How to deal with people who use you

The world is replete with selfish, opportunistic people -- the kind who will go to great lengths to nab what they want.

Such individuals recognize that in order to get their way, they have to get in others' good graces by feigning interest in them. 

To others, they may appear interested in cultivating a deep, long-lasting relationship. 

But when it's all said and done, and they get exactly what they need, they vanish into thin air. How convenient, right?

We see this dynamic play out with:
  • People who become friendly with you at work or school when they need your help on a project.
  • People who seem drawn to you when their other relationships become frayed (e.g., they're not on speaking terms with their partner, kid, or closest friend).
  • People who only come to you when they need something (e.g., money or a ride).
  • People who use you for other ends, like meeting new friends or potential partners.
Now, there's nothing wrong with any of the things I've listed above when you're dealing with someone who's truly invested in the relationship. 

He or she may have helped you in the past, and now you wish to scratch their back just the same. 

After all, relationships are about helping each other out -- about being there for one another in good times and bad. 

But when a person is driven mostly by selfishness, they pretend to care for the person's welfare insofar as it benefits them. Once they've gotten what they want, they go about their way, never to be heard from again. 

In the worst cases, we can develop feelings for these people and are left heartbroken when it becomes clear they were using us for personal gain.

While there's no foolproof way to prevent being sucked into their scheme, allow yourself to be guided by your gut, and not just your heart.

If something about the person strikes you as odd, keep a certain distance from them. 

Don't accede to their every request only because you don't wish to appear rude or unaccommodating.

Some people have no qualms about milking others as long as they can. Whether it's using someone for sex or money, they will continue to exploit the person until they sense they're at risk of being caught, or feel whatever goal they had in mind has been achieved. 

Once their machinations come to light, don't blame yourself for being gullible. Don't beat yourself up over how you could have done things differently.

It's all in the past. Just let it go, and learn from the experience. 

What goes around comes around, and they will have their day with a little friend we like to call karma.

Take pride in the fact that you're already leagues above all the fakes and pretenders of the world. 

The dangers of grass is greener syndrome

Ah, the famous (or infamous) grass is greener syndrome. We've all fallen prey to it at one point or another.

In case you're not certain what it means: When one questions whether the grass is greener on the other side, they contemplate if there are better options out there for them.

And, of course, one will never know if the grass is greener -- if circumstances will in fact be more favorable -- unless they take a particular course of action. So a certain element of risk is certainly involved.

There are two primary areas where we are confronted with the grass is greener dilemma: jobs and relationships.

1. Jobs: Most of us do not detest our jobs per se, but from time to time, we wonder whether there is something better out there for us.

Perhaps we have outgrown our current role and picture ourselves in a higher position, earning more money and receiving better benefits. Or maybe we envision working for a better boss, or at a bigger company, or in a different industry altogether.

We can each cite at least a few perks our present jobs afford us, but gradually we may grow so accustomed to them that we start to set our sights on what we perceive as lacking.

2. Relationships: For all the love you have for your partner, there may be certain things you wish you could change. If you had it your way, he would be a great dancer or cook. Or maybe she'd be a little less messy or more athletic.

There are times -- especially when the relationship becomes stale or partners become mired in conflict -- where people may question whether they're with the right person, or if Mr. or Mrs. Right is still out there.

It doesn't necessarily mean they want to break up, but they still wonder whether someone else might enrich your life in ways your significant other might not.

How Grass is Greener Syndrome Can Backfire

In certain situations, acting on the syndrome may actually pay off.

For example, if you were grossly underpaid or disrespected by your boss at work, it's hard to imagine the situation getting any worse someplace else. In such a scenario, seeing the grass as greener may very well propel you to find a better work environment where you're compensated fairly and treated well.

The same applies to relationships where one is being cheated on or taken for granted. Who wouldn't picture themselves in a better relationship with someone else once they've tried everything in their power to salvage their current one?

But things become murkier when the situation isn't as bleak. Maybe we're just comfortable and stagnant. Sure, we have a bad day here and there, but we don't necessarily want to call it quits. Still, we mull over other possibilities, asking ourselves whether soon it will be time to test the job or dating market.

In that case, perhaps making a few changes can give your job or relationship a much-needed jolt.

Maybe you can ask your boss for a raise or more challenging projects, which will in turn revive the motivation you've lost over time.

Or, your relationship could use a shot of spontaneity, with you and your partner making a conscious effort to do new things  (e.g., travel) to break the routine.

Unfortunately, some people press the panic button too quickly, later realizing that they've walked into an even worse situation than they were in before.

Understandably, you'll never know for sure what awaits you on the other side until you jump over. But such a decision carries risk. If it turns out that you've made a mistake and wish to go back to that prior job or relationship, it may be too late.

The Bottom Line

It's important we aim to put things in perspective and not make any hasty decisions. I always recommend my readers draw up a list of pros and cons to guide them.

It's easy to become so focused on the bad that you neglect to consider all the good stuff you may lose if you go for that new job or relationship.

When one person doesn't care for you...

Just because someone in your life doesn't care for you -- or disingenuously says they do, but never shows it -- doesn't mean you should forget about the special people in your life who demonstrably hold you in high esteem.

As a matter of fact, it should make you more grateful for the latter than you were before.

We've all found ourselves in situations where people we care deeply about don't seem to reciprocate such feelings.

Perhaps it's a partner who wants out of the relationship, or a friend who has been taking you for granted.

We become so obsessed with trying to rationalize their motives that we may neglect the wonderful people in our lives who have been there for us when we've needed them.

In other words, we want what we can't have, and risk losing what we already have.

Let's face it. People who genuinely care for us would never put us through such hoops.

If someone treats you as disposable -- telegraphing that they have much bigger fish to fry than you -- do not stick around hoping they'll change.

Instead, save your energy for those friends, relatives, and love interests who never fail to see your worth -- the ones who view you as an enhancement to their lives much like you recognize they are one to yours (hopefully).

Let's compare people to jobs for a moment. You may perceive a certain job as being a good fit. You do everything right -- from writing thank you letters to providing killer work samples to demonstrating during the interview how you conducted extensive research on the company in advance of the meeting.

Will all of this land you the job definitively?

Of course not, much like doing all the right things on a date -- holding doors, being friendly, and so on -- will not guarantee a second one.

Never take rejection personally. Instead, bounce back from the experience by spending time with those who will quickly put you in a better mood -- the ones who ultimately are worth your time because they appreciate the value you bring to their lives.

Some people may be going through a tough stretch right now and will eventually come around, though you shouldn't hold your breath.

Or, they may just fail to realize how much brighter you make their lives. Once they awaken from their slumber, you may decide that the relationship is no longer worth trying to sustain, as your trust in them may very well be in tatters at that point.

As I've stressed previously, life isn't about what happens to you. It's about how you respond to such circumstances. Are you really going to let one person have that much power over you?

Don't let one person spoil your life, and don't let them sour your relationships with others. If you give people who care for you the cold shoulder, you're essentially shadowing the behavior of the individual you're pining for.

Do yourself a favor and cut from your life those people who consider you an option rather than a priority.

Here's how to use regrets to improve ourselves

There are no regrets in life -- only lessons learned.

Regretting that which is now in the past -- and thus cannot be changed -- serves absolutely no purpose but to make us feel dejected.

Learn from your mistakes so that you're not doomed to repeat them.

In that way, you're actually channeling all that negativity into something positive and constructive. Regrets, then, can help facilitate growth so long as we have the right mindset.

Let's suppose you cheated on a wonderful man or woman -- a terrible mistake you refuse to forgive yourself for.

If you already apologized to your ex and have pledged to remain faithful to future partners, what more can you really do? Move on, and if you've learned anything from your misstep, you'll know not to jeopardize a relationship ever again.

The same reasoning applies to missed job opportunities, friendships gone awry, or any other situations that would have turned out much more favorably had you behaved differently.

Refusing to let things go is a surefire recipe for bitterness, anxiety, and depression. The longer you're trapped in a vicious cycle of blame and negativity, the harder it becomes to come out of it.

Sometimes things work out for the best. In the example above concerning cheating, each of you may very well end up with a partner you deem better than your last.

Again, as long as we put our mistakes to work for us -- and advise people against making the same mistakes we did -- there's no reason to harbor regrets.

Let the past go as you make the most of the present and plan for the future. Don't blame others for your mistakes along the way, however. We must all live with the consequences of our actions, and pointing the finger never resolves anything.

In sum, unless we're not careful, we'll one day find ourselves regretting having spent so much time regretting -- if that makes any sense.

People should give others their privacy

How often have you come across someone -- whether at school, work, the grocery store, or even on Facebook -- who tries to meddle in your business?

Perhaps you've just been laid off or come out of a tumultuous relationship, or maybe you've lost someone dear to you.

Some people are hardly satisfied in just knowing why you've seen better days; they press you for more details despite your showing a desire to be left alone.

Why are they this way?

While some may be driven by a genuine yearning to comfort you, others may simply be nosy.

Make no mistake about it: Certain individuals are constantly comparing themselves to others although doing so -- unbeknownst to them, perhaps -- only makes them less happy in the end.

Sadly, some of these people take pleasure in other's misfortunes, and still others use it as fodder for gossip.

Thus the reason I always advise my readers not to disclose too much information to others. If it falls into the wrong hands, it can open a can of worms.

If you wish to keep something to yourself, there's nothing wrong with exercising discretion and politely saying, "Thanks for your concern, but it's a little personal."

It's perfectly normal to crave space after a potentially life-changing event, or even after we've had a lousy day.

People should honor your wishes. If they fail to do so, it signals that the individual cares little about respecting others' boundaries, and they may not be the kind of company you'd like to keep.

No matter how close you might be to someone, you're entitled to as much space as you desire. People should not take it personally. There will be a day and time, you can remind them, when you may be ready to spill the beans, but now is not that time.

In a world where everyone (or, almost everyone) tells everything, we should value privacy -- and refuse to allow anyone to invade ours.