If your girlfriend has been aloof lately but switches on the charm when she needs a ride home from work, chances are you’re the one being taken for the ride. Whether she’s using you for money, security or attention, you can put a stop to this dysfunctional behavior if you’re committed to maintaining strict personal boundaries. Keep in mind, however, that once you put an end to some of the benefits she’s been getting from the relationship, it may be over.
Set Clear Limits
If you want your girlfriend to stop giving you a sob story at the end of every month when her car payment is due and her bank account bare, you’ll need to make it clear that you have your own financial goals and cannot shoulder additional expenses. Once you’ve let her know that you’ll no longer be an open wallet, you’ll need to stick to your guns, even when she asks you after you’ve had a wonderful night out and you’re both all aglow. Limits aren’t only financial. You also can establish boundaries to protect your peace of mind, such as not accepting dates with her when it’s clear that she has you on stand-by as a final option should her other plans not work out.
Make Direct Statements
Sometimes people don’t get the message and you have to be very direct when establishing boundaries, says psychologist and relationship coach Dana Gionta in an interview for the article "10 Way to Build and Preserve Better Boundaries" on PsychCentral.com. If the girl who’s using you continues her behavior even after you’ve attempted to set limits, pull out all the stops. Say, “I am not willing to be your transportation, pay your bills or be the person you fall back on when your other options have run out. Do not ask me to do those things, or our relationship will suffer.” Once you’ve made a direct statement, don’t go back on your word by giving in to her requests even one time. Once you do, you’ve opened the door once again to being used.
Ditch the Guilt
A girl who uses others likely knows how to keep her gravy train arriving on time. Don’t be surprised if she turns on the tears or accuses you of being a cold, uncaring person in an attempt to manipulate you. Keep telling yourself that all will be well, advises psychotherapist Karen Kleiman in her article "10 Tips for Setting Boundaries and Feeling Better" in “Psychology Today.” Once you become accustomed to setting and enforcing limits, you’ll feel much more comfortable about your relationship.
Recognize an Unhealthy Bond
Finally, examine the relationship itself. Often, people from dysfunctional backgrounds choose unhealthy relationships, and sometimes even people with perfectly healthy upbringings do the same. If other people react negatively to this girl, if you feel powerless in the relationship or if you overlook exploitative behavior, you may have such an unhealthy bond, according to addiction and recovery specialist Patrick Carnes in his book “The Betrayal Bond: Breaking Free of Exploitative Relationships.” Consider ending the unhealthy relationship as it is unlikely to change for the better.
- PsychCentral: 10 Ways to Build and Preserve Better Boundaries
- Psychology Today: 10 Tips for Setting Boundaries and Feeling Better
- “The Betrayal Bond -- Breaking Free of Exploitative Relationships”; Patrick Carnes, Ph.D.
Elise Wile has been a writer since 2003. Holding a master's degree in curriculum and Instruction, she has written training materials for three school districts. Her expertise includes mentoring, serving at-risk students and corporate training.