One of the greatest myths regarding moving on is that feelings disappear entirely. Contact from an ex, even if you have no desire to get back together, can give even the most hardened of souls a case of the jitters. In this article I will outline what I feel are the five most common signs your ex is using you, even if they aren’t sure of why they are themselves (which is often the case).
1. Mixed signals.
Unfortunately, the bottom line is that talk is cheap. An ex who promises the world but backs off actually doing anything may simply be seeking a quick self-esteem boost at your expense. This is especially true if the break up is relatively recent.
Even if they were the one to dump you, they may find the grass isn’t actually greener and wish to keep all their options open – just in case. As an ex, and someone they have been close to, you remain an accessible form of affection.
If you fear you are being led on, remember that while painful in the short-term, it is always better to speak you mind than let hopes decay into resentment should they not materialize.
[alert-note]Sometimes, mixed signals are used as bait by exs to test the waters. Before labelling them as being manipulative or egocentric, make sure you rule out pride and fear by being transparent about your feelings.[/alert-note]
2. Hey, can you do me a favor?
Unless you agreed to (and are comfortable with) establishing a platonic relationship with your ex, you shouldn’t feel morally obliged to do them a constant array of favors. An ex who always asks for help on mundane matters, knowing fully well you still have feelings, is almost certainly taking you for granted.
There may come a time when they really do need your help. But the key to distinguishing being used, to being needed, is the frequency and gravity of the help asked. Is it something only you can do? Is it something delicate they know they can trust you with? How often are they asking you for favors?
If you feel you are being used, let them know by declining politely. Do not allow yourself to be morally blackmailed by guilt.
3. An offer you can’t refuse
An ex who was a habit of waltzing in and out of your life without asking your permission is one of the clearer signs you are being used to salve their own needs. If you’re fed up with being glorified and shelved in quick succession, it’s time to lay down the law.
As painful as pushing them away may be, it could be the wake up call they need to begin to reconsider what you really mean to them. Refute impulsiveness when it comes to exs, and embrace time and space. Draw the situation out in order to gauge how deeply their feelings run. After-all, you have nothing to lose. If they bail, they were probably going to anyway. Respect, trust and love endure, affection stemming from a hormonal panic or low-self esteem won’t.
Thankfully, standing up for ourselves and learning to say no is a universal win-win. Not only are you protecting yourself from being used, you are also making yourself more desirable. Erecting strong boundaries is the key to regaining control over our feelings and improving our romantic escapades.
4. Financial dependency
Helping an ex plagued by a financial storm is tricky. If they are genuinely unlucky, and their predicament was not a natural by-product of their lifestyle or mistakes, I would personally not think twice about doing what I could. If they are reaching out honestly, my savings will almost always take a back-seat to making sure someone I care (or cared) about gets by. However, as the saying goes:
Don’t take my kindness for weakness.
Patterns of behavior that lead me to believe that my financial safe-zone is an on-demand way out, instead of a last resort, lead me me to back off and close the tap.
5. Friends with benefits
One of the least subtle signs your ex is using you is that they initiate sporadic attempts at romance while masquerading under the pretence of friendship. While a friends with benefits scenario is not necessarily an evil, assuming it is discussed openly, and the boundaries are drawn, a manipulative ex may use their ex’s feelings as a weapon against them.
If casual sex is only acceptable for you as a pathway to reconciliation, diving head-first into romance without understanding what your ex’s intentions are is usually a recipe for disaster. Be frank about your expectations and conditions.
If your ex has a track record of only ever contacting you for sex (and then promptly disappears), it may be high-time to pull-the-plug on the idea.
[alert-note]As with the vast majority of the aforementioned points, it is ultimately up to us to enforce strong boundaries. Never let guilt or sympathy come at your own emotional expense. If they are reaching out genuinely, there will almost always be a palpable undercurrent of respect and need. If you aren’t sold on their intentions, remember to always place your trust in actions, not in words. It always paints a very telling picture.[/alert-note]
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