The Truth About One Sided Relationships (And Tips on How to Deal)

Relationships are all about give and take. No matter how compatible you and your partner are, you are likely to disagree about somethings which will prompt one or both of you to compromise. In a balanced relationship, both partners recognize the importance of compromise and understand the give and take inherent in every relationship. The opposite of a balanced relationship is a one-sided relationship. A one-sided relationship, is a relationship in which one person invests more time, effort, emotions and even finances into a relationship. One-sided relationships are unbalanced and typically characterized by one person doing all the work to make things work. In a one-sided relationship one partner is totally invested, making efforts to support their partner and making sacrifices to keep the relationship afloat, while the other person skates by without reciprocating much of anything.

So, what are some telltale signs that a relationship is one-sided? You might be in a one-sided relationship if you feel like your partner’s calendar takes priority over you. Or if you are constantly making excuses for them as they consistently fall short. Or if being in the relationship makes you feel insecure because you sense a lack of commitment on their part. Another sign is that all the relationship responsibilities ~ big and small ~ fall on your shoulders without your partner giving things a second thought. While we are mostly talking about romantic relationships here, it’s totally possible for a platonic relationship to also be one-sided. Whether the relationship is romantic or platonic, the signs of a one-sided relationship will be pretty similar, and one person will feel unappreciated and undervalued.

Realizing you are stuck in a one-sided relationship can be tough and while the phrase “they’re just not that into you” might sound harsh, there might be some truth behind the comment. A partner that is really invested in a relationship will make sure that you feel like a priority, and they will be willing to change things in their life to make you a priority. In some cases, your partner might not be aware that they are not prioritizing you or reciprocating the amount of effort that you are investing into the relationship, so you might need to bring things to their attention so that they can change their behavior. But in other instances, they just won’t be willing to make the necessary changes... Regardless of why/how you ended up in a one-sided relationship, it’s important to recognize when it is happening so that you can either make some big changes or leave the relationship behind. Everyone deserves to feel loved, supported, prioritized and secure in their relationships. So, if you are not feeling that way because you’re stuck in a one-sided relationship, it’s time to make some changes.

Here are a few tips for how to deal with being stuck in a one-sided relationship:

  • Ask the important questions

One-sided relationships feel bad. Constantly having to make sacrifices and wondering where you stand with your partner can cause you to feel a lot of anxiety and self doubt. One-sided relationships are often characterized by more negativity than positivity, so if you are in a one-sided relationship, you probably know that something is not right. The first tip on how to deal with a one-sided relationship, is to recognize that you are in one. Doing this will require you to ask yourself some hard questions. Questions like, “am I fulfilled in this relationship?”, “do I feel comfortable around my partner?”, “do my partner and I make equal amounts of sacrifice to make the relationship work?”, and “do I feel supported by my partner”. These types of questions get at the one-sidedness of the relationship, and whether the relationship is really worth being in.

If you are in a one-sided relationship, it can be easy to make excuses for your partner’s bad behavior, especially if you really care about them and the relationship. But rather than make excuses for your partner, ask yourself these questions, and answer HONESTLY. This is often difficult to do because one-sided relationships are characterized by defensiveness and even gaslighting that can make you feel as if you’re out of line if you think that things are wrong. But asking yourself these types of questions and answering honestly will truly show what your relationship is like. And though it may be hard, forcing yourself to acknowledge the one-sidedness of the relationship is the first step to balancing things out or deciding to leave.

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  • Have a conversation

After you have asked yourself the important questions and come to the realization that you are in an unbalanced relationship, then it is time to have a conversation with your partner. Like we said before, it is entirely possible that your partner is unaware of the unbalanced nature of your relationship. After all, some people are just not that self aware. If you feel like you and your partner do not have the same amount of investment in the relationship, then bring this to their attention. Explain the ways in which you invest more time, emotion or fiances into the relationship. Actually spell out sacrifices you have made to keep the relationship afloat and ask them if they can identify doing similar things. Bringing these things to their attention, and asking them to change their behavior can be the first step in creating a more balanced relationship.

A lot of people can find themselves in unbalanced relationships, because of how their past relationships ended up. It’s possible that your partner has only even been in unbalanced relationships, and does not understand the role that compromise and sacrifice play in any serious, long term connection. It’s also possible that you are just on entirely different pages about what you want out of the relationship. Having an honest conversation about how you are feeling about the relationship and how the relationship makes you feel can bring the unbalanced nature to light, and help you and your partner start making moves to become more balanced.

  • Create boundaries

A lot of the time, one-sided relationships occur with a partner who is unable to establish and uphold healthy boundaries. Everyone has different boundaries for different things, which is why it is so important to have an explicit conversation about what you can and cannot tolerate in a relationship. Creating boundaries about communication and expectations can help you lay out ground rules for your relationship that help you feel respected and supported by your partner. Like we said, boundaries will look a bit different for different people, but there are some general boundaries that you can establish to promote a healthy, balanced relationship. These baselines boundaries include things like, the ability to say no without feeling guilty, the right to be treated with respect by your partner, the right to prioritize your needs to be as (and sometimes more) important than others, and the right to not meet unrealistic expectations people may have for you. While these things may seem rather basic, it can be harder than you initially think to establish these healthy boundaries in a relationship.

Individuals with people pleasing tendencies will often ignore their own needs in an attempt to please people around them or go with the flow. Other people have a hard time standing up for themselves and saying no, especially in a new relationship when they want things to be fun and conflict free. But establishing clear boundaries early on is essential for creating space in a relationship to take care of yourself and your needs. Failing to do so will set a precedent early on that your needs do not matter, or that your needs can be trumped by your partners needs. This is what often sets the stage for unbalanced relationships. Just remember that it’s never too early to discuss boundaries with your partner. And while the conversations can be difficult, it’s not a one time thing. People’s boundaries change over time, and it’s important to periodically check-in with your partner to make sure that you are both on the same page about your boundaries.

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  • Work on growth

Even when you are in a relationship, it’s important to prioritize self growth and self care. In order to have the space in your relationship to focus on self growth, you need to create boundaries that allow for self-care and prioritizing your needs. And after creating those boundaries, it’s important to take time to actually pursue self growth and self care. At this point this phrase might sound a bit like a broken record, but self growth and self care will look different for everyone. Some people will pursue journaling, finding that putting pen to paper helps them maintain a positive mental space and create goals moving forward. For other people it’s all about exercising and eating well, nourishing the mind-body connection to improve moods and have the energy to meet your goals. For others self care can look like meditation, or using positive affirmations. And for others, it can be necessary to have a trained counselor or therapist aid in the journey for self growth and self care.

Regardless of what self growth looks like for you, it’s important that you take time and space to prioritize this in your relationship. Focusing on self improvement and self care will help you understand what your needs are in the relationship and stand up for those needs if they are not being met by a partner. By focusing inward, you will learn about things that are truly important and non-negotiable for you. And you will be able to communicate this to your partner to make sure your needs are being met. If you have done the work, and find that your partner is not willing to respect your boundaries, or make the necessary changes, then focusing on self growth and self care will give you the strength to walk away from the relationship and be okay.

  • Walk away from the relationship

If your partner has no intention to start compromising, or otherwise changing their actions, then it is time for you to move on. As difficult as it can feel to arrive at this decision, it’s absolutely necessary for you to realize when it is time to move on, and to act on this realization. One-sided relationships are normally pretty great for the partner that is not totally invested or is not compromising at all, which means that they often will not want to break up. Which also means that it will be up to you to end things. As hard as it can be to walk about from a relationship that you are invested in, it’s important to look at the current state of the relationship, not the potential of the relationship. All relationships have the potential to be loving, supportive and respectful, but that is not the reality for one-sided relationships, especially if your partner is unwilling to make any changes.

If after recognizing that the relationship is one-sided, talking about the one-sided nature of your connection, working on setting boundaries and working on self care the relationship still isn’t fitting your needs, then know that you have done all that you can, and that it is time to walk away. A lot of people want to feel as if they have done all that they can before calling things off, but that’s not a requirement before ending things. Many people find that they do not have the emotional energy to try to deal with fixing a one-sided relationship.

Doing the work to create balance in a relationship can be taxing, especially if you already feel as if you are over-exerting in your relationship. If things just don’t feel right, or if you are feeling stressed, anxious or guilty most of the time because of your relationship, then it’s also time to walk away. You don’t have to do the emotional work if you are not willing to. Knowing when to walk away, and not feeling guilty about doing so is also a boundary that you should know and respect.

Whether you’re beginning your self-love journey or are looking for relationship advice, Relish can help. Work through quizzes and coaching to gain a deeper understanding of your relationship, your partner and yourself. Don’t wait, try our award winning relationship app free for 7 days.


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