Updated: Sep 6, 2021
This can happen gradually, but it doesn’t necessarily spell doom.
“That sounds pretty one-sided,” my friend said after I’d described an interaction with my partner that was much like many of our interactions.
She said it so casually, as if she was telling me her shirt was red. Yet, that day, it struck me like something much deeper. It struck me like it was truth.
Very few of our relationships start out one-sided because why would we choose to pursue being with them if that was the case?
But sometimes, for various reasons, a relationship will become one-sided. Someone slowly gets smaller and smaller while the other gets larger and larger. One person has all of the needs, while the other is needless.
At some point, you’ll realize that you don’t like how you feel when you’re around them, and you’ll feel drained after spending time with them and not be sure why.
Here are 5 signs your relationship has become one-sided.
1. Their needs are prioritized over your own.
Healthy relationships require balance. You may need to take up the slack sometimes, such as when your partner is ill or has a huge project for work, and vice-versa.
But let’s say you you’re ill or have a huge project at work and your partner doesn’t chip in or fusses at you for not doing your normal chores, then that’s a problem. Or let’s say that your partner consistently makes sure you do what they want to do instead of trading off.
That’s a sign that your partner’s needs matter more than your own.
How to fix it: Tell your partner how you feel and assert boundaries. “I feel concerned that your needs are being prioritized over mine. Can you help me get my need met by doing _____?”
2. You’re in charge of emotionally connecting.
Are you the one always initiating intimate conversations? Are you the one sliding over on the couch to cuddle up next to them or texting first throughout the day?
If so, then the labor of emotionally connecting has fallen solely to you. It’s extremely lonely when we are the only ones carrying our relationship, but that’s what happens when your partner doesn’t make regular bids for connection with you.
How to fix it: Attempt to be curious. “Is something bothering you? I’ve noticed that it seems like you haven’t wanted to emotionally connect as much lately.”
3. You consistently feel like you’re not enough or not doing enough.
When our efforts to emotionally connect with our partner don’t result in closer intimacy, we begin to feel like we’re the problem.
Maybe we’re doing something wrong. We’re not good enough. Kind enough. Loving enough. Good-looking enough.
We begin to feel like we should do more. We should compliment them more, make them their favorite meal, buy them that pair of sunglasses they’d talked about, clean the house more often, prioritize fun in the bedroom.
Unfortunately, these are both misbeliefs. In reality, we’re likely doing more than enough, but because our partner has become centered on themselves, they’re excluding us from getting the intimacy we are craving.
How to fix it: Open a line of dialogue: “Are you feeling loved by me? Because I feel like I’m not doing enough to show you how much I love you.”
4. You excuse, justify, and/or rationalize their behaviors.
“They’re really struggling at work.”
“They really need a break. I need to be more supportive.”
“They lost their job. Of course they’re not going to feel up to helping me out right now.”
“Once they get ____, then it’ll be different.”
Things happen. Truly. Good partners go through tough times and do need our support, love, and compassion.
But it needs to be a season, not a lifetime.
How to fix it: Recognize when you’re doing this, and evaluate if what you’re saying is actually true. You may be ignoring some truth or not asserting a boundary because you keep excusing their behavior.
5. You don’t feel safe to express how you feel.
“I feel abandoned whenever you bring work home, and you’ve been bringing work home nearly every night for months now,” you say.
“I can’t believe you’re bringing this up right now. You know that I’m trying to get that promotion! You’re NEVER supportive!” your partner explodes.
You clam up and don’t bring it up again. Why would you anyway if you’re going to get a reaction like that?
You may even run the conversation over and over in your head, believing you said it wrong. I should have phrased it thisother way, you think, and then maybe they wouldn’t have exploded like that.
But, in reality, you voiced your feelings in a perfectly reasonable manner, and your partner made you feel unsafe by lashing out at you for doing just that.
How to fix it: If your partner explodes at you, which may include yelling, name-calling, insults, etc., address that behavior first. “I will not respond to yelling, so if you continue to yell, I will need to leave.”
Don’t also get sucked into being defensive. You might, for example, want to respond with, “I AM supportive! Don’t you know that I’ve done X, Y, and Z for you?!?”
Instead, you could respond to that by saying something like, “I’m bringing it up now because I’ve been feeling lonely in our relationship, and I would like for us to connect. It’s important for me to be able to share my feelings in this relationship, and it needs to be safe for me to be able to do that.”
Not all one-sided relationships can be fixed because some people simply don’t want a relationship with us. They want one for them. If that’s the case, your best bet is in leaving and finding a more mutually beneficial relationship.
But if your relationship can be fixed, I hope the tips I’ve included above help!