It’s a familiar scenario. You have a friend who only seems to reach out when they need something – a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear for their latest drama, or a ride to the airport. But when you need them, they’re nowhere to be found.
This type of one-sided friendship can leave you feeling used. Here are 7 tips for dealing with a friend who only seems to be around when it’s convenient for them:
How to handle a friend who uses you in a relationship
1. Have an honest conversation
The first step is to share your feelings openly and kindly with your friend. Say something like “Lately I’ve been feeling like our friendship is really one-sided. I’m always there for you when you need support, but I don’t feel like it’s reciprocated. I care about you, but this friendship can’t be just about you.”
Having this talk might help them realize the imbalance in your relationship. If they apologize and make efforts to be more present for you going forward, great! But if they get defensive or don’t change their behavior, it may be time to re-evaluate the friendship.
More tips for the conversation:
- Pick a relaxed time to talk when you’re both free of other distractions. Don’t spring it on them.
- Use “I feel…” statements to avoid sounding accusatory.
- Give specific examples of times when support only went one way.
- Suggest tangible ways they could be a better friend, like checking in on you more or remembering important dates.
- Keep a friendly tone and remain open to their perspective too.
Having open and honest communication is essential for any healthy relationship, whether romantic or platonic. Voicing your needs firmly yet kindly is the first step towards a more fair and fulfilling friendship.
2. Establish boundaries
Don’t be available at their every beck and call. It’s okay to say no sometimes, or tell them you have other plans when they ask for a favor.
You could say “Sorry I can’t talk right now, but let’s catch up tomorrow” or “I wish I could help but I’m not available to drive you to the airport. Maybe you could take a taxi?”
Creating some healthy distance protects your time and energy. Only offer support if you really want to, not out of obligation.
More tips for boundaries:
- If they text you non-stop, mute notifications or set limited times you’ll respond.
- Decline last minute invites if you already have plans. Don’t cancel on others.
- Voice when you don’t have capacity to take on their venting or drama. Refer them to a counselor.
- Use the word “no” even if you feel guilty. Don’t cave to pressure.
- If they push your boundaries, restate them even more firmly. Walk away if needed.
Healthy boundaries are essential in any relationship. They allow you to care for your own wellbeing too, preventing resentment and burnout.
3. Spend less time together
Pull back and make your own self-care a priority. Spend more time with other friends who replenish you. Dive into your hobbies, take a class, or pick up an extra project at work.
Staying busy with fulfilling activities makes you less available to your draining friend. And it reminds you that you don’t need them to have a fun and full life.
More tips for spending less time together:
- Schedule get-togethers with them for every 2-3 weeks rather than multiple times a week. Space out contact.
- When you do meet up, do an activity where you can’t vent like exercising, seeing a show, etc.
- Make plans with other friends first, and only suggest meeting up with this friend if you have time.
- Say you’re busy when they ask to get together, without offering an alternative time.
- Take a trip or visit family without them. Prioritize other relationships.
Pulling back is difficult but necessary to restore balance and perspective. Spend time nurturing relationships where you feel energized and supported.
4. Match their effort level
The amount of energy you put into the friendship should equal the effort they put in.
If your friend rarely checks on you when you’re going through stuff, don’t drop everything to be there for their minor crises. Give them the same level of support they typically give you.
This even exchange makes the imbalance obvious and encourages them to step up. If they don’t, it’s proof the relationship is unhealthy.
More tips for matching effort:
- Keep track of a week or month of your interactions – are you initiating most of the contact?
- Notice if they ask about your life as often as you ask about theirs.
- Don’t give thoughtful gifts if you rarely get them in return.
- Wish them happy birthday/holidays, but keep it simple like a text. Match their effort.
- If they vent to you, vent back the same amount, even if you’re fine. See how it feels.
Matching effort and interest helps the user recognize your time is as valuable as theirs. If they don’t step up, you know the friendship isn’t meant to be.
5. Talk to other friends
Get an outside perspective from trusted friends. Ask “Do you think my friendship with Jane is one-sided?” or “Does it seem like I put in all of the effort?”
Often your close pals will validate your gut feeling. Having their confirmation is reassuring and helps give you courage to create change.
More tips for getting outside perspectives:
- Don’t just vent about your friend – ask direct questions to understand their view.
- Talk to friends who know you both well and can assess the relationship dynamics.
- Ask if they’ve noticed your friend failing to be there for you when you’re in need.
- See if they have experienced similar issues of one-sidedness in relating.
- Listen without immediately defending your friend. Consider feedback.
Getting unbiased opinions helps you recognize unhealthy patterns you may be too close to see alone. Lean on your support circle.
6. Be honest if you need to end it
If your friend refuses to reciprocate or respect your boundaries, it may be healthiest to walk away. Have one last honest talk:
“This friendship has become draining for me. I don’t feel valued or cared for. I think we want different things, so it’s best if we go our separate ways.”
This gives them an opportunity to listen and potentially repair things. If that doesn’t happen, you can cut ties knowing you communicated clearly and did your best.
More tips if you must end the friendship:
- Don’t ghost them without explanation. Closure is kinder.
- Cut contact on social media if needed to help you move on.
- If you share a friend circle, be cordial at group events but limit one-on-one time.
- Sit with the sadness – it’s normal to grieve the loss of a friendship.
- Fill your life with positive people who reciprocate care. Don’t look back.
Ending a friendship is painful but sometimes necessary for your wellbeing. Trust your judgement and don’t second guess if you’ve given your all.
7. Reflect on your role
While your friend is clearly in the wrong, also reflect on ways you may have contributed, even inadvertently, to the imbalance:
- Do you have trouble saying no?
- Do you feel guilty if you don’t drop everything for them?
- Do you not speak up when your needs aren’t met?
Consider if working on these areas could help you develop healthier friendships where your kindness isn’t taken advantage of.
More tips for self-reflection:
- Look back on past friendships – were they often one-sided? Spot unhealthy patterns.
- Consider if low self-worth makes you accept crumbs of care from others.
- Work on self-compassion so your needs feel equally valid.
- Practice stating your wants and feelings clearly with all friends going forward.
- Notice if you gravitate towards “takers” out of habit. Consciously choose mutual friends.
Doing personal growth work helps you choose balanced, fulfilling relationships instead of defaulting to users. You deserve nourishing friendships.
One-sided friendships drain your self-worth
But with honesty, boundaries, and a willingness to walk away, you can advocate for your needs – or at least avoid users going forward.
Rather than pouring into people who leave you empty, seek out mutual, fulfilling relationships. You deserve friendships where you uplift each other, not just one where you’re being used.
Nurture friendships that are healthy, supportive and bring out the best in you. Your social circle impacts your self-esteem, so choose wisely. Surround yourself with people who are there for you as much as you’re there for them.
Putting yourself and your mental health first is hard but so important. Through inner work, open communication and setting limits, you can transform unhealthy dynamics into something balanced or move on from one-sided leeches. You’ve got this! Trust your gut, stand tall