A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

14 Subtle Signs You’re Being Taken for Granted—and What to Do About It

Updated: Apr. 17, 2024

Being helpful is a good trait ... but some people will take advantage of your willingness to assist. Here's how to stop being taken for granted and have healthier relationships.

I can't believe we're fighting about this again...
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Are you being taken for granted?

Being taken for granted is insidious. It usually starts out gradually, so it’s not easy to spot at first, and if you don’t put your foot down, the pattern will continue. But it can be really difficult to figure out what to do about it once you’re in the situation, and this can take a serious toll on your happiness.

What does it mean to be taken for granted, exactly? “Taking someone for granted is when you expect a person to be there but lack appreciation for their role in your life,” says Samantha Ettus, a work/life expert and author of The Pie Life: A Guilt-Free Recipe for Success and Satisfaction. “If you feel taken for granted, it is probably because you are giving more than you are getting.”

Why do people take you for granted?

Relationships always involve a give and take, but in this case, the taker is taking way too much. “The taker is primarily concerned about their interests over your well-being. They come first—you are secondary,” says Helene Lerner, author of Time for Me: Self-Care and Simple Pleasures for Women Who Do Too Much and founder of WomenWorking.com. “The taker expects the giver to be there, no matter what. They may give half-hearted attempts at making an effort, but they rely on the giver to do most of the work in the relationship.”

The long-term effects of this dynamic benefit no one. Slowly, it will cause your relationship to erode. You may start avoiding your “taker” friend, stop feeling close to your significant other or lose motivation at work.

So, what can you do?

“In an adult-to-adult relationship, you should not accept being taken for granted,” Ettus says. (Parenting children is another story!) If you want to save the relationship, it’s all about communication and stating your needs clearly. “If you feel taken for granted by someone, it’s best to tell them what you need,” Lerner says. “To do this, be honest with yourself about your priorities. If things are going to change in a way that benefits you, you have to know what you need and how to express that.” It may seem easier not to say anything, but by keeping things status quo, you’ll be missing out on a more fulfilling relationship.

We asked the experts for tips to help get your relationships at home, at work and with friends in a healthier place. Stop being taken for granted by learning how to set boundaries, developing non-negotiables, avoiding bad work habits, insisting others follow etiquette rules and, if necessary, removing yourself from toxic relationships.

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She’s unwilling to balance favors

The guilty party: Your friend

We all have that flaky friend who can never be counted on to follow through when something is being asked of her. You do favors for her, but she doesn’t pick up the slack next time. She says she’ll help you with something, but then bails. Sometimes she cancels at the last minute, and sometimes she just doesn’t show up. You may have simply accepted this as the way your friend is, but the problem goes beyond mere annoyance. “There’s no reciprocity in the relationship,” says Miami psychologist Erika Martinez, PsyD. “You do favors for them, help them when they’re stuck, but they never do the same for you.” This can happen even in lifelong friendships.

What to do: Speak up, using “I” language to express things from your point of view. “I feel like I am there for you, whenever I can be. If you ask me for something, I try to find a way to do it,” Lerner suggests. “So, I was hurt when I asked you to be there for my birthday and you told me you were too busy. That is not OK with me.” If that doesn’t work, stop believing she’ll be there for you—and rethink how much you want to be there for her.

Two male friends celebrating winter holidays at backyard
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He doesn’t ask about your day

The guilty party: Your significant other

Saying “please,” “thank you” and “how was your day?” isn’t just about having good manners: It’s one of the secrets of happy couples. These social graces are signs that someone actually appreciates the things you do for them and is interested to hear how you’re doing. On the other hand, not saying them enough may be a sign that you’re being taken for granted. When your partner doesn’t ask how you’re feeling, it’s an indicator he doesn’t take your perspective into account. Especially within a close relationship such as a marriage, observing these gestures of kindness and respect is crucial for a true partnership.

What to do: It may seem like a small thing to bring up, but “by keeping quiet and choosing the ‘safe’ option, you will allow your relationships to deteriorate, while sacrificing your authenticity,” Lerner says. Use language like, “When I ask how your day was and you don’t reciprocate, it makes me feel like you aren’t interested.”

School children picking up garbage together while cleaning public park
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You feel like you can’t say no

The guilty party: An acquaintance at your child’s school

It takes a village, but consider how you feel when being continuously prodded by mom pals for favors, volunteering at school events or buying more of their kids’ Girl Scout Cookies. If you feel that you are always giving for school or kid activities, it might be time to create fresh boundaries and stop people-pleasing. After all, over-commitment is one of the things happy people never do. “When asked to do yet another favor, decline without an excuse,” Ettus says. “Once you get caught up in concocting excuses, you end up feeling bad about yourself.” You don’t need to explain yourself for why you need to say no—if you’re stretched too thin, that should be enough of a reason for others to understand.

What to do: Keep it simple, short and sweet. “Saying ‘I can’t pick up Jack on Friday’ is enough,” Ettus says. “The more you practice setting those boundaries and standing your ground, the stronger you will feel.”

a young couple sit on the couch and look at their phones ignoring each other
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You’re losing feelings of intimacy

The guilty party: Your significant other

If you’re being taken for granted, you may start to spot some signs in your relationship, including feeling resentful of and disconnected from your partner. “When someone is taking you for granted, you likely will feel like you’re in a rut,” Lerner says. “Things may seem dull. Events and conversations might become repetitive. The ‘sparkle’ in the relationship may start to fade for you.” You may also start to have intimacy issues and begin pulling away physically or emotionally. “It’s difficult to make things exciting if the relationship is one-sided—and it’s even harder to feel enthusiastic about a person who doesn’t reciprocate your energy,” Lerner says.

What to do: Speak to your partner without criticism, and ask how he feels about the situation. “I am really saddened by our relationship—at one time it was exciting, and I felt we were on the same page,” Lerner suggests. “Nowadays, I feel like I’m doing all the work. What has changed?”

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She pushes you to work overtime

The guilty party: Your boss

If your boss is asking too much of you—for example, expecting you to come in on a Saturday or cancel evening plans at the last minute to stay late—she may be taking for granted your dependability and strong work ethic. But learning to say no at work is no different than in any other area of your life. “If the request is couched with an apology and the caveat that these are extreme circumstances and not something that will be happening with any frequency, then you probably don’t need to worry,” Ettus says. But if it’s a pattern and you feel you can’t trust your boss to respect your work-life balance, it’s time to push back.

What to do: You may worry that speaking up may make it seem like you’re an ungrateful employee—but it’s your boss who should be grateful for the work you do. “Communicate that you would like more notice in the future and that, though you are dedicated to your job, you don’t want to become undependable to other people in your life,” Ettus says. “Hold tight to your boundaries.”

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She’s never there for you

The guilty party: Your friend

Your friend may be taking you for granted if she leans heavily on you for emotional support but doesn’t make herself available when you need her. For example, “a friend calls you with her problems and you listen and support her, but when you call her with a problem, she is not there for you,” Ettus says. This is a sign that selfishness is in the equation: She’s taken for granted you’ll always be there to listen to her problems, even if she won’t do the same for you, which is not how to be a true friend. “The friendship does not feel equal, and you notice that you are growing resentful and feel used,” says California-based therapist Rhonda Milrad.

What to do: You can still treat someone who takes you for granted with respect when bringing up the issue. “At a time when you are enjoying your friend—over a meal, for example—raise the issue,” Ettus says. “Make your friend aware of the issue, and give her a chance to fix the problem.” Still, you can decide if it’s a friendship worth saving. “If it’s a close friend, then it may be worthwhile having a conversation and sharing your feelings,” Milrad says. “If the person is less meaningful, it may be better not to put too much energy into trying to repair things.”

Close Up Of Woman Messaging Friends Using Smartphone
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He expects you to drop everything for him but is too busy for you

The guilty party: Your significant other

If your partner wants you to be at his beck and call but won’t show up when you need him to, you’re being taken for granted. You might even be in a codependent relationship, which means you’re sacrificing your well-being for your partner. Relationships shouldn’t be a one-way street, which is the case if “your partner or spouse expects you to be available at a moment’s notice, but they make solo plans without any warning,” Ettus says. You can see if addressing the problem head on works. If not, you may need to consider ending things if your partner remains too controlling.

What to do: Assert that you won’t be domineered, using language like, “I noticed that we’re always doing what you want to do, even if I already have plans and yours came up last minute. That feels unfair to me,” Lerner says. You can try using tools like a shared calendar to see if that helps. “Communicate your need to have some transparency with the schedule, and make some plans of your own so that you aren’t always sitting around waiting,” Ettus says.

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He takes credit for something you did

The guilty party: Your co-worker

If someone tries to steal your glory at work, that’s a sign he is taking advantage of your kind nature. “We all know the co-worker who accepts praise for the part of the project you did,” says Martinez. “These behaviors communicate a sense of entitlement from the person that’s benefiting from the relationship.” This is one of the major signs that you can’t trust your co-worker, and you shouldn’t let him get away with it because you’ll be taken for granted right out of a promotion.

What to do: Call him out on it. Lerner suggests saying something like: “I helped you out, but our agreement was to share the credit. In the meeting with our boss yesterday, you acted like it was all your idea. That is not OK with me. I would like you to make it clear to her that it was a combined effort.” If it keeps happening, you’ll need to jump in at meetings to present your own ideas before he can—and don’t let him interrupt you.

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She is always late to meet you

The guilty party: Your friend

We’re all busy, and sometimes the clock can get away from us if other tasks take longer than we expect. Although you can cut your friend some slack if it happens occasionally, if it’s every time you’re getting together, it may be a sign she’s taking it for granted that you’ll be waiting for her. “In this case, your friend isn’t being respectful of your time,” Ettus says. Being a chronically late person can be an issue for those who are trying to squeeze in more tasks than they can complete in a certain amount of time. But if the problem starts affecting you, it’s time to speak up.

What to do: Without accusing her, keep a positive attitude and figure out a way to build in extra time for her to get to where she needs to be. “Next time you have plans, say that the last couple of times she was late, and ask what would be a good time for you to arrive, since you don’t want to be sitting alone waiting,” Ettus says.

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You don’t feel supported

The guilty party: Your spouse

If you’re feeling unsure of your partner’s support, they may be taking advantage of whether your interests and needs are convenient for them. And having this type of sometimes positive, sometimes negative relationship can even produce health drawbacks: According to a study from Brigham Young University, having a spouse who’s hot and cold with their support can adversely affect your physical health. This type of unpredictability in the relationship can negate some of the supposed cardiovascular benefits of being married—and can actually raise your blood pressure. Are single women happier and healthier, after all? With a situation like this, they may be.

What to do: Be honest with yourself and your spouse about your feelings if you’re not receiving enough of his support. “When you don’t speak up and say what you need, it is easy for someone to take you for granted,” Lerner says. “No one is a mind reader. If you leave things unsaid, the other person may think that you are content with the situation.”

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You’re doing the work of three people

The guilty party: Your boss

If we don’t value ourselves first, we can’t expect others to value us. Ettus recommends doing a self-worth check if you’re questioning whether you’re being taken for granted at work. Do you tend to stand in the back of the room rather than take a seat at the table? “If you answer yes, you may be undervaluing yourself. This enables others to take advantage of you,” she points out. In order to cut corners, managers may pile on the work for their diligent employees, rather than giving them a promotion or raise, or hiring more people. If you feel like your boss can’t get along without you but your paycheck doesn’t reflect that, it’s time to learn how to set goals at work to get what you deserve.

What to do: “Keep a list of all your projects and achievements. When it comes time for a meeting with your boss, confidently share your achievements and ask for a more visible or managerial role based on all that you have done,” Ettus says. “If this doesn’t work, it is time to find a work environment that values you.”

If your main concern is more money, speak out for that as well: “I’ve been at the company for over a year. I really love the work and appreciate the added responsibility you have given me,” Lerner suggests saying. “However, since my job description has increased, I would like a promotion—and a raise.”

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You don’t feel the division of responsibility is fair

The guilty party: Your husband

Research has consistently shown that in different-sex relationships, U.S. women do more unpaid household work than men—nearly two hours more per day, according to 2023 research from the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development. So it’s not surprising if you feel your husband has taken for granted the household work you do. And this inequality has also been directly linked to mental health issues in women, according to a 2022 study in The Lancet. If you want to be happier at home, you’ll have to address the problem.

What to do: Ettus suggests taking a practical approach by listing all responsibilities and divvying them up fairly. “Have a conversation over their favorite beverage, and make a list of all the things you each do for your home and family over the course of a week,” she says. “Trade lists, and unless you are partnered with a neanderthal, they will see the imbalance and want to make the list more even.”

cropped shot of businesswoman flirting with colleague at workplace in office
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You’re on the receiving end of deceptive flattery

The guilty party: Your co-worker

If there’s a co-worker showering you with admiration, marveling at how you do everything so well, this may be a sign he’s buttering you up for the wrong reasons. “Blinded by the rosy glow of false flattery, you fail to spot his true motive: using you to do his work,” cautions behavioral expert and attorney Wendy L. Patrick, PhD. “And since you ‘know everything,’ he never has to look up any information on his own—he can just ask you.” This is also a sign that you’re dealing with a toxic co-worker.

What to do: Don’t fall for this flattery scheme. Be thankful for the praise, but don’t let him put any of his duties on you. “Before you respond [to a request], ask yourself, ‘Will I feel resentful about this later if I say yes?’ If the answer is yes, then kindly decline,” says Martinez. “Don’t accept the additional responsibility if you have the slightest inkling that saying yes will leave you feeling resentful.”

Young Couple Staying Home
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He ignores your stated needs

The guilty party: Your significant other

Sometimes even after stating your needs, such as what you expect him to do for the kids or around the house, your spouse is still not receptive. If he continues to ignore your needs, further discussion is in order. “It takes courage to speak up for yourself, because you can’t know how someone will react to hearing your truth,” Lerner says. But if the relationship has any chance of surviving, these conversations need to happen to prevent drastic action like a breakup or divorce, because constantly being taken for granted is an untenable situation.

What to do: Be specific in communicating how you’re feeling after a previous conversation in which your needs were stated. For example, “I’m feeling overwhelmed by the way our household has been running,” Lerner suggests. “I told you that work is picking up this week and that I would need your help packing the kids’ lunches and putting them to bed. When you leave that for me to do, even though we agreed it would be too much for me, it makes me feel like I don’t have a partner.”

Additional reporting by Erica Lamberg.