I’m going to level with you. It feels pretty great at first. Why? Because you wouldn’t set yourself up to be used if you didn’t get something out of it in the first place. Maybe you’re needy. Maybe you’re insecure. Maybe you have some idyllic best-case scenario in mind regarding the user and you’re simply willing to take whatever you can get. Regardless, it starts off feeling good; you’ve got their attention—perhaps even their momentary affection—and everything is right with the world.
At some point that moment, day, month (depending on the situation) you begin to get the inclination that you represent something to this person other than what you’d hope to embody in a healthy, reciprocal, respectful relationship. But you’re still getting something out of it (validation!) so you take it, and you do your best to successfully ignore the part of your brain that’s like, “Ummm… duuuuuude…..”
Something breaks the proverbial camel’s back. Maybe you realize they’ve stopped buying you dinner and just usher you straight to their bedroom, up the back steps so their roommate doesn’t make small talk. Maybe they go off the grid for evenings at a time and then tell you they simply “crashed early.” Maybe they ask you for something so inappropriate you’re embarrassed to write about it publicly (ahem). Haaaaa but who am I kidding! If you were mentally attuned to these facts you never would’ve gotten here in the first place, would you? No, instead you’ll be telling these things to your best friends, saying things like, “But seriously, guys, I still think it’s worth salvaging,” while they kick each other under the table and visibly eye roll and go home to start a Gmail thread with the subject line, “WTF ARE WE SUPPOSED TO DO?!”
You start to feel ill most of the hours you are awake. You live and die by communication from the person who is using you, yet you lose sight of what ‘positive interaction’ really looks, sounds, and feels like and instead settle for simply any ‘them-generated’ communication whatsoever. At some point you beg to be used. Please, come over! I will give you whiskey and Ativan and Pizza Hut! Have sex with me and leave in the middle of the night! It’s fine, my sexual needs don’t exist at all! Please, take a shit on my emotions! I will answer your whiny texts at any hour of the night! I love hearing you complain about your ex-girlfriend! It sustains me!
Concretely discern that you’re better off ignoring this person forever. Delete them from your phone (sure, you can try saving them as, “DON’T!” or “YOU’LL REGRET IT!” but your desperate drunken brain will find a way to justify it). Decide to ice them out forever. Stop making your bed because you expect them to come over (though they always promised to and never actually did, did they). Cut them off financially (foreshadowing: miraculously, they still find a way to make ends meet).
Cry. Cry a little or a lot depending on your personality. Cry in front of your friends but realize that they are so tired of your situation by now that they just wish you’d stop and let them finish watching The Bachelorette. Cry by yourself when you’re watching any television show or movie featuring happy couples, or listening to any song with a chorus that includes the word “we” regardless of context.
Take them back. Obviously. Let me reiterate that you wouldn’t get used if you had a handle on how fucked up your situation was. It’s not your fault; you don’t know better. And you won’t know better the next time you’re used either, or probably the time after that. Because you’re not an idiot. You’re not standing on a street corner with your savings account in a cardboard box wearing a t-shirt that says, “Will Fuck For a Modicum of Attention!” No, you just haven’t figured out how ‘it works’ yet.
But rest assured, someday you’ll realize you’re being used, and though it will still happen to you (goddamn your enabling personality, right?) at some point you might—might—learn to stand up for yourself.
—Sarah Heuer wants to punch you in the face.