Posts Tagged: feeling used

Why Does He Do That? Understanding Exploitive Relationships Part 2

When you think about exploitation, you may think of a child abuse case from the news, or human trafficking in impoverished countries. But have you thought about how it occurs in relationships and families close to you? Exploitation is the mistreatment of others in order to benefit from their work/life. Exploitative relationships consist of one party taking advantage of another, using an imbalance of power to control another, or to unrightfully benefit from another’s vulnerabilities. If you missed Users and Abusers: Understanding Exploitive Relationships Part 1, click here.

You may find yourself in the type of relationship at home or at work that is exploitive in nature. You feel unfairly mistreated, lacking in equal powers or freedoms, and beholden to anything he says or does. This is less of a partner type relationship and more of an owner-slave type relationship. Or at least, that is often how you feel.

You may find yourself wondering, “Why does he say those hurtful things?” and “Why does he do the selfish things he does?”

What Drives the User/Abuser?

  1. Power: Men (and sometimes women) who exploit others for personal gain can be motivated by an insatiable need for power. Feeling weak, insufficient, or vulnerable is so intolerable to them, they would do most anything to avoid it. The shame that accompanies weakness and vulnerability is too overwhelming to bear, so they push and force their way into power and control positions. Whether in the family, in friend circles or at work, they must feel in control or they start acting out.
  2. Protection of Ego: An exploitive person may not always have the means to curate power in every situation. But his ability to protect his fragile ego is always top of mind. The ego of exploitive people is so fragile, any unwanted feeling like sadness, fear, worry or jealousy quickly turns to anger as a means of self-protection. Since his ego is unstable and unsure, he lashes out to blame, penalize and make others feel bad to make himself feel better. Offending his ego may evoke a severe mood shift or even attack.
  3. Image: Keeping a desirable image is supremely important to an Exploitive Person. Users are extremely concerned with how others view them. A propped up Image takes different forms, however. Each User needs others to seem him/her in a desired way. Some users want to be viewed as the wealthiest, the most intelligent, the most successful, the most athletic, the most upstanding, or just the best. Others like to be admired as the hero, the savior, the boss. If they can’t be seen as one of these winningest characters, then they will take the role of the victim- the most villainized, most ignored or treated most poorly of everyone.You are most desirable if you can add to that image, and you are most despised when you threaten it. For example, if the User you married wants his mother to believe that he is happily married and a doting husband, he may be especially sensitive to your needs in front of his mother. You might even say to yourself, “I knew he had a caring side!” However, if the User you married wants the guys at work to see him as more of an unencumbered playboy, he may stay out all night without talking to you about it first. If he wants to be viewed as successful and generous, he may buy those same guys rounds of drinks, spending your entire budget trying to impress them. Though each User is different, each is highly protective over his image.

Power, Ego-Protection and Image are all powerful motivations for an exploitive person, and recognizing these motivations will help you clarify the role you’ve been playing in the relationship. Seeing the truth about the exploitive nature in your relationship will help you set appropriate boundaries and eventually gain the confidence you need. You may be holding on, thinking that his caring and generous side is enough for you to stay, even if you rarely see it enacted toward you. However, beware that his desire for Power, Ego and Image will always outrank you.

If you wonder if you are with an exploitive person, take the Relationship Quiz here. Even though the person you are with may disguise his exploitive actions as benign, it is important for you to see and know the truth of your relationship. Only then, will you have the power to take necessary steps toward health and happiness.

Is it Time to Move On?

Is it just me? Am I just being sensitive? Am I invisible, or what?

You may find yourself in relationships or environments where your value is not appreciated or recognized. You may not see it at first- in fact, maybe you’re the last to know. But from time to time in life, you may experience the SHUT OUT.

The SHUT OUT happens in social circles, faculty, sports teams and offices, and sometimes even families.  The SHUT OUT is when they (I’ll use they collectively) don’t see you as the valuable person that you know yourself to be.

Maybe you think to yourself, “Why wasn’t I invited to that?” or “Why wasn’t my name considered for that role?” or “Why doesn’t he look at me the way he looks at her?” Maybe you don’t have that pedigree, or that status, or that history, or that education, or that Gucci. Whatever IT is, you’re feeling under-valued and maybe even used. You feel like the Pecking Order has been set, and you’re on the bottom. Unbeknownst to you, the people above you in the pecking order have too much invested in their position to ever let you up.

You wonder, “How did I get here?” And even more depressing, you may wonder, “How did I get here, AGAIN?”

Sometimes, we unconsciously put ourselves in relationships and situations that replicate traumas of the past. We keep trying to get THEM to love us, accept us, or see our worth. But THEY will never do that. No matter how hard we work, or how much we share, or now often we reach out, THEY are incapable of valuing us the way we need. We’re barking up the wrong tree. We are drawing water from a waterless well. We are throwing our pearls among swine.

Did you know that there are relationships, offices, social circles and groups that DON’T do the Pecking Order Thing? It’s true! There are places and teams and relationships and partners that don’t do the SHUT OUT. There are people out there striving to operate in God’s light of love. People who want to value you for you. People who don’t want to step on you to get ahead. There are people out there who will pick you first for the team, not last. Yay for that!!

If you find yourself SHUT OUT and don’t know what to do… consider these steps.

Don’t Just Walk Away: you have something to learn from your SHUT OUT. Since you don’t want to visit this nasty place again, glean all that you can from this experience. Most importantly, learn as much as you can about YOURSELF. Ask yourself some questions- what did I do to set myself up for this? How was I attracted to this in the first place? What signs did I miss that were warning me in the beginning? How have I contributed to this problem? Did I send messages about my own self-doubt?

BIGGIE to ask yourself: In what ways am I NOT VALUING MYSELF, and how am I giving off the vibe that it’s OK for other people not to value me either? If you learn these things, you won’t leave one SHUT OUT to hop right back into another.

Determine when Enough is Enough– I wish I had the secret recipe for READINESS. Everyone is ready at different times to move out of unhealthy and into healthy. I look at my own life, and I see how God patiently teaches me the same lesson over and over until I’m a friggin expert. I’m like the karate kid, wax on wax off. Sooner or later, I become a badass at it. And once I’m competent, I’M READY and I don’t ever have to repeat that lesson again. Whew!

Watch the Magic: When you get to your READY stage, when enough is enough, and you’re ready to value yourself, watch God work. The fire is burning, the passion is alive, and for the first time in a long time, you are ready to go after something better. This is where God will be most apparent in your life. You will see provision after provision. You know why? Because God loves it when you embrace the VALUE in your own life.

Forgive it, baby: I know when God’s magic is happening in someone’s life when they are motivated with love, not anger. They are not blaming THEM, or angry at THEM or giving THEM the proverbial bird. They are motivated by love for themselves. They forgive and pray for the best for them. But, be open to the opportunity to SPEAK UP- you may have some work to do to say what you need to say, before your work is done.

If you’re in a circle, office or relationship that does not appreciate your value, take heart. It happens to all of us. You may feel like the only one, but you’re not. Follow these steps to get yourself moving again. You can do it!

My “Relationship Savvy” blog gives you tips, advice, and flippin’ fantastic feel-goods to help with your most difficult relationship challenges.

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