you, even if it's to say, 'At work. Will text tonight or tomorrow,'" marriage and family therapist Tess Bingham told Oprah Daily. "If they can't be bothered to give you a heads up or be considerate enough to recognize you also have a busy life, they're not emotionally invested enough." 

If they can't invest their emotions and time, then you need to take a good look at the relationship and recognize what they're really invested in. Your money? Your relentless generosity? Your amazing apartment on Central Park West? Being present isn't a lot to ask of a partner — unless, of course, that partner is only in the relationship for their own gain.

You're always footing the bill

Sure, if one partner makes a lot more money, they may generously pick up the bill more often, but there should be a limit. If it's been decided that one partner will be the moneymaker and the money-spender, while the other gets a free pass because they contribute to the relationship in other ways, then that makes sense. But if that's not the arrangement, it's time to address a grave financial discrepancy.

"Discussions about money can be uncomfortable, but they're essential to a happy relationship, as finances are a primary source of conflict between intimate partners," Astroglide's resident sexologist Dr. Jess O'Reilly told INSIDER. "This is because money is tied to personal values including those related to family, culture, upbringing, and status. I suggest you talk about money generally first and then address specific behaviors."

You are not your partner's financial caretaker or their personal bank. You're their partner — a term that's built on equality. Financially draining someone else is flat-out wrong, and a partner who won't acknowledge that that's what they're doing is either ignorant or doesn't care. Either circumstance leads to them using you for your generosity. It may feel good to be able to provide for your partner and treat them, but at some point, you need to realize exactly what's going on and how unfair (and manipulative!) your partner is being by always expecting you to cover the bills.

Your partner feels entitled to all of you

While relationships require partners to give their best efforts, that doesn't mean that you need to be everything to your partner. Not only are you not their bank, but you're also not their parent or their therapist, nor are you supposed to be their only friend in the world. People can't flourish in a relationship if they don't have a life outside the relationship, including other people to turn to who fulfill aspects of themselves that their partner can't. Having a multitude of others who play specific roles in your life is a natural part of being human and helps you develop all the different facets of who you are.

No one should get all of you 100% of the time — not even your partner. It's profoundly unhealthy, and according to a 2021 study published in Frontiers in Psychology, such a sense of relational entitlement is steeped in obsessive-compulsive and pathological behavior. This doesn't make for an equitable relationship, but rather one in which the partner who feels entitled takes and takes and takes — and, of course, never gives anything back. If your partner insists on monopolizing your time, attention, and efforts, that's a red flag you're being used.

Your needs aren't being met

Although not everyone can be a master at meeting the needs of their partner, sometimes just making an effort goes a long way. But if someone isn't even putting in the slightest energy to meet your needs, that's communicating that they don't care about your feelings or how their lack of interest in your emotional health affects you. 

"In relationships, everyone has the same basic emotional needs to ensure not only the survival of the relationship but their survival as an individual," relationship psychologist Kate Balestrieri told Mind Body Green. "Without good-enough relationships, humans run the risk of isolation, and that poses a real threat to an individual's ability to make it through the day ... It is challenging to focus on thriving if someone feels emotionally unseen, unheard, or unimportant in primary relationships."

Everyone in your life who cares about you does what they can to meet your needs, just as you do the same for them. That's how relationships with other people work and stand the taste of time. But someone who's using you doesn't want to meet your needs because they're not with you for the long haul — they're with you for the now and what they can take from you in this moment.

Your partner never says 'thank you'

Important life advice: People deserve to be appreciated for everything they do. No matter how big or small the gesture, saying "thank you" to someone is essential for the well-being of both people involved. When there's no appreciation or even the most minute acknowledgment that you did something for someone and they're grateful for it, it's not just bad manners — it also says a lot about their lack of care.

According to a 2011 study published in Emotions, expressing gratitude to one's partner doesn't just increase the positive view of each partner for the other, but also creates a comfortable space for partners to share their concerns about the relationship. It helps a couple feel connected because their gestures aren't going unnoticed; they both see their efforts being recognized and valued. But when there's no appreciation, it echoes that sense of entitlement that people have when they're using their partner — they don't feel they need to say "thank you" for things they just naturally expect.

Though coming to the realization that your partner is using you can be heartbreaking, try to be grateful that you were able to recognize their lack of care and appreciation. Not everyone who's being taken advantage of can see it early enough to get out of the relationship before they really get hurt. If you can, thank your lucky stars — then get to work on rebuilding what pieces of you they tried, but failed, to demolish.