It should be obvious if you are using someone, right? I think that is what a lot of people think, but I believe this statement couldn’t be farther from the truth.
When it comes to relationships, people usually assume that the only kind of use is physical/sexual use. However, in both relationships and friendships, it can be easy to emotionally use someone. This kind of use is not nearly as obvious to the user or the person being used because it is much subtler.
When you are emotionally using someone, you “care” about them simply for the sake of your own happiness. While loving someone is supposed to be about putting the other person first and making them happy, the emotional user simply tries to make the other person happy because they know that in return that person will continue to do things that will please the user. On the surface this can appear to be legitimate love, but in reality it is far from love. The user only truly cares about themselves.
What complicates things is that the user often does not realize they are using the other person. They confuse their desire for their own happiness with actually caring about the other person. They think they are selflessly giving themselves, but in reality they are just trying to attain their own happiness.
So, how can you tell if you are being emotionally used?
Although it can be hard to tell if someone is emotionally using, there are some signs that can give it away:
- He/she only gives a gift or spends money if he/she knows that you will return the favor at some point, even if they do not make this obvious
- He/she only gives you his/her time if it is convenient for him/her
- He/she constantly puts him/herself down, eliciting compliments from you
- He/she tends not to be friends with or close to people for long
The first time I experienced this was with a girl who I believed to be my first real best friend. We were in high school and ended up being “best friends” for a little over a year. In the end, it appeared that she had gotten bored of me. She simply did not want to be friends anymore. However, a real friend loves you, and love does not simply stop. Therefore, you cannot simply stop being a friend. You either were a friend or you weren’t. It took me a while to realize that she had simply used me emotionally. However, to this day, I highly doubt she ever had any idea that this was the case.
I actually once read something she had written where she said that her relationships never lasted long because she “gets bored of people”. Those were her actual words. I couldn’t believe she would actually say that. The fact that she would say that showed me that she did not realize what it means to get bored of someone.
You get bored of objects, activities, songs, movies, etc. However, you do not get bored of people. To be bored of a person is to reduce them to an object. To reduce someone to an object is to use them. In this case, it is to emotionally use them. By admitting that she gets bored of people, this friend of mine admitted that she emotionally uses people. However, she would not have admitted this if she realized what it meant, so I cannot fully blame her. I know that she does not intend to use and hurt people. Clearly she needs to figure out how to treat people, though.
Personally, I have grown up being taught how to truly love and care about people. Mix that with my personality, and I cannot help but genuinely love and care about the people in my life. It seems so strange to me that someone could get bored of another human being. I can understand if one or both of you change and you do not fit well together anymore, but I cannot understand getting bored of someone because I cannot understand reducing someone to an object. However, it does happen, and both the user and the person being used do not always realize it is happen.
The remedy to this problem is to figure out what it truly means to love someone. As 1 Corinthians 13 puts it: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
Jaeson Ma accurately depicts this kind of love in his song “Love”.
In short, love is about putting someone else before yourself. It is about what you give, not what you get. If everyone truly exercised this kind of love in all of their relationships, the problem of using would not exist.