An ideal relationship is a perfect balance of give and take. A two-way street where effort is equally matched.
Unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world, but a healthy relationship is one where you give and take and where your partner gives and takes. Not one where you keep on giving and the other person just takes, takes, and takes some more.
But how do you know your relationship is one-sided? Are there signs to watch out for?
I’ve done a deep dive into the topic of one-sided relationships, and here’s everything you need to know.
What Is a One-Sided Relationship?
Before I go into what a one-sided relationship is, I want to point out something really important.
We all have up and down days. Sometimes on the “feeling blue” days, we need to take more love, care, and support from our partner to help us. Or it could be your partner who needs more from you on their down days.
This DOESN’T mean your relationship isn’t balanced.
On days when you are doing well, do you give to your partner?
On days when your partner is well, do they give to you?
If you answer yes, and you know that give and take isn’t 50-50 every day but there’s an overall balance, then you are in a two-way relationship where you and your partner work to make your relationship work.
A one-sided relationship is VERY wonky. It is a one-man-ship (because it ain’t a partnership or relationship if we’re honest) where one of you does everything.
That person (or designated driver of the relationship) puts in all the effort, provides all the support and love and care, and continues to give and give. The other person just takes and takes and takes, giving very little or basically nothing at all (they are a passenger).
There is no equal reciprocity, no balance, and no meaningful connection. In general, one person gives more energy – physically, mentally, and emotionally – while the other person wields more control.
9 Signs You Are One-Siding It in Your Relationship
Realizing you are in a one-sided relationship may be easy – it feels as if you do everything for your partner and you get nothing or precious little in return. But maybe they are just going through a bad patch, and your partner needs more from you.
In this case, it may feel like the relationship is unbalanced, but if you both have a healthy partnership, things will return to a normal balance.
If you have doubts or suspicions that your relationship is one-sided, here are the signs to look out for:
1. You Take All or Most of the Responsibility.
When you and your partner have a fight or argument, do you feel like you need to apologize and take responsibility to make amends?
If you answered yes, then your relationship is one-sided. A balanced, healthy relationship is one where both individuals share responsibility and both work together to make amends.
2. You Self-Sacrifice.
A partnership isn’t equal or about give and take when one person self-sacrifices everything to make the other person happy. You are likely not even meeting your own needs and wants or practicing self-love or self-care because you are doing everything you can to make your partner happy.
You are the one holding up your relationship, and if you let go, you’ll find that there isn’t a relationship to begin with.
You are worthy, and you deserve to have someone in your life who wants to meet your wants and needs too.
3. You Initiate Everything.
I’ve already mentioned how it is mostly the one partner that continues to give and give in a one-sided relationship (well, honestly it’s more like all of the time).
Related to being the one that does all the giving is also how you initiate everything.
You start every conversation.
You do all the planning – where you are going for date night (and by the way, I’m sure date night was YOUR idea), where you go on vacation, whose parents you are visiting this weekend, and what you are eating for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
And you initiate all other kinds of interaction too. A hug. A kiss. Sexy time.
Sound like you in your one-sided relationship?
4. You Feel Insecure.
Even though it may seem like you are the one with power in your relationship because you give, and you show up, and you are there, and you initiate (almost) everything, you don’t. And you feel insecure.
You don’t know where you stand with the other person. You doubt your partner’s intentions, investment in your relationship, and commitment. You probably don’t even know if they see you for you and love you.
Are they just with you because it’s convenient and you take care of them?
5. You Pay for a Lot.
When you give in your relationship, you give financially too.
Do you find that you pay for everything?
Your mortgage or rent? Food and other groceries? Date nights, weekends away, and vacations? Your kid’s school fees, extracurricular activities, medication, and toys? Your partner’s (expensive) hobbies to keep them happy?
Does your partner ever offer to pay for anything, or do they just expect you to be the cash cow and pick up the tab (whether you can actually afford to or not)?
A balanced relationship requires that both partners chat about their shared finances, draw up a budget, and decide who will pay for what.
If one partner earns more and they are happy to pay for more, then that’s okay. But not all of the financial responsibility should fall on your shoulders, and especially not where it’s just expected you’ll pay.
6. You Make Excuses.
Have you realized that something is amiss in your relationship? Have you pinpointed the problem that you are in a one-sided relationship, but then you continue to make excuses for your partner?
Do you think to yourself: “Aw, Sam is just having a bad day.” “Sam’s having a hectic and stressful time at work with the new promotion.” “At least Sam made dinner yesterday. Sure, it was the first time this year, but it counts, right?”
Or maybe they’ve shared with you why they have commitment or intimacy issues. Did their ex cheat on them? Were they abused as a child?
In your mind, you think they were emotionally intimate with you because they shared something personal, so you excuse them for all their flaws. You’ve become comfortable with them denying your needs.
What happens if you don’t make excuses, don’t continue to enable them, admit that your partner just wants to take and take, and realize they aren’t concerned about losing you (but you are overly worried about losing them)?
Stop seeing your partner for the “potential” they bring to the relationship but that never materializes or actualizes.
7. Your Partner Isn’t There for You.
Do you feel seen, loved, and valued in your relationship? Does your partner show up when you need them?
Or does your partner only show up or reach out when they want something from you? Or maybe they do for you – irregularly – but only when there’s a payoff for them (and they want to keep you invested in the relationship).
It’s a definite red flag of a one-sided relationship when your partner isn’t there for you when you need them to be – whether you asked them to show up or not.
8. You Have More Negative Emotions When You Think About Your Relationship.
Feeling more negative about your relationship than feeling positive about it is another sign that not everything is hunky-dory. Do you feel guilt, shame, anxiety, and resentment when you think about your partner and relationship as a whole?
Do these emotions overshadow any positives? If you answer yes, then your partnership is one-sided.
9. You Are Beyond Stressed Out.
Are you the one who is always worrying about your partner, what they are doing, and about your relationship in general? Do you feel like you need to bend over backward to try and show your partner that you are worthy, that you love them, and that you want them?
It feels like a guessing game, doesn’t it? I think of holding a daisy and picking off the petals, saying “He loves me… He loves me not…”
You probably feel anxious, emotionally exhausted, and blue all of the time, and the guessing game is very destructive to your mental health.
You should be happy when you are in a relationship with someone. It shouldn’t feel like you are about to have a nervous breakdown because you just never have surety.
Final Thoughts on One-Sided Relationships
Staying in a one-sided relationship may seem easy. It’s what you are used to and what you know. Ending the relationship and letting go is scary, but often something you need to do – for your own sanity.
If you are wondering if you can make your one-sided-ship a healthy and balanced relationship and partnership, the answer is I don’t know. You can’t change the other person – they need to want to change and they need to learn how to give.
You can go for couples counseling or even have an honest chat with your loved one. Ultimately, you need to decide if it’s worth it for you to stay.