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How I Handled Four Relationships That Totally Took Me For Granted

This is why you keep feeling taken for granted.

Love & Relationships

Not too long ago, while being interviewed, I was first given a compliment and then asked a question. The compliment was, "You seem to have a lot of wisdom in your words." The question was, "How do you keep from getting arrogant whenever people tell you that?" Anyone who writes in the self-help lane knows that writing can be its ultimate form of therapy. In other words, more times than not, when I'm writing on things like self-esteem, self-awareness and relationships, I am getting my own self free just as much as I am trying to free others. Therefore, there is no time or even reason to get cocky. The messages are typically for the messenger—first. And y'all, no truer words could be spoken than when it comes to this…topic…right…here.

If I could find a way to turn the phrase "taken for granted" into my license plate, believe me, I would. I have spent more time than I'd care to admit feeling just that way. Honestly, it's probably only been the past couple of years or so that I've gotten away from being in that kind of head and heart space. A part of what's changed is I've spent time studying things like codependency and narcissism (when those two kinds of people come together, you can best believe it's gonna be a hot mess!). Another thing that went down is I've been more intentional about taken "relationship inventory" on a regular basis; I've evaluated if my relationships are mutually healthy and mutually beneficial on an annual basis. And, perhaps most importantly, I've made the decision to not put myself in the position where I feel taken for granted any longer. And just how did I pull that off? Well, that's where this article comes in.

If you look up the actual definition of "taken for granted", it says this—"to expect someone or something to be always available to serve in some way without thanks or recognition; to value someone or something too lightly". If you feel like people don't recognize or appreciate you, which ultimately means that they don't value what you bring into their life, there's no time like the present to make a few changes so that you can stop feeling like that. So that you can actually get to the point of believing—and then living your life like—something that actor and singer Mae West once said—"I believe that it's better to be looked over than it is to be overlooked."

In order to do that, you have to see the patterns that are creating this type of outcome. Over the course of the next few minutes, I'll share four of my own relationships, the patterns that I recognized and how they helped me to stop feeling taken for granted all of the time (by them).

Four Relationships That Took Me for Granted and How I Got Free

(*Names Have Been Changed to Protect the Guilty*)

*APRIL: “Being taken for granted is an unpleasant but sincere form of praise. Ironically, the more reliable you are, and the less you complain, the more likely you are to be taken for granted.”—Gretchen Rubin

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This. Chick. Right. Here. If there is a relationship that is the poster child example of what it means to be taken for granted, she would be it. Looking back, I think it was because, when we met, things were already off-balance. My self-esteem was pretty low and that always subjected me to what I call "pretty girl syndrome". Meaning, I would be so enamored when a so-called pretty girl even paid me a bit of attention. It was kind of like when the mean girl clique at school lets you sit at their table. You are so busy feeling validated that you don't even notice the web that they are spinning around you; the agenda that they have already conjured up. Then you're so grateful that they pay you any attention at all that you end up being a fan more than a friend; you end up giving way more than you receive.

And here's the thing about these types of dynamics. It's not like there aren't some good times and good memories. Matter of fact, it's those that keep you around far more than you should. But it's just that, when you sit back and think about all that you've done vs. what they've done in return, things don't add up. To tell you the truth, I'm embarrassed by how much money I spent on my "friendship" with April. Over the course of several years, it's been literally thousands of dollars. Meanwhile, I have a five-dollar ring that she bought at some museum and supposedly she bought a pack of lip gloss for me one Christmas that she lost. Not only did she lose it, she was extremely flippant about it when she told me. Countless times she would invite me to her house and fall asleep while I was talking, invite me to lunch and then ask me to foot the bill, and would cry on my shoulder whenever one of her own so-called friends would mistreat her, only to "halfway see me" once they reconciled. In short, it was a friendship of convenience for her and total inconvenience for me. No wonder I felt totally taken for granted.

These kind of people? They aren't the ones who can hear that they are taking you for granted. That's because if you're not constantly telling them about how awesome they are, they are going to play the victim and act like you are attacking them (or are jealous of them). So usually, the best thing to do is just…release them. Not cut them off (that is such a violent way of handling things); just, stop investing so much when you're not getting the same type of time, effort and energy in return.

These days, whenever I see April, as one of my boys say, "It's love" in the sense that she doesn't piss me off. Nor do I even try and avoid her. At the same time, I'm not proactive about the relationship anymore either. One thing about remaining close to those who take you for granted is they can drain you to the point where you're not as available to those who actually do pour into your life; which isn't fair to your true friends. Basically, I give April the same type of energy she gives me, which isn't much, which keeps us both from getting worn out. Problem solved.

*MICHAEL: “Even the strongest feelings expire when they are ignored and taken for granted.”—Unknown

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Remember how I said that a part of what got me out of the destructive pattern of being in relationships with people who took me for granted was that I studied narcissism? Well, a YouTube channel that provided me with quite a few light bulb moments is Assc Direct. He actually has a video entitled "Why You Get Taken for Granted". In his intro, this is what he says:

"If you gave a two-year-old a one-hundred dollar bill, and you left for a length of time, I can almost guarantee you that you will not come back to the same hundred dollar bill…this is because a two-year-old cannot recognize, cannot understand and does not understand the value of that hundred dollar bill. So, to them, it gets treated the same as any other sheet of paper."

Do you see where he's going with this? Narcissism is a beast because, if you don't know all that much about it, you can find yourself in the kind of situation that I was in with Michael. Michael was smart, funny and handsome. Michael was charming as hell. Michael and I had a lot in common. To this day, Michael is also one of the most narcissistic people I've ever met. His sense of self-entitlement, coupled with his arrogance and lack of empathy for other people's pain (including the pain that he tends to cause) created the perfect scenario for me to give and give and give, and for him to take and take and take. What's really sad is, whenever my self-esteem would nudge me and say, "Girl, what the hell are you doing?!" and I would bring my feelings to him, he would do something else that is a signature narcissistic trait; he would deflect and somehow try and make my discontent be totally my fault.

What caused me to finally remove myself from Michael and his grandiose selfishness is I realized just what the video said. It takes a sense of humility and maturity to appreciate the value that someone brings into your life. People who are extremely self-important and/or emotionally stunted don't really care about nurturing or preserving relationships. Why? Basically it's because their pride makes them think that people are disposable and that other folks are lining up to take the place of the ones that they dismiss.

If you are in a relationship, whether it be personal or professional, with a narcissist, sociopath or selfish individual, I can promise you that it is only a matter of time before you will feel taken for granted by them. Set boundaries. Guard your heart (Proverbs 4:23). Also, study the traits of those kinds of individuals. Then, accept that the late and great Maya Angelou once warned us about—"When people show you who they are…believe them." Don't try and change them. Don't seek to overcompensate for where they lack. Believe them and then decide if you want to participate in a one-sided relationship. Or not. If you stay, accept what comes along with it—consistently being taken for granted.

*MICHELLE: “Sometimes you need to distance yourself from people. If they care, they’ll notice. If they don’t, you know where you stand.”—D. Crysis

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Last fall, I wrote a piece for the site entitled "I Was 'Ghosted' By My Best Friend". Long story short, it was about a friend of mine who, after over 30 years of friendship, they vanished into thin air. Well, that's not completely true. After they went through a life situation that totally infected their character and totally drained me in the process and I brought that fact to their attention while also letting them know that, moving forward, I was going to require more reciprocity, they vanished.

Some people might say that since that is the way they chose to handle matters that they were never really my friend to begin with. Eh. We've been through enough together where I'll give some push back on that. What I will say is that while Michelle was caught up in her totally dysfunctional situation, something that came out of her mouth, more than once, was she wasn't sure if she knew what true love was or if she actually loved anyone in a healthy manner.

Because there was so much time and experience between us, although I heard what Michelle said, I still tried to hang in there. But now that I've healed from the ending of that friendship, what I have come to accept is, you can never really have a healthy relationship with someone who isn't healthy. And since she said that she didn't know what love is or even if she was capable of loving someone, her confusion had automatically put me into the crossfire. Therefore, it's no wonder that it was so easy for Michelle to "get ghost" on me.

Love is loyal. Ambiguity is unreliable.

The lesson here is this—It's unrealistic to look for perfection in a person or a relationship. But when it comes to your close intimate circle, make sure that you connect yourself with individuals who have a healthy sense of self. Otherwise, they aren't really all that equipped to love you well and, since they are so emotionally all over the place, it can be expected for them to be there one day and gone the next. They won't really notice that they don't value you because, honestly, they don't value their own selves very much either. Therein lies a huge part of the problem.

DAVID*: “When you're always there for people they stop appreciating you because your favors are now an expectation.”—Unknown

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Sometimes, feeling taken for granted isn't rooted in anything super dramatic. It simply comes from a lack of clear communication between friends. So is the case with me and David. David is my man, one-hundred grand. But when he first came into my life, he was so giving and I was so not used to it, that when I started to give in return, even I can see that I was overdoing it. I started making it my mission to try and meet his needs, even before he had them, which eventually put me in the position of "doing" all of the time and him not giving as much.

After about a year or so, I brought up to him that it didn't seem like he was as much of a participant in the friendship as he used to be. It was interesting what he told me in response. He said that in most of his other friendships, he was used to being the one who had to do all of the work. So, with me, it started out being the same way. Then, when I came along and "trumped" his giving, he was so taken aback that he admits that he slacked off because he liked actually being on the receiving end. Ever since that conversation, he and I have been working on being more "even" in our giving to one another. It's not about "keeping tabs" so much as "taking each other's temperature", just to make sure that we're both getting our needs met.

And y'all, I think this is a great place to bring this particular piece to a close.

A lack of communication is one of the main things that can make someone feel as if they are being taken for granted. If you sit on those feelings for too long, you can become so resentful or even angry that you assume your friend, family member or loved one doesn't appreciate you when, the reality is, they had absolutely no idea that you felt the way that you did.

Bottom line—none of us like to feel as if we are being taken for granted. When you feel that way, it's a clear red flag to share those emotions with the people you are in relationship with. If they do indeed value you, if they can clearly pinpoint the worth that you hold in their life, they will put forth the effort to make some changes. If they don't, well, now you know where you stand, right? Now, if you choose to stay, you are the one who is taking yourself for granted. And isn't that a big ole' buffet plate food for thought?

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:

Self-Truths That Will Stop You From Settling For Less

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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