You should always feel like equal partners in a relationship, but it's surprising how frequently it just doesn't work out that way. Sometimes, one partner puts in more work than the other — and sometimes, it's a lot more. “A one-sided relationship is imbalanced, where one partner is doing and giving more to the relationship than the other,” Anita Chlipala, LMFT, licensed marriage and family therapist and author of First Comes Us: The Busy Couple’s Guide to Lasting Love, tells Bustle. “If the person who was contributing more suddenly stopped, the relationship would crumble,” she says, adding, “although tit-for-tat is not a healthy mindset in a relationship, it’s important to notice if there’s little reciprocity — then that’s a red flag.”
Not all give-and-take is going to be 50/50, but your everyday dynamic should feel balanced and fair. “For example, if one person’s income is four times more than their partner’s, there won’t be financial equality,” Chipala says. “So what each brings to the relationship is nuanced to each couple, but there’s a fairness to what each partner gives and what they take. In a one-sided relationship, the majority of the giving lies with one partner.”
What Causes A One-Sided Relationship?
In some cases, a one-sided relationship might indicate that one partner is less emotionally invested than the other. Maybe they're still keeping their eyes open or rebounding. "If you started dating right after [they] got out of a relationship, chances are you’re the rebound and the placeholder," New York–based relationship expert and author April Masini tells Bustle. But sometimes, even if they care about you a lot, they may just not be pulling their weight in the relationship. In that case, you may need to reconsider how suitable of a partner they are.
For people who have an anxious attachment style, the risk of giving more than they take in a relationship is higher, Chlipala tells Bustle, “especially those with a fear of abandonment.” This also goes for people-pleasers, who may sacrifice their own needs to maintain a stress-free dynamic. “People-pleasers commonly avoid conflict, and so they don’t speak up for their needs and don’t voice their expectations,” Chlipala explains.
It may be difficult to admit that you're putting more into the relationship than your partner is. You want to think that they're just as invested as you are — and are willing to show it. So you may need to cool things off to see if they step up to the plate. "The easiest way to gauge your partner's interest is to hang back a bit," relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW, tells Bustle. "Are they reaching out and making efforts? If not, the relationship might be more unbalanced than you realize."
Here's what you need to keep an eye out for.
They Don't Make Time For You
Even worse than flaking? Not giving you any time at all. "If your partner feels that you are not necessary or important in their life, they will accord you little of their time in their schedule," relationship coach and psychic medium Melinda Carver tells Bustle. Sure, it's important to have independent lives — but they should be able to fit you into theirs.
“A relationship needs quality time in order to thrive,” Chlipala adds. “If you’re making time in your schedule to see them but they aren’t doing the same for you, you are definitely putting in more time into the relationship than they are.”
They Keep You Off To One Side
Part of committing to a relationship means integrating your lives. If you're willing to integrate but they're not, that's a problem. “Although having some space is good for a relationship, a couple should feel like a part of each other’s lives,” Chlipala tells Bustle. “Feeling like being a bystander or on the sidelines might mean your partner is keeping you at a distance, or they may need more time for a higher commitment.”
Maybe they aren’t close with or are embarrassed by their family, but you should still feel like an important part of their life. Your partner’s friends, co-workers, and anyone important to them should know that they’re in a relationship with you. “They should not be surprised when they meet you for the first time,” Chlipala adds.
They're Draining You
"You are with an emotional vampire if you find yourself physically drained," psychologist and dating expert Dr. Jennifer Rhodes tells Bustle. "Emotionally sensitive people and empaths often do not pick up on these cues right away." But once you realize what's happening, you shouldn't put up with it.
“It’s healthy to be a part of your significant other’s support system, but it’s a problem if you’re there for them but they’re not there for you,” says Chlipala. “If you consistently show up but they don’t, it will easily drain you and show you just how lopsided the relationship is.”
You Can't Say How You Feel
You need to be able to be yourself. If you're just being the version of yourself that you think your partner will like, you're putting way too much effort into pleasing them.
"If you feel like sharing your own feelings or relying on your partner emotionally will rock the boat, chances are you feel emotionally drained," life coach Kali Rogers tells Bustle. "You never want to feel like someone's counselor, but that line can be blurred when there isn't a 50/50 split on emotional sharing." Open up and be yourself.
And some people simply don’t have the right skills to respond appropriately. “When you share how you feel and are looking for empathy, they may minimize, dismiss, or problem-solve instead,” Chlipala shares. “It may not be malicious; it may just be a skill deficit.”
They Want It Their Way
Their restaurants. Their TV shows. Their schedule. Their everything. “In a healthy relationship, both partners’ preferences are honored,” Chlipala tells Bustle. A relationship is one-sided if it’s usually their way. They may give lip service to what you want, but in the end, they still get their way.” They’re unwilling to make any sacrifices for you, but you’re always compromising your needs to find common ground with them. Not cool.
You're Getting Resentful
If you're in a one-sided relationship then it's probably only a matter of time until you start to resent it. “If your needs and wants remain largely ignored while you continue to give, resentment is often inevitable,” notes Chlipala. If you feel the resentment building, you may want to look at why.
You’re Almost Always The Initiator
You only ever hang out when you make the plan. If you don’t, then you don’t see each other. “You’re the one who reaches out more frequently to make plans, not them,” Chlipala says. “You’re the one who texts or calls first, or says ‘I love you’ first.” Romance only ever happens because of you. “You’re the one who gets them a small but thoughtful gift, but [you] haven’t gotten a token of their love for months or years. If not for your efforts, the romance would be dead.”
You’re The Only One Who Apologizes
When you have a tiff, they can never (or rarely) take responsibility and say they’re sorry. You’re always or most often the one who concedes, comes to them, and apologizes. “Accepting responsibility and apologizing is a great relationship repair, but if only one partner is doing it, that’s a red flag,” says Chlipala. “Either your partner has shame or some other hangup around being ‘wrong,’ and so will avoid apologizing at all costs, or they’re gaslighting you into thinking you are wrong every time. Each partner should be able to take accountability and apologize.”
One-sided relationships can go on for a while, but they're not sustainable. Keep an eye out for the signs and see if they're willing to make the effort. If they're not, then you may need to reconsider the relationship.
Anita Chlipala, LMFT, licensed marriage and family therapist and author of “First Comes Us: The Busy Couple’s Guide to Lasting Love”
Aimee Hartstein, LCSW, relationship therapist
Melinda Carver, relationship coach and psychic medium
Dr. Jennifer Rhodes, psychologist and dating expert
Kali Rogers, life coach
This article was originally published on