How to Be Smart in a World of Users

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I’m going to let you in on a little secret.

But before I do, be forewarned – you may be offended, disgusted, or even downright furious.

You might be driven to kick yourself at the obvious simplicity of it all once I lay it out for you.

Or, you may say to yourself, “Who does this woman think she is?”

Nonetheless, I’m going to say it because it’s not easy to come across this information unless you spend hours combing narcissism and codependency sites, and even then, it’s not always laid out for you in the way I’m about to do for you…

Here it is – if you want to know if your partner appreciates you, you should stop being so nice.  You see, while you may pride yourself on being overly giving and a hard worker, your nice and giving nature may well be what holds you back, at least when it comes to meaningful relationships.

No duh, right?  I mean, you’ve probably realized by now that people often take advantage of you when you try to be nice to them.  But, I’m not talking about the friend who calls you for emotional drive-bys – you know, the one who vomits all of their problems onto you and hangs up feeling refreshed, while you are left feeling antsy and slightly annoyed.  (Although that’s a great topic for another article.)

No, I’m talking about the guy or girl you just started dating or perhaps have been seeing a while.

Maybe they’re never happy – you work your butt off to appease them, while they sit on the couch barely noticing your efforts, hinting around about your wonderful future together as they take another bite of pizza during their Netflix marathon.

You, on the other hand, have put in many long months of struggle and sacrifice working for that dangling carrot they call a future, yet they never really commit to you or put in their fair share towards the relationship.

Perhaps you’ve been thinking to yourself, “If I just show them that I think of their needs before they have to ask for anything, they’ll see me as good relationship material”.  You buy all of their favorite foods, take them to their favorite restaurants, and buy them special gifts ‘just because’.

You hold out hope that they’ll see your value, but instead, all you get is a bored yawn when you sit next to them on the sofa.

Puzzled, you put in double-time because you think maybe the stuff you’ve already been doing for them isn’t enough and if you do more, it’ll be painfully obvious that you’re the perfect person for them.

If you’re wondering what gives, I’ll tell you.

If you’ve been giving 150%, while getting nothing in return, your partner is a User (and probably a Narcissist).

The sad truth is that they don’t need to change or commit because you’re already doing everything they want and taking care of their every need.

You’re effectually rewarding them for their lack of respect and commitment!

I know it’s hard to swallow.  I remember how I felt when I realized I’d been taken for a ride while being made to believe there was a happy future out there on the horizon.

All that time and effort down the drain.

I had to learn the hard way, but you don’t have to.

How to find out if your partner is a User

If you’re not sure where your relationship is going, pull back on your efforts.  Stop being available all the time.

And while you’re at it, start doing more things for yourself.

After a while, one of three things will happen:

1 – If your partner is a manipulative user – or worse, a narcissist – they will experience an injury when you stop catering to them. They took everything for granted and expected you to do those things for them because of their sense of entitlement – knowing that the only thing they had to do in return was whip out the ole “seduction of the tongue”, telling you everything you wanted to hear while delivering nothing in return, save for their World Title for Couch-Riding.  There will be name-calling, blaming, and more attempts to get you to play into the “Possibility of Commitment” game.  (If you’re married, they may promise to stop cheating if you’ll just go back to them.)

2 – The person who took so much, yet gave so little will reflect on how much they’re missing out on with your being gone and realize they need to step up to the plate. No name-calling, no blame-shifting, and no ridiculous excuses.  They’ll realize that your leaving was your way of placing yourself in the “High-Value Category” and they’ll start seeing you that way, too. (this is only possible with non-narcissists).

3 – You won’t hear from the person again. If this happens, it doesn’t really matter ‘why’.  There could be any number of possibilities, but instead of focusing on the fact they haven’t called, realize that the Universe, God, fate (whichever Higher Power you believe in) has opened up a pathway for you.  You won’t have to worry about sinking any more time and effort into a relationship where you wouldn’t have been appreciated.  Isn’t that a comforting thought?

Turn red flags into deal-breakers

Whichever of the above scenarios plays out, there’s one thing to be mindful of.  Going forward, you’ll want to make a list of deal-breakers and stick to them.  No more turning a blind eye or working harder to prove your worth.  Deal-breakers are non-negotiable.  You don’t have to throw them out on the table on the first date, but you do want to make them clear if someone crosses a line.  A deal-breaker list may look something like this:

  • I will not accept name-calling
  • I will not accept infidelity
  • Communication should be open and mutually beneficial
  • I will not accept anyone being mean to my children
  • I will not put in the work of two people to keep the relationship going
  • I will not stop talking to friends or family at a partner’s request, whether verbally or forced through punishment
  • I will not be in a relationship with someone who constantly talks about other people behind their backs

Those are my personal deal-breakers.  The list isn’t long many things can be negotiable and agreed upon through open and respectful communication.  Your list of deal-breakers might be similar.  

The bottom line

If you want a truly healthy and loving relationship, your first line of action is to stop accepting anything that devalues you and your sense of right and wrong.

If you want to be smart in a world of users, you have to be willing to change what hasn’t been working for you, even if that means walking away from toxic relationships.

Because the cold, hard truth is, you can’t change other people.  You can only change yourself and your circumstances.

That doesn’t mean that a healthy and loving relationship won’t have its ups and downs.  All relationships do.  Just look at lovebirds…they sometimes get annoyed and peck at the other, but two minutes later, they’ve snuggled on their perch again.

They worked it out in a mutually beneficial way.

What about you?  Which lovebird will you be?  The one snuggled up with a respectful partner, rocking a content look on your fluffy face, or looking like a plucked chicken because you’re constantly stressed – or worse – because your feathers were pulled out by your disrespectful, demanding partner?

The choice is yours.

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Kyle says May 5, 2017

I never thought listening to your gut was real. Sadly after almost 25 years of marriage I had concrete proof. Turns out he has been with others for over 17 years that I know of. He stated he gave, but never felt appreciated. Bottom line he was always raising the bar, I was the stable one that gave him a positive image. I hope his others catch on sooner, listen to their guts before he causes emotional and physical damage as he has done to our family.

Pamela Leach says July 19, 2015

i came across a letter our daughters boyfriend had gotton last year from DES (az) which found him quilty of child neglect because he was abusing our daughter in front of the kids.
her kids meant everything to her until this guy shows up and she cant do anything without him. he doesnt work no car no home lives off others.
he also had t have stitches in his forhead when her son hit him with a bat protecting his mom.
he has been arrested for domestic violence against her 3 times and each time city attorney has dismissed the case.
i need help to figure out how to get him away from her to get her life and kids back with her.
any suggestions?

    Kim Saeed says July 20, 2015

    Hi Pamela. Thank you for reaching out. Has she given you reason to believe that she wants to leave? The reason I ask is because usually targets of emotional/domestic abuse need to have some kind of shift happen within themselves in order to want to leave, even in the worst of situations. What’s the situation with her children at present?

Debra Sutton says July 10, 2015

Great Post Kim. I totally agree with everything you said.

IJustWannaBeMeAgain... says July 9, 2015

OMG!!! OMG!!! I almost fell into a relationship with ANOTHER Narcissist!!!!! I never knew there were so many out there…I thought i’d give this love thing another shot after successfully breaking free from my Ex. Narc, but I must admit that I went in eyes wide shut, which I am kicking myself for, especially after the last time. I couldn’t believe my luck and thought the chances of it happeninhg again, especially straight after, were slim. HOW WRONG WAS I?? Luckily his masked slipped after only 3 months but this one had the capability of being physically abusive. I made the same stupid mistake of giving them my all literally. Buying gifts, compromising myself, putting him first. What was I thinking…again ? Anyhow, to make a long story short, I did notice a few red flags but stupidly overlooked them.and almost found myself being physically abused while being verbally and emotionally abused. I am just glad he i.I will be goin gNO CONTACT and I am just relieved he is gone. I live with my young son, things could have s could have become very dangerous for moth myself and my son. SSMH! There will NOT be a next time, I want to be narc-free and STAY Narc-free. Thank you all for your insights and for this page in it’s entirety, I came here first because we understand and have been through it ourselves.


    Kim Saeed says July 9, 2015

    Thank you so much for sharing that, IJustWannaBeBeAgain. I, too, fell for another narcissist after finally getting away from the first one. It was hard to detect at first because the second one was covert. Anyway, the way I was able to tell was not only by the triggers I was experiencing, but as you described, by my own behaviors – being submissive, taking care of all of his tasks, applying for employment on his behalf, working two jobs, etc. – the same day I had that epiphany is the same day I ended the relationship, and I’ve never looked back. Thanks again for sharing!

Disillusioned says July 9, 2015

I had discussions early on when we moved from just friends to something else. Where we both agreed it was important to only be with one person. And various other things, every single one of those things he breached. Which makes it harder, I had a lot of confidence before him – believed I would be treated respectfully but systematically he broke every boundary without me consciously knowing. In hindsight I can now see I missed signs and ignored red flags as when I did ask him about things that didn’t make sense he had plausible explanations every time. If I ever feel brave enough to enter another relationship I think it would be very hard to trust. Being single and is way safer!

    Kim Saeed says July 9, 2015

    I felt that way, too, in the beginning of my healing journey. But, once I started working on my own wounds and doing exercises to reclaim my self-esteem, I opened up the path to love. I am now in the most rewarding relationship of my entire life. That is possible for you, too, Disillusioned. I think the biggest challenge in starting a new relationship for survivors of NA is setting and maintaining boundaries instead of sweeping red flags under the rug. I believe the best take-away is knowing when to walk away…and mean it. Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing <3

Diane Kelly says July 8, 2015

Dear Kim, I need to become smart like you and I fail non stop! I have been with John 49 years and we are both 68 years old. We we’re married for 25 years, apart 2 years and back together ever since. John has a borderline personality and very narcissistic. He blames me for all his problems and uses the past for getting what he wants and now it is a women from his past while in high school 47 years ago. He blames me for all his wrong doings and uses very excuse in the book from our past for his excuse to see her. She use to live in Florida and didn’t have a pot to pee in, but not a problem anymore for he paid for her to move to WI, bought her a car, took her to Chicago to buy clothes and I am suppose to believe she is just his friend. Yes I have been abused, put down in front of friends and family and yes everyone tells me I deserve better! We have also worked together since we we’re both in our early 20’s and still do. Plus we bought another home together 3 month’s ago, me always thinking he will change and I know he can’t and never will. He even made sure last Saturday she would come out to our business were I was working, so we would meet one another and become friends. I couldn’t believe it and he stood between us telling us he loved her on one side and loved me on the other side. Than she said John and I have great sex together don’t we and said it again looking at him. I cried went to my office and cried some more. Sneaking out the front door to drive home. While there again he brings up the past 30 years ago where he again lies about our past to use as to why he can be with her and of course she defends him and only knows one side of his stories. We have went to alot of therapists and all have said that he becomes me and makes me him. Everything is turned around making him look like he is the perfect man, while I cry, not believing what I am hearing. Now he does the same thing with this women. I am so stressed and want to hate him as my friends and family do. I have spent a life time of abuse, temper, meanest man you would ever want to meet. He won’t even call his son’s his sons anymore and has nothing to do with them and they are great kids. Well that is a start and I need to go to bed, he just walked in the door. Please help me Kim!! Thank you, Diane Kelly

Sent from my U.S. Cellular® Smartphone

    Kim Saeed says July 9, 2015

    Diane, thank you for your comments, though I’m no smarter than anyone. I was just able to stay with No Contact through daily commitment and dedication to myself and to my future. I stopped listening to the lies and manipulation. I was still very much in love with my Ex when I left, but I finally realized he’d never change and that if I wanted a different and better life, I had to be the one to walk away. It was pure hell, but I am glad I stuck with it. It’s never too late, Diane. I’ve heard of 70-yr olds starting their lives anew 🙂 Anything’s possible!

Ramona Flowers says July 8, 2015

Thank you for this Kim! Now making my list of deal-breakers…

    Kim Saeed says July 8, 2015

    Yay! 🙂

Godsmanforever says July 8, 2015

“God, fate (whichever Higher Power you believe in) has opened up a pathway for you.”

As a born again believer, I understand that there is only one true God, the Creator of the universe… God is sovereign, in that He is ultimately in charge of everything that happens in the lives of both His redeemed children, and those that are not Christians in God’s eyes…

For a perfect marriage (as perfect as any married couple can have), I now understand that living a Christ centered life as a child of God, is first and most important in any human beings life – see my “About” for a link to how God’s saving grace can be received to become a true Christian in God’s eyes… I wasn’t graced by God until I was 51 years old !! May God be given the praise and the glory for my changed life !!

Once a person is filled with the Holy Spirit, their next step in life is to live by the direction and the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit…

Not here to preach to anyone…but was led to share what is most important in a Christians life, when they are looking for the right prospective future spouse… When 2 Christ centered people get married, the chances of getting a divorce is very slim, as long as one of them is truly living for the Lord…

I am reminded of a series of 3 videos made by Francis Chan and his wife Lisa, that will explain how important it is to have a Christ centered relationship…

Here is a link that will lead you to the 3 possibly life changing videos…

I can only tell U that as a happily married man for 44 years in a few months…that finding a spouse who is a born again Christian (if U are one yourself), is the absolute second most important thing you can do for a lifetime of happiness… Marriage is truly made in heaven by God…

Hope this helps someone who takes the time to investigate what I have been led to post here today…

Blessings in Christ, bruce

Maria says July 8, 2015

Great article! I also tried telling my ex N at the beginning of the relationship about my dealbreakers! He made so many promises about never betraying me, never cheating, never lying, etc. He went as far as giving me his cell phone password to reassure me he is trustworthy. Little did I know that he was going to turn out to be the worst nightmare because he lied, cheated, betrayed and he did almost slowly destroy my soul. He could win an oscar for how good of an actor he is. I feel like one of the lucky ones to have escaped such a toxic relationship. I will never go back to that!

    Remembertoforget says July 8, 2015


    Me too. Me too.

    Consider us lucky!

      Maria says July 8, 2015

      Yes, we are 🙂

    Remembertoforget says July 8, 2015

    It wasn’t easy to get to the place where i’m at now. I had to hit bottom first.
    My eyes are wide open now and i’d rather be alone ANY DAY then be with toxic!
    Lovers, friends, and family included.

      Maria says July 8, 2015

      Oh I know the feeling. I’ve hit rock bottom myself, but now I am wide awake and I prefer it that way! I think we need to feel the pain in order to get the desire and motivation to thrive. I am learning that is okay to be alone than in the company of evil. I am no longer afrad to get to know me better. I guess life has been trying to teach me this lesson for quite some time. I am so happy to have found this website by Kim. It’s a big help in the recovery and healing process.

        Kim Saeed says July 8, 2015

        Thank you, Maria. I’m so glad to know my site is helping you during your recovery as that’s my goal <3

      Remembertoforget says July 8, 2015

      Me too, 100%
      And yes, the only way out is through!!!
      And yes, Thank you Kim.
      I’m new here, been on another wonderful site since March.
      Bless you all!

        Kim Saeed says July 8, 2015

        Thank you for joining us, Remembertoforget 🙂

lisa thomson-The Great Escape... says July 8, 2015

Excellent advice. I have applied this to my relationship with family specifically, father. It really works. Thanks, Kim.

Remembertoforget says July 7, 2015

Thank you for this piece.
So very true, and important.
I now remember in the beginning having this convo with the N. Telling him about deal breakers and him trying to argue with me.
He was one big deal breaker!

Anonymous says July 7, 2015

Good and wise, thoughtful advice. You certainly hit a few nails on my head. I’m keeping this to reread.

Anonymous says July 7, 2015

Great article!

Grant says July 7, 2015

Another well-written column with clear, practical advice. Thank you Kim.

    Michelle says July 7, 2015

    The “Deal Breakers” … boundaries! Thank you, Kim. As usual your advice is so timely. I’ve been doing a post mortem on all of my past relationships (including family) in order to get my list of Deal Breakers together and put them on paper instead of loosely flowing around in what’s left of my mind.

    BTW – I would love to follow you on Facebook again, but I cancelled my account in favor of my healing. Being transported code 2 to the ER with a MI reinforced the advice in that article! Hugs!!

    phyllis says July 8, 2015

    THANK YOU !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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