It is my firm belief that the only acts of help that count as such are the ones that the person who is being helped has requested. Every unsolicited act of assistance is, in reality, a manipulation strategy. There are different bonuses that fake helpmeets try to garner through their unsolicited assistance. Here is a little list of what manipulative helpers usually strive to accomplish:
1. The most innocuous and easy to deal with breed of helpmeets are people who have read too many self-help books of the How To Win Friends and Influence People kind. They have bought into the myth that you need to demonstrate to people how doing what you want them to do will ultimately benefit them. These well-meaning folks have no idea how condescending their Dale Carnegie-inspired fake concern for others actually is. To give an example, I've been recently contacted by a colleague who said, "Look, I want to do you a huge favor. Let's do what I propose, and it will benefit you a lot." As a grown-up, intelligent individual who is more than capable of looking out for her own needs, I did not appreciate this manner of framing the request and refused it. Had the person honestly told me, "Look, I need a huge favor from you. It would be great if you could do this for me, but I'll totally understand it if you refuse. In return, I'd be willing to do X, Y, or Z for you, in case you ever need it", I would have been a lot more receptive to the request.
2. The second category of fake helpers are the ones I call sacrificial lambs. These people make it their life's goal to burn at the stake of other people's needs. All day and every day they bustle around trying to benefit humanity which neither asked nor wanted their solicitous care. Such people would be genuinely surprised if you told them that what they are is users. They use their unsolicited help to others to avoid taking care of their own problems. I knew a guy like that in grad school. He would spend inordinate amounts of time reading chapters of everybody's dissertations, helping people to create conference presentations, and editing their articles. In the meanwhile, his own dissertation had been stuck on page 15 for two years in a row, he didn't have a single publication, and didn't go to any conferences.
I used to be such a person myself a while ago. I dedicated my life to listening to people's love troubles, offering them a shoulder to cry on, and dispensing useful relationship advice. In reality, though, I couldn't care less about these folks. I just needed them to explain to myself why I had no time or energy left to take care of my own crappy personal life.
3. The next subclass of fake helpmeets are guilt-trippers. These folks thrive on doing things for you and then telling you triumphantly how their health has suffered and their work has been sadly neglected while they have been busting their asses trying to do things for you. Your guilt and feeling of indebtedness that can never be exorcised because they accept nothing but you eternal guilt as a reward are all they seek. Such people are very likely to exaggerate the extent of their help to you and regale others with stories of how much they had done for the horrible, ungrateful you for years to come.
Once, I was shopping with an acquaintance and discovered that I had left my wallet at home and couldn't pay for the pair of shoes that I wanted. I was perfectly happy with leaving and coming back for the shoes on the next day. The acquaintance, however, insisted that I let her pay for the shoes. I accepted the loan and repaid it on the next day in full. Imagine my horror when, years from then, I heard another acquaintance tell me how this person had been telling everybody in sight about how I used to borrow money from her on a regular basis. The amount of loans that I supposedly requested from her had grown almost tenfold.
4. The last and the deadliest category of helpers are those who are sincerely and passionately convinced that they know how to improve your life. These people are scary because they are fanatically convinced that their intentions are good and pure. They decide that your partner doesn't treat you right and set out to destroy this relationship that they find to be all wrong. They try to prevent you from spending time with people they believe are not good for you. I knew a guy who used to get into his wife's email account and delete messages that invited her to participate in university committees because he believed she was overworked and needed to rest more. Another acquaintance mixed anti-depressants into her partner's food because she had decided he was depressed and in need of medication.
And, of course, they are also the same people who want to impose their knowledge of what's best on poor, miserable, silly and helpless inhabitants of other countries. If need be, they are willing to impose their vision of what's right through the use of deadly force. There is no arguing with such folks because their conviction that they are in possession of some higher form of knowledge that can benefit humanity at large is clad in armor that has not a single chink in it.