In a perfect world, both partners would work toward the success of their relationship, but sometimes when a
partner is not contributing enough to the relationship, it could be hard to even things out. Sometimes the burden falls on one person, who becomes solely responsible for doing chores, remembering important dates, juggling to-do lists, and basically making relationship magic happen, all while their partner sits idly by (or, at least, contributes to a way lesser degree).
This dynamic may sneak up on you, usually because it feels OK at first. But, as the years go by, if your partner consistently lets you down, it can lead to feelings of frustration, stress, and outright resentment. And rightfully so.
"A partnership, by definition, means participating in an undertaking together,"
life coach Bridget Chambers tells Bustle. "Partners aren't perfect, but they should feel stable, loyal, and willing to work. If those qualities seem hard to come by, there is an imbalance that needs to be addressed."
While you've likely tried to share your frustration in the past, it's important to keep it up. When things feel like too much to handle, open up about your feelings, Chambers says. "You might be surprised as to how much more balanced the relationship feels, when you have the courage to ask for help."
Here are a few signs experts say it may be time to do just that, so that you can get on the road to a fair and balanced relationship, where both you
and your partner contribute in meaningful ways.
They're Unreliable And Unpredictable
There's a big difference between a partner who does a chore as a "favor" once a week if you live together, and one who does them without being asked. If the former seems like your partner, the unpredictability and unfairness of it all can be draining, as well as a
sign things are unfair.
"If you feel like you can't predict whether or not your partner can be responsible for completing chores, following through on favors, etc., this is a clear sign of an unfair relationship," licensed marriage and
family therapist Dr. Racine Henry, PhD, LMFT tells Bustle. "[N]either partner should feel like they are doing all the work required to maintain [your] lifestyle."
You Have To Make All The Big Decisions
Are you the one who calls the shots? While this may just be the dynamic in your relationship — and that's OK, if you both agree to it — take note if it starts to feel like a burden.
"If you find yourself doing all of the decision making in your relationship — from where you’ll go out for dinner to when the bills should be paid — then your partner is not putting their fair share into the relationship," says Jalesa Tucker, content and digital coordinator for the
One Love Foundation. Tucker says that, over time, this imbalance can cause you to feel depleted, and even burnt out.
You Don't Have Any Free Time Left Over
"Think about your weekly routine," Henry says. "Are you running yourself ragged trying to get errands/chores done before and after work? Do you have a constant to-do list running through your brain while you're doing anything? Is all your extra money being put towards things that benefit ... your partner?"
In a fair and balanced relationship, your partner would
also have a list of things to do running through their head. But if they don't, everything will fall to you, resulting in an overpacked schedule and no energy left over at the end of the week. If you're feeling run down because you are assuming most of the responsibilities of your relationship, open up to your partner and share your concerns. If they want to make the relationship work, they will find a way to take the burden off of you.
You're Blamed When Things Fall Apart
In an unbalanced relationship, it's often far too easy for your partner to expect things a certain way, while lacking any appreciation for how they got that way in the first place.
"So the cable is off and your partner is texting you asking what happened," Henry says. "There are dishes piled all over the sink with company on the way and your partner asks why you didn't clean up in time. The bad is your fault and the good goes unnoticed because it is expected." If you both live together, and this is the case, it may be worth it to sit down and figure out how to distribute responsibilities more evenly, so your partner doesn't always expect you to get things done.
You Have Ongoing Stress & Anxiety
It makes sense why this type of unfair, unbalanced relationship would result in feelings of stress and anxiety. As Henry says, "Side effects could be loss of sex drive due to resentment and anger. You could be experiencing irritability and a short temper because your partner has no idea that they are being unfair. And worst of all, you may start to feel a loss of connection because you expect the person you love to offer to help or at least ask if they can do anything to lighten your load." But your partner may not even realize this is the case, which is why it may be a good idea to talk with them.
You Often Feel The Need To "Go On Strike"
If your partner lets you down, or never asks to help, it can lead to feelings of resentment. And that can cause you to throw in the proverbial (or literal) towel.
"Eventually, this can result in you 'going on strike' and purposely not doing [the] laundry or picking up [your partner's] prescriptions when you get yours, because you want [them] to take care of it [themselves]," relationship therapist Rhonda Milrad, LCSW, founder of the only community
RelationUp, tells Bustle. "This behavior can come across as petty, hostile, and distancing to your partner, especially if they feel that they pull their weight in other areas."
Though you may be frustrated, "going on strike" may not be the most direct way to let your partner know what's bothering you. Instead, address your concerns with them head on, and think of ways to distribute your workload more evenly, especially if you live together.
Scheduling Has Become Your Part-Time Job
In unbalanced relationships, experts say it often falls on one partner to remember everything — birthdays, events, and holidays, etc. — to the point where it can feel like your brain is just one big, messy calendar.
"You are bombarded with texts, emails, or phone messages about things you are in charge of that you need to handle and that they would like you to report back to them about," Milrad says. "You feel that they are assigning you tasks and that everything seems to be falling on your plate. Their job seems to be micromanaging your work." And if their job doesn't include taking the time to help out, it's time for a chat.
They Can't Seem To Return The Favor
You might also notice that you go out of your way to do things for your partner, but they can't quite seem to do the same. Perhaps you bring them coffee in the morning, while they often make theirs without asking if you want any. Or maybe you always make dinner when you're the one to return home first, but notice that your partner only makes food for themselves.
"Every healthy relationship requires balance,"
therapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW tells Bustle. "Sometimes one partner does more but the balance should shift freely." She says that, if your partner can't ever seem to return these types of favors, it might be a sign things are unbalanced.
You Feel Isolated And Alone
Unfairness can go beyond to-do lists and chores, though. "If you’re feeling unsupported, isolated or alone, despite being with your partner, it may be a sign that they aren’t contributing what you need from them emotionally," Caitlin Bergstein, a matchmaker at
Three Day Rule, tells Bustle.
You want your partner to meet you halfway when it comes to running your lives, but also when it comes to giving and receiving emotional support. If they aren't doing that, share your concerns with them, and strategize ways to make sure your needs are being met.
You Feel Tense When They Arrive Home
If you live with your partner, take note of how you feel when you both get home after a long day. If you feel tense or angry, it might be that they are "a reminder of how many things in your household are your sole responsibility,"
couples therapist Julienne B. Derichs, LCPC tells Bustle. "You may begin to feel not cared for and that your [significant other] is insensitive to your needs or what is most important to you."
You Simply Feel Like Things Aren't Fair
Clinical psychologist Dr. Josh Klapow tells Bustle that the only sign that really matters is that you feel like things aren't fair. "Because whether your partner is contributing or not, your feeling that they aren’t is going to effect the relationship," he says.
So, regardless of whether or not things are truly unfair, or it just seems that way, let your partner know how you feel. "Let them know that you feel like there is too much work, too much effort, and more than you can sustain," he says. "Don’t focus your communication on what you think your partner is
not doing, as much as focusing on how you feel. Say things like, 'I feel overwhelmed, or 'I feel like the relationship is unbalanced.'"
Once you open up the line of discussion, you can work out ways to balance the relationship, so everyone's happy.