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. In an unbalanced relationship, one person becomes solely responsible for doing chores, remembering important dates, juggling to-do lists, and basically making all the relationship magic happen while their partner sits idly by (or, at least, contributes to a way lesser degree).
Obviously, this isn’t a component of a
healthy partnership. “This is not only tiring, but emotionally burdensome,” Erica Cramer, LCSW, MBA, a licensed clinical social worker, tells Bustle. Plus, a partnership — by definition— means participating in an undertaking together, adds life coach Bridget Chambers. "Partners aren't perfect, but they should feel stable, loyal, and willing to work,” she tells Bustle. “If those qualities seem hard to come by, there is an imbalance that needs to be addressed."
imbalance also comes with a ton of ramifications. Resentment starts to build, you’ll bicker, one or both of you could feel compelled to cheat due to frustration — and you might even develop anxiety and depression.
unhealthy dynamic is often reparable, but it will (rather annoyingly) require one last burst of energy on your part. “Start by being honest and clear about your feelings,” Cramer says. “Then make a plan. Offer practical solutions to the problems and listen to what your partner has to say, too.” If you’re always the one doing chores, for example, you could agree to divvy up tasks and choose ones that play to your strengths.
From there, try to manage your expectations — at least for a little while. “Transitions are gradual and nothing happens overnight,” Cramer says. If you feel like you do everything in your relationship and want to make it work, below are the 15 signs it’s time to have a conversation.
1 Your Partner Needs Constant Reminders
There's a big difference between a partner who contributes to running your lives as a couple without being asked, and one who needs to be reminded 100 times along the way. Whether it’s picking up dog food, getting a few groceries, or paying a bill, having to remind them is a
red flag, says Dr. Racine Henry, Ph.D., LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist.
"If you feel like you can't predict whether or not your partner will be responsible for completing chores, this is a clear sign of an unfair relationship," she tells Bustle. “Neither one of you should feel like you’re doing all the work required to maintain your lifestyle." And you
certainly shouldn’t feel like your partner’s constantly letting you down. 2 They Don’t Step Up
You might not notice how unfair your relationship is until you experience tough times, like a problem at work or a health concern. According to
Dr. Carla Marie Manly, a clinical psychologist and author of , this is when a good partner generally swoops in to relieve some of the burden, whether that’s by offering Date Smart emotional support or running errands for you. If they don’t step up to help, particularly when you’re going through a rough moment, consider it a red flag. 3 You’re Always Exhausted Exhaustion is another clear sign you’re doing too much, so think about your weekly routine, says Henry. "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 to-do list 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. And that’s when you’ll start to feel burnt out, tired — and totally over it. 4 They Bounce When Times Get Tough
Another bad sign? A partner in an unbalanced relationship that doesn’t equally contribute and even steps
away when times get tough. If they go quiet or seem detached when you need them most, Manly says it’s a clear sign that they’re too self-absorbed and thus unable to show up in the relationship in a fair and balanced way. If that’s the case, it’ll be up to you to decide if staying together still feels worth it. (Note: It’s totally OK if you decide to leave!) 5 You Have Lots Of Stress & Anxiety
With all this going on, it makes perfect sense why you might start to feel anxious, too. As Henry says, the physical and mental side effects of an unbalanced relationship include a
dip in your sex drive, resentment, anger, stress, or a short temper because your S.O. has no idea they’re being unfair.
“You may also 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,” she says. When they don’t, it’s tough to feel happy and relaxed — which is why it may be a good idea to talk with them.
6 You’d Rather Call A Friend For Help
Another sign you’re doing everything in your relationship is if you’d much rather call a friend or family member when you need help, instead of your partner. According to Cramer, it’s because you subconsciously know that you can’t rely on them, so you call someone who’s always got your back — like your BFF.
7 You Feel Isolated & Alone
There are lots of reasons why you might feel
lonely in this type of relationship. For one, when you’re responsible for everything, you aren’t going to have a ton of energy left over to plan something fun or meet up for a date.
A partner who doesn’t contribute also isn’t very likely to step up and make the plans themselves, so if you don’t do it, it just doesn’t happen. As Cramer says, “If your love tank is on empty, there’s a good chance it’s because your partner isn’t putting in the work to fill it up.” And there’s nothing fair or balanced about that.
8 Asking For Small Favors Is A Big Deal
Take note if you ask for small favors and
your partner either complains or forgets. “For example, if you ask your partner to walk the dog and they respond that they are too tired and had a long day at work, or you ask them to take out the trash and they agree but the next morning it’s still there,” Cramer says. “This shows they aren’t actually listening to you and making your requests a priority.” 9 They’re Always Looking For Praise
If your partner helping is out of the ordinary, don’t be surprised if they look for praise after completing the smallest task, Cramer says. While it’s fine to say “thanks” and “you’re welcome” to each other, no one should
expect a parade just because they did one thing. In a fair and balanced relationship, you’ll both maintain your apartment/life/schedule without a second thought. 10 You’re Blamed When Things Go Wrong
When a partner doesn’t contribute, it’s often difficult for them to appreciate all the work and effort that goes into making your lives run smoothly. And that’s why they’ll be quick to get mad when things fall apart.
"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. 11 You Test Them By “Going On Strike”
If your partner lets you down time and time again, it will eventually lead to feelings of anger and resentment. And that’s when you might get pushed to “go on strike” just to see what happens, relationship therapist
Rhonda Milrad, LCSW tells Bustle.
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],"
she says. "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. Communication is the better option.
12 Scheduling Has Become Your Part-Time Job
An imbalance in a relationship can also show up in your schedules, typically with one person (you) orchestrating holidays, birthdays, and appointments, Milrad says. Your partner might even expect you to remind them of these things, instead of taking on that mental burden themselves.
In a balanced relationship, your
partner would contribute to planning your lives as a couple. They’d also remember dates and appointments, make plans, and coordinate logistics. If their job doesn't include taking the time to help out, it's time for a chat. 13 They Never Return The Favor
Little things can also start to seem offensive, like the fact your partner never pours you a cup of coffee, even though you always pour one for them. Or the fact they only ever make dinner for themselves, when you always cook for two.
“There is a shift of who does more from time to time in every relationship,”
Dr. Sanam Hafeez, Psy.D., a neuropsychologist and faculty member at Columbia University, tells Bustle. “But if your partner never ‘ returns the favor,’ they probably need to contribute more.” 14 You’re Tense At The End Of The Day
Anyone in an unbalanced relationship can relate to a very specific stressful end-of-day feeling, one that typically occurs once you both get home from work. Instead of feeling relaxed or glad to be home, you feel on edge.
The reason? This time of day often serves as a blatant reminder that annoying tasks and chores are your sole responsibility, couples therapist
Julienne B. Derichs, LCPC tells Bustle. You just know that your partner is going to kick back without a care in the world while everything piles up, and it’s incredibly annoying.
While there’s nothing wrong with relaxing after work, it’s tough to join your partner when you don’t trust that they’ll remember to help get things done later on. Think walking the dog, getting the mail, or washing dishes. It’s even worse if you know you’re going to have to remind them. Delegating tasks is often just as
mentally burdensome as doing it yourself, because you’re still the one who has to remember. 15 You Feel Like Things Are Unfair
According to clinical psychologist
Dr. Josh Klapow, feeling as if things are unfair is a problem in and of itself. “Whether your partner is contributing or not,” he tells Bustle, “your feeling that they aren’t is going to affect the relationship.” And again, that’s why it’s so incredibly important to talk ASAP.
"Let them know that you feel like there is too much work, too much effort, and more than you can sustain," Klapow 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 communication, you can work out ways to
balance the relationship so everyone's happy. Sources: Erica Cramer, LCSW, MBA, licensed clinical social worker Dr. Racine Henry, Ph.D., LMFT , licensed marriage and family therapist Dr. Carla Marie Manly, clinical psychologist Rhonda Milrad, LCSW, relationship therapist Dr. Sanam Hafeez, Psy.D., neuropsychologist Julienne B. Derichs, LCPC, couples therapist Dr. Josh Klapow, clinical psychologist