5 Signs Your Energy Is Being Drained By A 'Help-Rejecting Complainer'

They expect a lot and yet give so little in return.

woman feeling like she's drowning Engin Akyurt | Pexels

It isn’t hard to look around our modern-day culture and find a plethora of help-rejecting complainers. They expect a lot and yet give so little in return. They whine, complain, argue, belittle, and bully.

They wait around and expect people to cater to them. They put in so little work and effort but expect overwhelming success and support despite their failure to give the same, while they only complain with an air of superiority.


A help-rejecting complainer is all complaints and has no substance, only judgment and projection.

You probably know a help-rejecting complainer through work, or you might be dating one. There might be one in your family. Like a Halloween ghost, they jump out from nowhere and scare you. It's no treat.

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Five signs you're being drained by a help-rejecting complainer.

1. Your gas tank is empty.

You always feel tired but not from work or because you're getting over a cold. You're tired and need to sleep. When you rest, you might feel OK for a while, but it isn't enough.


You. Literally. Don't. Have. Energy. You can't figure out why (assuming you are cleared of any medical issue by your physician).

If you're in a relationship with a help-rejecting complainer, your energy drains from you constantly. As one person said, "I feel like I'm always walking around on eggshells around this person. I don't want to make them mad."

Solution: Get adequate rest. Turn off your computer and phone, and put a request in for vacation days if you have them. If you're self-employed, limit the hours you commit to being open to managing other people's urgent crises. In psychology, there's a term for non-emergency "emergencies." We call them "C.O.W.s," or Crisis of the Week.



Photo: Mangostar via Shutterstock

2. You're easily irritated by the small stuff.

The trash isn't taken out, or your child won't listen to you. You catch yourself screaming at someone for any tiny infraction. You become a person you don't like — eye-rolling, impatient, and demanding of others.

You don’t feel true to yourself or act like you do with other people. It could be that the help-rejecting complainer, as explained above, has spent their time draining your last reserves of energy and patience.

Solution: Be patient with yourself. Give yourself five minutes at the end of the day to decompress. Check in with yourself. Ask yourself what your needs are. And, really listen.


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3. You find yourself doing all the work.

You initiate social outings, appointments, meetings, everything. The help-rejecting complainer doesn’t. If you have to cancel a meeting or reschedule, this upsets them terribly. They may even spread rumors about you (yes, we're back in high school) and turn the situation around. You feel like it is your fault your partner was sick. Now, you have to reschedule your lunch plans with them.

Think of Meryl Streep's character in The Devil Wears Prada, where Anne Hathaway spends her time catching up with unrealistic demands. Nothing pleases Meryl Streep. Meryl looks down her nose and reprimands Anne. In group therapy, Existential Psychiatrist Irvin Yalom refers to this type of person as the "Help-Rejecting Complainer," a person who asks for help but will dismiss all advice, making the helper feel downright useless!

Solution: Stop helping. Stop initiating. Create a space to objectively assess the contributions this individual adds to your life. Once you give the situation some space (we call it boundaries), it’s easier to be more equitable.




4. You overcompensate.

This typically is related to the same fear of walking on eggshells mentioned above. There is anxiety about the other person’s rage. There’s fear of disappointing the other (which, to the entitled individual, is almost a certainty). They sweetly and gently ask you to do one favor. You end up doing three.

You are put in an uncomfortable position and asked to cover for them. For example, the help-rejecting complainer skips out of work early, after lunch, so they ask you to butter up the boss with compliments on their character. You’re told they need to get out of work early every Friday because it is necessary for their peace of mind.

This type of behavior strikes me as being increasingly dangerous. It reminds me of how abusers 'groom' their victims. They don't go immediately for the 'jugular' per se. They work up to it. By the time you are caught in their web — it's too late. They have you exactly where they want you, and it is extremely difficult to escape the pattern.


Solution: Be vigilant. Again, maintain firm boundaries, even if that means they will dump rage on you. Think about parenting. Would you give in every time your toddler asked you for ice cream because they had a sweet look in their eyes, and you wanted some?

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5. Your needs go last or don't exist.

They cancel on you at the last minute because they found a better party to attend. You only figure this out after you check your Instagram feed.


They take a huge helping of "Me first" and never consider asking you how you are doing. You usually don’t hear from them unless the situation they are involved in will benefit them. They will get a promotion, money, or another reward for participating. Your needs are an afterthought. If they do not see a benefit, they likely will bail or not even show up.

Solution: Put yourself first. They have no intention to do so. Do not bend to their expectations to avoid a fight. Make an appointment with yourself. Have a day at the spa. Take your dog to the dog park. Go for a drive into nature; whatever it is, do it. Give yourself the best quality time.

The most important lesson to learn about being involved with a help-rejecting complainer is to remember they were this way long before you knew them.

If you choose not to involve yourself in their messy, entangled web any longer, it is their loss, not yours.


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Maxine Langdon Starr, Ph.D., LMFT is a marriage and family therapist specializing in adolescents and young adults, partner/owner of Sunflower Therapies, professor of psychology at Brandman University, and motivational speaker on self-esteem.