It is not uncommon to hear people say that they were used in a relationship. I usually bite my tongue when I hear it, because I know that the speaker was getting something in return, or they would not have been in the relationship in the first place, much less for as long as they were in it. The thing is, the answer to this question is not as simple as we might like to believe. We can’t really know for a fact that the other person was using us. In their minds, they could have been doing their best to support us, spare us from pain, teach us something, learn something from us, or even create a loving relationship. Maybe they really enjoyed us, but we were not totally available and they were terribly sad about that. Maybe they wanted to move on, but did not know how to go without leaving a gapping hole in our lives. Maybe they even tried, but they cared so much that they gave us mixed messages. Maybe we wanted more from them then they could give, but they still enjoyed being with us, in whatever capacity they were able to, even if it was less than we desired. Or, maybe it was a long list of other things going on behind the scenes. We can’t really know.
Or… maybe they really were just “using” us. Maybe when they spent time with us, they really were thinking things like: “This person is interesting and my life is boring, so I will hang with them for entertainment purposes.” “I am lonely and horny so I will have sex with them since they are putting the moves on me.” “I need money so I will let them think I like them so they will them buy me the things I want and need.” “They are funny and I am sad, so I will hang out with them and they will make me feel better.” “They are smart and they know how to do things that I need to know how to do, so I will have sex with them so they will help me.” “I need a man around to protect me and make me feel safe. I don’t really like him, but he is here, so he will do.” “I need a woman around to make me feel manly. She is clingy and desperate, but she’s not bad to look at.” However, we can never really know what someone else was experiencing. Even when they try to tell us, it is often hard to convey, or for that matter, hard for us to understand.
Even if we have hard core, hand written evidence that someone was using us, it will be of no benefit to us to believe that and focus on it. Just as difficult as knowing for sure what their motives were, is understanding that our ex may see us as the one did the using. There are two sides to every story. The truth lies in the humanity, compassion and forgiveness between us.
So, what now then? In most cases, (short of abusive situations) saying that you were “used,” is not a fact. It is a belief. To believe that you were used in a relationship is to step into a victim mindset. It is going to create a lot drama instead of gratitude.
What??? Gratitude? How can I suggest that you be grateful for someone who you believe “used” you? Easy. Finding the gratitude is never difficult, if we will only look for it.
If you truly believe you were used by someone, it is time to sit yourself down and have a heart to heart. Ask yourself what you got out of the relationship. No, I am not talking about the pain and heartache that was left when the relationship ended…I am not taking about the trust issues or STD you picked up as a result of their cheating. I am talking about the positive takeaway. Maybe you learned important things about yourself or life. Maybe you got valuable insights or advice that made your life better? Maybe you got to travel to interesting places? Maybe you got companionship during lonely or difficult times? Maybe they saw that you deserved happiness, even if they could not be the ones to bring it to you, and hearing it from them somehow helped you believe it?
Hopefully, you can see now that claiming that you were “used” is not usually a provable fact. Now, it is time to come to terms with your feelings about what happened. There are 6 (negative) core feelings that, once we identify as our experience, can help us step out of a victim mindset and into an empowered one. These are Anger, Fear, Sadness, Guilt, Shame and Loneliness.
Perhaps you feel afraid because you thought you knew the whole story, but it turned out to be more complicated than you thought. Maybe you feel sad because you had invested a lot in the relationship and it was sad to see it end. Maybe you feel angry, because you value complete honesty, and did not receive it. Maybe you feel, in part, guilty or ashamed, because you know that your heart was not really into the relationship anyway, even if you were not were ready for it to come to an official end. Maybe you feel lonely, because your go to companion has gone somewhere else. Maybe you feel afraid because you don’t know what comes next. Or maybe a combination of these feelings.
For each of these 6 (negative) core feelings, there are 6 core (positive) core feelings, which are Gratitude, Happiness, Hopefulness, Willingness, Love and Peace. Perhaps you can find feelings of Gratitude that you had companionship during a difficult time, or some other gain you experienced as a result of your time together. Maybe you can find Happiness when recalling fond memories, Willingness to look at your history with new eyes, Love for your Ex and Peace in your heart.
It is important to identify our feelings about our life experiences. If, instead, we are busy blaming someone else, decrying their behavior, or making them out to be a monster, we are cheating ourselves out of valuable growth lessons. Focus instead on how you feel about whatever positive experience you got out of your time together, because the positive experiences did not suddenly become negative ones just because your partner lied, cheated, left you, or even all three of these things combined. The beauty that was shared between you does not stop being beautiful at the end of a relationship, unless we refuse to acknowledge our gratitude for it.
So, it really comes down to a choice. If you choose to see yourself as a victim, you will probably continue to believe that you were used. Choose to see the positive takeaway and you are on to a brighter future, with no one to blame, lots of wisdom and everything to gain.