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Is a Friend Using You? 40 Signs & Bold Ways to Confront & Handle Them

Some friends turn out to be enemies but at the time, their behavior flies under the radar. Know the signs a friend is using you and identify a bad apple. 

signs a friend is using you

Friendships are special. The good ones, we cherish throughout our lives and stick with through good and bad. But, what about the bad ones? Sometimes, the people we think are our friends turn out to be wolves in sheep’s clothing. Basically, they’re bad friends. If you want to avoid upset, learn the signs a friend is using you ahead of time.

The truth is, not everyone has good intentions. You might think that someone is a great friend but then they start to do things that aren’t in alignment with what a good friend should be.

When that happens, you need to take action.

[Read: Why do people always take you for granted? 16 signs and firm ways to stop being used]

The subtle signs a friend is using you

Knowing that there are people out there pretending to be your friend isn’t a great feeling. But it helps you pay closer attention to the people you call your friends. If you’ve noticed a friend or two in your group may be using you, it’s time to point it out.

Of course, you should also ditch them and get new friends. But let’s start off with the first step.

If you think your friend is using you, it’s time to look at the signs. You shouldn’t continue to surround yourself with people who aren’t genuinely interested in being your friend. It’s time to change.

If you see these signs a friend is using you, it’s time to get new friends. [Read: Bad friends – 25 types of friends you must unfriend from your life]

1. Your friendship feels like a business transaction

There are some friends who are only there for the good times. They like hanging out with you because there’s something they can use.

If your friend is always asking you for money, making you feel more like an ATM machine than a friend, something is up. You shouldn’t feel like you’re a bank, you should feel like a friend.

2. They’re holding you back

You may be wanting to lose weight or stop drinking, but your friend isn’t pleased about this. They’re not looking out for your best interests. Instead, they’re holding you back to further their interests.

They don’t want to stop drinking, for example, or change their lifestyle. So, they’ll put you down and make you feel like you’re making a mistake. [Read: When and how to end a friendship if they’re toxic and holding you back]

3. You can’t be yourself

This is pretty huge. Of course, you’re not going to be “yourself” when you’re around your grandma or at a job interview. You have different sides of yourself that you show when needed.

But around your friends, you need to be yourself. That’s why you have friends. If not, who else can you be completely free around?

4. You do all the work

When it comes to this friendship, one of the big signs your friend is using you is if you’re the one putting the effort in. You make them food when they come over, buy them things, call them to hang out. You do it all.

They never call or text you unless there is something they need from you. Other than that, you’re the one emotionally investing in the relationship – not them. [Read: Why you should never make someone a priority when you’re only an option to them]

5. They talk about you behind your back

You’ve heard it through the grapevine that they don’t think highly of you. When you’re not around, they’re the first ones to talk poorly about you. A friend doesn’t bash the people they love and care about to others.

A good way to figure out whether a friend is doing this to you is to listen to whether they regularly gossip about or bash other people to you. If they do, the chances of them doing it behind your back are pretty high.

6. You feel like you’re being manipulated

You can’t quite put your finger on it, but you have a horrible feeling in your stomach when you’re around them.

But one thing is for sure, you feel as though you’ve become a worse person since they started hanging around. You’re always apologizing for everything, and they’ll play hot and cold with you. [Read: Being left on read – What it really means when they don’t text back]

7. They dip in and out of your life

One of the subtle signs a friend is using you is when they’re being an unpredictable friend. They’re not very consistent when it comes to hanging around. Rather, they just seem to pop in and out of your life when it’s convenient for them.

No matter the distance, a good friend should be a presence in your life. Whether it’s by video calling or texting, they should be around.

8. They actually know very little about you

At the end of the day, a fake friend doesn’t actually know much about you. You have never had deep conversations unless it’s about them.

They don’t ask about your personal life, only the things that affect them. If your friend doesn’t pay attention to you, it’s safe to say that this is a sign of a friend who is using you, and not being genuine. [Read: Codependent friendship – The bad signs and why it’s unhealthy for you]

9. You can’t count on them

What’s the point of a friendship if you can’t count on them when it really matters? Maybe you just graduated from university or had someone in your family pass away. Your “friend” was nowhere to be found.

But… that’s weird, isn’t this your friend? In the good and bad times, your friend should be there, no matter what. [Read: 24 signs you have shitty friends and need new ones]

10. They guilt-trip you

If you don’t do what they say, not only will they become angry, they’ll try to guilt-trip you. Okay, there are emergencies that may need attention, but when your friend needs attention, it’s about something pointless.

And if you don’t have the time or don’t want to help them out, one of the signs of a bad friend who uses you is when you get a big guilt trip in return. 

11. You don’t know why you’re friends

When you really think about it, there’s nothing about them you find redeeming. One of the clearest signs a friend is using you is if you constantly feel bad about the person you’ve become when you’re around them.

They’re always asking for favors but never care about your needs. You actually don’t know why you put up with them.

If you’re having these thoughts, it’s a clear sign you need to end the friendship. [Read: How to end a friendship when they do nothing but hold you back] 

12. They control everything

When it comes to hanging out, even though you’re the one who initiates it, they control what happens. They decide what you are going to do or what you’re going to eat.

This is because they don’t care about your feelings. They’re concerned about what will make them happy, not you.

13. You don’t have actual arguments

You can’t actually remember a time when you two had an argument. Now, we should say fighting is bad, and it is, but it can be constructive. All good friendships have come with their fair share of arguments.

If you never disagreed about anything, maybe the relationship is missing depth or it’s a sign they don’t really care what you think as long as you allow your friend to use you.

14. They’re angry when you succeed

Maybe you won an award or received a promotion at work. Of course, as a friend, you can be a little jealous, but you’re obviously happy for your friend as well. But if this person doesn’t want to share and celebrate your success, they’re not a friend. Your friends should be your biggest fans, not people you should feel ashamed around. [Read: How to be a good friend – The BFF code all friends should follow]

15. They’re only around when they want something

One of the biggest signs a friend is using you is if they’re only ever around when they want something. Or, they show up when the situation will make them look good. In this case, they’re not interested in you as a person or as a friend, they’re just in it for what they can get. 

Maybe you go days and even weeks without seeing them but then they show up and ask if they can borrow some money or they want you to do them a favor of some kind. 

16. They’re always asking for something

Do you often feel like there’s some kind of agenda? Are they always asking you for something, be it a small thing or something larger? If that’s the case, you’re being used.

It’s probably very clear from the outside, but when you’re in the middle of it, you’re questioning whether you’re being paranoid or not. The truth is, a good friend won’t always ask you for things. They’ll ask if they need to, but those occasions will be very few and far between. [Read: Are you a user? 15 uncomfortable facts to help you face the truth]

17. You often find yourself paying for things

One of the biggest signs a friend is using you for money is that you’re always paying for things. Maybe they disappear when the bill comes and you have to pay or they say they’re broke and you end up splashing the cash instead.

For sure, friends can use you for other things besides money, perhaps simply to look good, but this is a major sign if cash is the reason.

18. They never pay you back when they say they will

It might be money, time, or a favor, but when they say they’ll pay you back or do something for you, they never come up with the goods.

You always end up waving it off as a coincidence or simply letting things slide because you don’t want to mention it. But, it’s one of the big signs a friend is using you and it’s simply not in alignment with the real value of friendship. [Read: 22 signs your best friend isn’t a best friend anymore and why you drifted apart]

19. They don’t show any loyalty

A friend who is using you will not show you any loyalty. Why should they when they’re not actually your friend? They don’t care about you, so loyalty is the last thing on their mind.

If you have someone in your life who has zero loyalty to you and is regularly ditching you, standing you up, and doesn’t have your back, they’re a fake friend. They’re probably also using you for something.

20. You can feel it

Deep, deep down inside of you, you feel something is really off. When you’re around them, you don’t feel good about yourself and when you go home, you feel used. Hello! Wake up! If you’re having these vibes, then, of course, you should listen to it.

This is your intuition telling you to cut the toxic friendship. In that case, you don’t need signs your friend is using you, you just need to listen to your inner voice. [Read: How to listen to your gut and give strength to your inner voice]

How to handle a friend who is clearly using you

It’s not easy to realize that someone you thought was a friend has another agenda. When you see the signs a friend is using you, it’s going to hurt.

You might even try and pretend that it’s not really happening. But, it’s important to be honest with yourself. You need to cut this person out of your life and look toward your real friends for support.

Who wants to accept that people have been using them? No one. But once you find out, take action! Don’t let them continue walking all over you. Things need to change. [Read: One-sided friendship – 15 clear signs it’s time to cut them loose]

1. Ask yourself how you feel

However you found out, you now know that your friend is using you. We know, it’s not a pleasant feeling, but it’s better you found out sooner rather than later.

Now you need to figure out what you want to do next. Are you going to completely ditch them? Confront them? Decide what you want to do with your friendship. [Read: The scenarios when it’s okay to ghost a friend]

2. Are you sure they’re using you?

Before you jump to conclusions, make sure you know they’ve actually used you. Sometimes, other people can get involved just to create drama.

You need to be sure in yourself that this person has been taking advantage of you. If you feel they’ve been using you and something isn’t right, you’re right.

3. Explore your intuition

Before you make any moves, what is your gut telling you? If you feel you’re being used, then you probably are.

We often ignore those feelings, but those are the ones you should pay attention to and follow. If your gut says these people aren’t good, then listen to it. [Read: 18 very honest reasons why you don’t have friends that care about you]

4. Question whether they have a history of using people

If they have a history of using people, they’re going to do it again. That means you’re possibly one of their newest victims.

For sure, having a history isn’t necessarily one of the signs a friend is using you, but it doesn’t bode well, does it? After all, a leopard rarely changes its spots.

5. Identify what they’re using you for

If they’re using you, figure out what they’re using you for. Is it for money? Accommodation? Status? Before you confront them or make a big decision, figure out what they’re taking from you. That way, you confirm your gut instinct and take the next step forward. [Read: 22 signs that gives a user away when they try to use you]

6. Decrease how much you share with them

If they’re someone you would share personal information with, it’s time to limit it. As of now, they’ve used this information to manipulate and take advantage of you.

You can chat with them, but be careful about what you share with them. That also means anything else you share, such as money, opportunities, etc.

7. Don’t let them get the best of you

These situations can easily make you feel resentment and sadness. But once you see these signs a friend is using you, don’t let this person get the best of you.

Yes, they’re using you, but there are plenty of other people who care about you. This is just a bad egg.

8. Learn to say “no”

You need to start saying “no” as soon as possible. If they ask you for money, say “no.” When they ask you to buy them dinner, say “no.” It’s time to create those boundaries so they get the picture you’re not someone they can use anymore. [Read: How to set boundaries with friends without hurting or insulting them]

9. Don’t give in to guilt

If they’re using you, they won’t be happy when they feel it’s ending. Whatever they’re getting from you is important to them, so they’re going to try to keep everything in line.

Expect them to throw some guilt your way. The best thing you can do is dodge it. Don’t feel guilty because you recognized their poor behavior.

10. Detach yourself from them

You’re going to need to make some space between you and your friend. Since you’ve found out they’ve been using you, detach yourself from them and start keeping your distance from them.

This doesn’t mean you should ghost them, but you clearly need some space from them until you decide what to do next. [Read: Emotional manipulation and 14 ways people mess with your mind]

11. You need to talk to them

Whether you want to work on the relationship or end it, you’re going to need to talk to them.

We know you want to pay them back for how they’ve treated you, but you need to respect yourself and act with maturity. If you’re going to end the friendship, end it the right way.

12. Meet up with them face-to-face

Don’t talk to them via text. You need to do this the right way. Just because they weren’t nice to you, doesn’t mean you should act like a child.

So, if you want to talk to them, you should meet up with them. Choose a place where you can sit down and not get distracted by loud noises or other people talking. [Read: How to spot selfish people and stop them from hurting you]

13. Be direct

When you talk with them, don’t beat around the bush. It’s not going to get you anywhere. You made a courageous step forward in asking them to meet up with you, but you can’t stop now.

When you’re speaking with them, be as direct as possible. Tell them about what you’ve noticed or what happened. [Read: How to spot a bad friend and end a friendship]

14. Don’t freak out

It’s easy to become emotional and freak out when you realize your friend has been using you. But that’s the one thing you can’t do.

In these cases, you need to stay completely calm and collected. Of course, you should be guarded when around them, but don’t be defensive. This will only escalate things into a fight.

15. Stick up for yourself

If they’ve been using you, it’s clear they don’t respect you. So, when you talk to them, they may try to manipulate the situation and switch things around, pointing the finger at you.

Don’t let them get away with that crap. Stick up for yourself and make sure they see where the line is drawn. [Read: 24 truthful signs your friend doesn’t respect you or even care about you]

16. Spend time with other people

Instead of hanging out with this friend who uses you, spend time with other friends and family.

This doesn’t mean you cut them out immediately as soon as you see the signs a friend is using you, but hang out with people you trust and make you feel safe and secure. You’ll see the situation better once you step back.

17. Know the consequences

It’s one thing to call out someone for their manipulation, but you should show them the consequences of their actions. Of course, it depends on what you want to happen.

If you want to give them another chance, they’ll need to see they’ve violated your personal boundaries. If you want to end the relationship, that’s a consequence within itself. [Read: Am I a bad friend? The bad friendship skills that push people away from you]

18. Accept that it’s going to be a process

Losing a friend is no easy task. We know it may sound easy, you’re probably thinking you just cut them off, but there’s much more that goes into it than just that.

You’re losing a friend, someone you’ve had an emotional connection with. So, it’s going to take time. There will be moments when you’ll want to call them, but you will have to have to be strong. [Read: Why a friendship breakup hurts just as bad as a relationship breakup]

19. Understand that they weren’t really a friend

At the end of everything, you need to understand this person wasn’t a true friend to you. Hopefully, you use this situation as an example for the new people you’ll meet, that way, you’ll know what to look out for to make sure you don’t get hurt.

The good thing is now you can move forward without this toxic person in your life. [Read: 30 sad signs of a bad friend that’ll make you lose faith in humanity]

20. Don’t let this stop you from meeting new people

Sure, you may be a little more guarded when meeting new people. That’s understandable.

But don’t cut yourself off from making new friends. You ran into some bad people, that’s life. There are countless kind and warm-hearted people who would make great friends. Don’t stop until you find them.

[Read: How to stop being a doormat that people use]

After reading these signs a friend is using you, what do you think? Do you think your friend is using you? If so, it’s time to stand up against them and tell them how you feel. 

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Preeti Tewari Serai
Preeti Serai
Preeti, the founder of LovePanky, is an eternal optimist and believer in the beauty of love and life. With an exhaustive experience in love, relationships, and ...