Is Your Relationship One-Sided? Expert-Backed Warning Signs, Guideline in 2024

Additionally, receive guidance on progressing within or transitioning away from this kind of relationship.

Do you frequently feel that you’re putting much more effort into your relationship than your partner? Do your aspirations and dreams consistently get sidelined in favor of your partner’s wishes? Are your priorities misaligned with those of your partner? Or perhaps you’re finding it difficult to get your partner to spend more time with you? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you might be in a one-sided relationship.

According to Kelly Campbell, Ph.D., a one-sided relationship is characterized by an imbalance of power where one individual contributes significantly more in terms of resources—such as time, money, and emotional investment—while receiving little to nothing in return. She explains, “There are times when one partner may need to support the relationship more, such as during illness or difficult times. However, for a relationship to be healthy and fulfilling, both individuals must put in effort. One person cannot shoulder the burden indefinitely.”

To shed light on the complexities of this kind of partnership, we sought insights from Kelly Campbell, Ph.D., and Wale Okerayi, LMHC, LPC. They provided expert advice on the psychology of one-sided relationships. Read on to learn how to recognize if you’re in such a relationship, what steps to take once you’ve identified it, and how to move forward if your partner is unwilling to change.

Indications of a One-Sided Relationship

If you think you might be in a one-sided relationship, experts suggest watching for several key signs, which we’ve outlined below.

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One sign of a one-sided relationship, according to Kelly Campbell, Ph.D., is the feeling that the relationship is unequal or imbalanced. This manifests when you are the one who always makes plans, pays for dates, and puts in the effort to sustain the relationship. If you find yourself in this situation, Campbell advises keeping a record of the time spent together and noting who is responsible for various tasks. “This can help the person who feels under-benefitted to clearly see how things are progressing and grasp the extent of the imbalance,” she explains.

You and your partner have entirely different priorities.

“Perhaps all your money and free time are devoted to the relationship, while your partner’s resources are spent on other things, like buying clothes, paying for a gym membership, and socializing with friends,” says Campbell. While it’s perfectly healthy for individuals to have hobbies and friendships outside the relationship, both partners need to prioritize each other above everything else for the relationship to thrive.

You are always the one blamed during a disagreement.

In any relationship, disagreements are inevitable, as no partnership is flawless. However, if your partner consistently places blame on you during these conflicts and you find yourself being the only one to apologize, it could be a sign of a one-sided relationship,” explains Okerayi. “Your partner may struggle with taking responsibility and frequently shifts blame onto you. As a result, you may end up apologizing just to maintain peace, even though you feel unheard and invalidated in your perspective.

Frequently, you discover yourself rationalizing your partner’s behavior.

“Are you constantly making excuses for your partner’s actions? If so, it’s a sign that you’re compromising and sacrificing too much,” says Campbell. “If you’ve scheduled a date night and your partner consistently arrives late or makes other plans, it’s evident that they don’t value you or the relationship as much as you do.” Continuously justifying your partner’s behavior is not healthy, as accountability is essential in a strong relationship.

Your partner exhibits controlling behavior.

“A partner who exhibits controlling behavior indicates an imbalance of power in the relationship, signaling a need for change,” Campbell explains. “Insecure partners may attempt to control their significant other by restricting their interactions with family and friends, imposing guidelines on their attire and behavior, and so forth,” she elaborates. “This control often develops gradually over time, posing a significant risk to the relationship and serving as a clear indication that adjustments are necessary.”

You experience feelings of insecurity regarding your relationship.

“One significant warning sign of being in a one-sided relationship, as noted by Okerayi, is feeling insecure within the relationship. You might constantly doubt your partner’s affection or love for you, or you might simply sense a lack of care from them,” she elaborates. “If this sounds familiar, it’s crucial to initiate a conversation about the state of your relationship and inquire with your partner about their vision for the future of your partnership.”

Your aspirations and dreams consistently take a backseat to those of your partner.

“Are you constantly the one making sacrifices for the relationship? Do you find yourself lacking support for your own dreams and aspirations while fully backing your partner’s desires? If so, this indicates a need to alter the dynamics of your relationship, as it appears one-sided,” Okerayi advises.

Moving On from a One-Sided Relationship

If you sense that your relationship is imbalanced, Campbell recommends keeping track of your time and compiling a list of observations.

If, upon reflection, you determine that the relationship is indeed one-sided, it’s essential to communicate your feelings with your partner, who may be unaware of any issues. However, initiating change can be challenging in a one-sided relationship, and overcoming discomfort is necessary to shift the dynamic.

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“In one-sided relationships, it’s often just one partner initiating these discussions because being in what we call an ‘over-benefitted’ situation can feel quite comfortable,” Campbell explains. “Therefore, your partner may not initially respond positively to your concerns.”

“In fact, researchers refer to this pattern as ‘demand-withdrawal,’ where one partner initiates a discussion or requests a change, and the other retreats from the conversation, avoiding further discussion,” she explains.

“It’s a highly unhealthy and frequently observed pattern in one-sided relationships.” “If the partner benefiting more from the relationship cares about their partner’s well-being, they will strive to rectify the imbalance by shouldering more responsibilities or investing greater effort,” Campbell notes.

Ways to Recover from a One-Sided Relationship

Terminating a relationship is always challenging, yet remaining in a relationship that isn’t suitable for you can be even more detrimental to your well-being. Therefore, if you’ve exhausted all efforts to restore balance in your partnership and your partner remains unchanged, “the relationship may not be compatible, and the disadvantaged individual should contemplate moving forward,” suggests Campbell.

Just like any breakup, moving forward entails recognizing and accepting your emotions—whether it’s anger, sadness, or insecurity—and understanding that it’s normal to experience them. Take the time to process your feelings and mourn the end of a significant relationship in your life.

Staying active and engaged can be beneficial; try exploring new hobbies, spending time with loved ones, and prioritizing self-care activities on a regular basis. Seeking support from a therapist can provide valuable guidance and assistance as you navigate through this transitional period.

Remember to be patient with yourself and allow yourself the time needed to heal. Recovery is a gradual process, so offer yourself compassion and understanding along the way.

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