Is It Love or Is Your Partner Using You?

The answers to six questions may shed light on the true intentions of a partner.

Posted Jun 29, 2020

The idea that a partner is using a person may be difficult to accept, especially when it seems as though he or she cares. A partner’s true intentions are important to decipher before a person invests or makes substantial sacrifices in the relationship. Yet a partner who uses a person for his or her own personal gain may be sly, so sorting it out is confusing.  

An understanding person often trusts immediately and frequently sees the good in a partner, so accurately viewing a partner as self-serving may take time. A warmhearted person is often humble, so the idea that he or she possesses something that someone else desires is often elusive. In addition, he or she may be surprised and flattered by attention. A deeply caring nature is frequently what attracts a partner, yet when the partner is unable to match it, he or she may resort to manipulation instead.  

Although a trusting and positive human being is valiant, these qualities may blind a person to a certain extent. Even so, a person should never change his or her good nature. Instead, he or she should ask six important questions. The answers may shed light on the true intent of a dubious partner.

1. Do you continually seek the partner’s approval?

If a person is continually worried about losing a partner’s approval, acceptance, or love, the partner may not be genuine. Partners who use people often need to be in control, so he or she operates from an aloof position, oscillating from accepting a person’s attributes to belittling them.  

For example, Brian tells Karrie he admires her generosity with her neighbors, yet a few weeks later scolds Karrie for volunteering to watch the neighbor’s child while the neighbor runs an important errand. Brian refers to Karrie as a “pushover” and tells her she is being used. Karrie feels ashamed and although she enjoys watching the neighbor’s child and maintains a strong bond with the child, she decides to refrain from helping the neighbor in the future. Several days later, the neighbor asks Karrie to help during an emergency, and Karrie agrees. Due to her fear of Brian’s judgment and disapproval, she is compelled to keep her good deed to herself.

2. Do you withhold personal achievements because you are afraid they will threaten your partner?

For instance, Amy is enrolled in a Ph.D. program. Her partner did not complete college and often makes intensely devaluing comments about higher education. Amy refrains from disclosing her involvement in graduate school because she senses it may threaten her partner. She withholds an important aspect of who she is to protect a partner’s suspected low self-esteem.    

3. Do you neglect activities your partner disapproves of but jump into endeavors your partner endorses?

For example, Ryan, an avid bowler, participates in two bowling leagues. One league qualifies for an elite tournament. After his partner, Lisa, makes several disparaging comments about bowling, Ryan stops playing. Instead, he takes a part-time job earning money to buy Lisa the expensive handbag she desires. After Lisa collects several designer bags, she breaks up with Brian stating, “You do not spend enough time with me.”  Lisa took advantage of Ryan’s selfless nature instead of supporting his true passions.

4. Does a partner’s actions contradict his or her words?

Kate proclaims her love for animals. She talks about her heroic deed rescuing a cat a few years ago. But after Mike saves a cat from a car accident, Kate refuses to allow him to use his own money to pay for the vet bills and bring the cat home. She says, “I want you to use your money for important things.” This discrepancy between what she says and how she acts may indicate inauthenticity.

5. Do you find yourself trying too hard?

Ron is supposed to meet Karen for a spontaneous dinner but worries he does not look “good enough.” Karen makes negative comments about his style of dress, so he is filled with anxiety about his appearance. Ron drives an hour home, stops at an expensive clothing store, and purchases a brand of shirt Karen likes. He races back to the restaurant. At dinner, Karen chuckles and says, “Nice shirt, but it’s not your best color.” Ron is deflated and worries she has lost feelings for him. A partner who is ultra-focused on superficial appearances and is hyper-critical may be unconsciously defending against his or her own profound insecurities.  

6. Did your partner want to know everything about you at first, but seems indifferent now?

Kind people are often open books. Wearing their heart on their sleeve, they may feel flattered when a partner is interested. Yet a partner who wants to know everything immediately may not be deeply concerned about a person’s experience, but rather focused on gaining personal information in order to use it manipulatively in the future. If a partner’s interest in a person’s feelings and experiences wanes, the initial interest may have been self-serving.   

Terry spends hours on the phone with Ellie. Ellie is flattered and feels as if he really cares. Ellie opens up and shares her hurt about a close friend, Liz, who talks to her past partners behind her back. Several months after Terry and Ellie start dating, Terry seems bored and indifferent. Ellie discovers he is also talking to Liz. Terry exploits Ellie’s past hurts in order to disempower her and gain emotional control.

A partner who is true, supports a person’s passions, accomplishments, and pursuits, and displays consistency in actions and words may truly be in love. No one is perfect, so if a person falters or makes a mistake, it's normal. An authentic apology followed by an attempt to repair the transgression helps mend ruptures in the relationship. Reciprocating this accountability, understanding, and empathy is critical. Kindness is not weakness, nor is it stupidity, so when someone new comes along, go slow, be true to yourself, and know that a good heart is a human being’s greatest asset.