Sign #1: Whenever I notice the thoughts: "This person is taking me for granted or using me", there is a reasonable probability I'm making unnecessary sacrifices.
It’s 10 pm; I’m nearly asleep when the phone rings.
“I’m at Wish. Can I sleep over?” Sara* knows she can. She’s one of my best friends. “Would you fetch me?”
Within 5 minutes, I’m in my car. Wish is a restaurant and drinking spot across town from where I live in Johannesburg. Despite my early morning and the 90 minutes it takes to get there, find her and get back, I don’t hesitate.
This has been a regular occurrence lately. And I’m ever ready. Until one night, when I don’t feel like it. I’m annoyed. I don’t say anything. I faithfully jump in the car once again to fetch her.
On arrival, she says to me, “Just one more drink?” And one hour later, another. She doesn’t notice where I am or what I’m doing. We fight, and I leave without her.
I said yes to her because I wanted to spend time with her. But, outside of the lifts and needing a place to sleep, we didn’t hang out anymore. We’d grown in different directions.
You might argue she DID take advantage of me. But, what you don’t know are all the ways she loved me. She was my shoulder to cry on. Day or night.
And I didn’t have any sense of boundaries with her. I said yes to my bestie, no matter where I was or what I was doing. I made her needs matter more than mine.
This experience taught me not to drop what I’m doing just because someone shouts. I learned my time mattered. And I, too, stopped expecting people to be available for me whenever I wanted them to be.
So now, when I hear a whisper of the phrase ‘using me’, it’s a sign I’m prioritising someone else’s needs at the expense of my own.
Before we got married, I repeated this pattern with my partner. And oh what a drama. So now, if I have plans, I don’t drop them just because my partner is suddenly available. And neither does he.
We prioritise ourselves as much as we do each other. And it works. It makes us better partners. Loving each other comes easy.