Recently, a close friend & I had an interesting talk on the topic of friendships and she brought up two really great questions that I’m sure many of us have asked ourselves at some point.

First she asked“When it comes to friends, how do you keep yourself from feeling used?” She then followed it with “When you feel used, what should you do about it?”

Let’s delve into the second question first, shall we?

A friendship, like any other relationship, takes two people to make it work. But, unfortunately, there are many cases where there’s only one person in the friendship who exerts the necessary effort, time, and energy to maintain it.

Since it’s common for friends to ask for favors and help each other, some may look at the situation as something to take advantage of.

Instead of viewing a friendship as a giving and receiving relationship, they see it as an opportunity to take as much as they can without the intention or willingness to reciprocate.

But with any type of relationship, balance and communication are key. And this is certainly the case with successful friendships.

Personally, I’ve been in situations where I felt “used” by close friends. And whilst it was difficult to muster up the courage to “confront” them directly, I found that talking about the issue head-on is the most effective way of sorting it all out.

Coming into the “talk'” it’s crucial to treat the talk as a positive discussion rather than as an attack. Be kind and give your friend some time to share their side of the story.

This chat should be a conversation – not a monologue. So, it’s important that both sides are and feel heard.

Keep in mind that it is certainly OK to hope for the best and hope that it’ll end up strengthening your friendship.

However, prior to having the talk, we need to come to terms with the possibility that your friend may not see things the way you do.

It may end with the fact that they are so strongly set in their ways that they flat out refuse to hear your point of view and/or make any effort to better the situation.

When the latter occurs, should you accept your friend for they are? Or should you walk away? Well, the answer ultimately depends on you.

If you decide to come to terms with and fully accept your friend’s shortcomings, you need to truly accept that there may be more disappointments on the horizon.

“Old habits die hard” they say.  And the truth is, however much we want and hope for others to change unless they themselves decide to change and take action, the situation will likely reoccur in the future.

Hence, if you would like to ‘keep’ your friend, you must accept this consequence. On the other hand, should you decide it’s time to end the friendship, accept that it could be just as (if not more) painful than ending a romantic relationship.

Remind yourself that however painful it may be for a while, you’re looking out for your best interest.

In order to lead your best life and become the best version of yourself, you need to surround yourself with people who value you and view your friendship as something worth investing in.

Read More: Choosing Our Tribe

For me, that is actually the so-called ‘simple’ answer to my friend’s first question. The best way to prevent oneself from feeling “used” is to surround ourselves with people who are willing to work on maintaining the friendship.

While it certainly isn’t pleasant when we found ourselves questioning a friendship, the good news is that it forces you to shed more light on it.

Perhaps, it’ll also encourage you to re-evaluate all of your relationships. To find out who really matters, who never did, who won’t anymore, and who always will.

And when you find those who matter and who’ll stick around, be sure that you treat them well. Let them know that you appreciate having them in your life because they’re truly rare and priceless.