5 Causes, 13 Signs Of One-Sided Relationships And What To Do About Them

one-sided relationships

Gunther and Rachel, you and that English professor, Donald Trump and China, we’ve all seen cases of one-sided relationships all around us. While it’s all fun and games when it’s happening on TV, when something similar goes down in your own life, you might actually end up turning a blind eye to the glaring signs. 

After all, why would you want to confront the signs? Acknowledging the fact that you may be in a one-sided relationship is a revelation all of us would put off wanting to discover or acknowledge. No thanks, I’ll stay in my toxic dynamic for another week before I think about it!

But when it all gets too much and it becomes painfully obvious that there’s something very wrong going on, you need to try and find the one-sided relationship signs in your dynamic. With the help of psychotherapist Dr. Aman Bhonsle (Ph.D., PGDTA), who specializes in relationship counseling and Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, let’s uncover all there is to know about one-sided relationships.

What Is A One-Sided Relationship?

Imagine you see the world’s cutest dog. You’re completely bowled over by how adorable this pooch is and you decide to call him/her over to you. If the dog looks at you through the corner of its eyes and doesn’t move a muscle despite your calls, that’s pretty much what a one-sided relationship is.

Jokes aside, a relationship such as this usually features an inconsistency of feelings amongst partners, a mismatch of expectations, effort, and love. In a healthy dynamic, each partner knows where they stand, what the expectations are and, most importantly, they feel validated.

A one-sided relationship, on the other hand, is one where one partner doesn’t share an equal amount of emotions portrayed by the other. They may have varying levels of affection, they might not agree on future goals and there’s a lack of balance.

One partner invests more time, energy, resources, and emotion in the bond than the other partner does. As a result, it usually doesn’t pan out too well, which is why it’s so important to catch the signs when you can. 

What Causes One-Sided Relationships?

On the surface, this sounds horrible, right? Why would anybody ever willingly want to be a part of such a dynamic? What causes one-sided relationships? Dr. Bhonsle tells us all you need to know about how denial or your own issues may cause such a bond.

1. Self-doubt and insecurity

“The biggest reasons behind such dynamics are the self-doubt and insecurities you may have,” says Dr. Bhonsle. “They may not believe that someone would ever want them, and what they have is the best they can get. The whole ‘something is better than nothing’ logic. Self-doubt makes people believe that this is the only thing they’ll ever have and nothing else will come their way.” 

2. An overwhelming need to be liked

“Such a dynamic is caused by the same thing that causes hunger when you’re not fed; need. When you’re not satiating your psychological appetite for affection and attention, you’ll end up being a part of such a dynamic,” explains Dr. Bhonsle.

With the hope of getting some emotional gratification from the relationship, you might’ve allowed yourself to jump into a dynamic you knew would never feature care and love.

Related Reading: How Do I Move On From One-Sided Love? Our Expert Tells You

3. Situational factors may be to blame as well

If your bond is currently healthy with an equal reciprocation of love, it doesn’t mean there won’t come a stage when you start feeling like you’re the only one in the relationship. Perhaps you need to travel for work, or your partner needs to be closer to their family in case someone falls ill. When factors you cannot control come into play, you may end up experiencing something akin to a mismatch of emotions. 

4. Growing differently

“When your goals become larger than the affection you once shared for each other, it’s hard to sustain a healthy dynamic. What was once sustainable through visits to Starbucks and a few fancy meals, will now be fading away,” explains Dr. Bhonsle.

“Perhaps your temperaments evolve in different ways, and maybe the little quirks you used to accommodate in the beginning are now becoming insufferable relationship deal breakers. These so-called pressures of life can end up becoming a pressing force. You’re never meant to be alone in your relationship. It is always supposed to be a shared venture.” 

The one-sided relationship psychology tells us that it’s something that can happen over time as well. You might’ve initially let it slide when your partner would constantly interrupt you, but over time, it might end up making you avoid their calls and try to find a little more “personal space” than what’s warranted. 

5. Different expectations

one-sided relationship signs: your expectations will differ
Once the expectations start to differ, you may start feeling neglected

The lack of labels can end up leading to very different expectations a couple may have of each other. Even if there’s an agreed-upon label involved, managing expectations isn’t always the easiest thing. When you’re not on the same page about what this means to the both of you, there’s bound to be a mismatch. 

Now that you know a little about what causes one-sided relationships let’s take a look at the signs of one, so we can make sure there isn’t a Gunther-y situation going on in your life. 

13 Signs Of One-sided Relationships 

Human beings love to live in denial. Why would you want to face the bitter truth when you can gaslight yourself into believing nothing’s wrong? But then again, if you truly believed nothing was wrong, you wouldn’t be here reading this article. 

Let’s take a look at all the one-sided relationship signs, so you can accurately assess your dynamic and see whether it fits the bill or not. 

1. Communication isn’t the best 

Are there a few things in your dynamic you actively avoid talking about, fearing it would bring about the nastiest fight? Maybe your partner doesn’t even try to initiate as many conversations as you. 

While you may be trying to solve the issues the relationship has through effective communication, your partner might just walk away instead, saying they don’t want to have this conversation right now. 

2. Are you bending over backwards for your partner?

When asked about the telltale signs of such a dynamic, Dr. Bhonsle immediately shared that you not being a priority is often the biggest indicator. “You become a butler to your partner; you’re a component of their life and not someone with an indelible influence on it,” he says. 

“You end up not giving adherence to your schedule, your profession, your social life, and even family responsibilities. You ignore all these things and prioritize what your partner needs or requires,” he adds.

3. No reciprocation of effort

While you’re out there trying to make sure your partner’s laundry is clean and ironed for their upcoming meeting, you’re pretty much used to them never helping you with anything when the need may arise. Granted, the effort you put in may not necessarily be so butler-esque, but you get the gist. 

You might not see your partner put in the effort to support you, to help you financially, or to simply just be there for you, prioritizing their own space over your issues. With that being said, Dr. Bhonsle warns us that measuring “effort” in a relationship is usually highly subjective and should be done with consideration.

“It’s very hard to measure effort. Some may put in more psychological effort than others, which isn’t really measurable. In most cases, it has to be tangible, ask questions like:

  • Has my partner made my life more pleasant and enjoyable?
  • Have they made me more comfortable?
  • Have they made me physically and emotionally healthier?
  • Have they helped me financially when I needed it?
  • Is ours a healthy relationship?

“It’s a give and take, a balance that you need to strike. You may end up feeling like you didn’t get anything in return, but you need to figure out whether you put in a tangible effort in or not,” says Dr. Bhonsle.

If your friend owes you a bunch of money but doesn’t bother to initiate a Sunday brunch, you might have yourself a classic case of a one-sided friendship. Now if it’s the other way round and you owe your friends some money, pay them before they get wind of this article. 

4. There’s a lack of mutual respect in a one-sided relationship 

Does your partner shrug off your opinion like a patch of dirt? Do they interrupt you while you talk, and a conversation with them feels like it’s just them waiting so they can start talking again? A lack of mutual respect can make any couple frequent the sofa instead of the bed, and it’s a recurring theme in the dynamic in question today. 

“When narcissism or selfishness are involved, it’s possible a partner in such an equation might think, ‘To hell with what my partner needs, my wants are more important’,” says Dr. Bhonsle.

“Your needs may end up being deemed as not germane to the relationship, since your partner believes theirs are more pronounced and prominent. As a result, it’s possible a lack of respect may ensue,” he adds. 

Related Reading: What is it about one-sided love that keeps us hooked?

5. When you feel it may end soon 

Love is supposed to make you feel confident in the bond you share with your partner, not stress you out. If a text message like “Listen” from your partner has you fearing the worst, panicking until their next message hits your screen, you’re actually screaming to yourself about how fragile your bond really is. You’re always worried your partner is about to break up with you.

“It’s like the sword of Damocles,” says Dr. Bhonsle. “When the king saw that there’s a sword hanging above his head, he stopped enjoying life.”

When you feel you’re not getting what you want, and your partner’s demands never come to an end, there’s a part of you that knows what you have isn’t the best. Can you tell your partner everything? Do you really believe this will last, or are you trying to ride the wave and figure out the rest as you go? 

Since this isn’t a high-school test you didn’t study for, you can’t just wing it. When you have a feeling of impending doom, it’s one of the biggest one-sided relationship signs. 

one-sided relationship psychology makes you insecure and anxious
You might be constantly worried that your relationship is going to end soon

6. A one-sided relationship may leave you more insecure

As we saw in the answer to “What causes a one-sided relationship,” insecurity is probably the leading cause. Once you’re in one and your needs are neglected, you may end up questioning your self-worth a lot more than what got you in this mess.

“When the effort constantly comes from you, it can definitely breed insecurities and a lot of misery,” says Dr. Bhonsle. “You end up believing this is the best love and dignity you can get, which leads to multiple issues with insecurities,” he adds. 

7. When it leaves you feeling fatigued

Like a well-oiled machine, your relationship is supposed to make it seem like everything is flowing seamlessly. If yours makes you feel exhausted after a phone call or as though it’s an added burden, it may be time to rethink things. 

If you’re feeling like you’re the only one in a relationship, you’re naturally going to try and do all you can to make it feel more natural. When all the gifts, phone calls (that you initiate), and favors end up overwhelming you, you’ll be left feeling fatigued as a result. 

8. There’s an acute lack of labels 

In some cases, your dynamic may also lack a label, that allows your partner to take you for granted. Perhaps you’re hoping for an exclusive relationship while your partner is avoiding your phone calls in an attempt to “go with the flow”. 

Dr. Bhonsle tells us the importance of establishing labels early on. “One-sided relationship signs cannot be generalized. You have to investigate if it’s even a relationship in the first place. What I’ve seen happen is that two people may be talking for a year, but when you ask them what they are, they say, ‘Oh no, we haven’t really set a label to it yet’.” 

He continues, “Sending ‘I miss you’ and emoji kisses to a partner every night doesn’t equate to a relationship. If you don’t label your salt and sugar, you’ll end up with salty tea and a sweet meatloaf. Through clear communication, it’s important to know what you are to each other.” 

9. You don’t talk about the future 

A “We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it” attitude doesn’t bode well in a romantic relationship. If you’re in one, you need to discuss your future goals, what you both want, and how you expect your life to pan out.

One-sided relationship psychology tells us that since one partner isn’t all too attached, they won’t really be thinking much about the future. If “Where do you see this going in the next 5 years?” has your partner suddenly experiencing network problems, you know something’s up. 

10. Your partner thinks there’s nothing wrong 

Just like every prisoner in the movie Shawshank Redemption, your partner believes he/she is innocent of all crimes. Of course, you’re Red (Morgan Freeman), the only guilty man there. When you confront them about them not caring enough, you might be hit with a “you’re crazy, that’s not true. You need to manage your expectations better.” 

A common theme in such dynamics is gaslighting. Your partner will make you believe you’re crazy for even thinking they might not be as invested as you are. OK, if that’s truly the case, ask them why then, can you not book concert tickets 6 months down the line? 

11. You’re always the one making amends 

After a big fight, who initiates reconciliation? If you realize you’re always the one who tries to make things right, maybe your partner values the time off a little more than you’d want them to. But if you’re trying to reconcile thirty-five minutes after the fight without even giving your partner room to breathe, this example doesn’t really apply to you. 

Even so, think about whether you’re always the one apologizing and trying to fix the issues, or if you’re always on damage control duty. 

12. Your partner doesn’t care much

Did you make a scrapbook filled with pictures of the two of you, every movie ticket you’ve ever purchased, and all the memories you cherish for their birthday? And did they get you a sweater in return? 

Perhaps you told them about an important upcoming meeting at work and they seemed to have forgotten about it 2 days later. Go ahead and ask if they know your number by heart. If they don’t know your number 6 months into the relationship, it’s time to delete your contact from their phone and leave, so they can never text you again.

Jokes aside, if it’s painfully obvious that your partner doesn’t care much about the things that go on in your life and neglects you, it’s definitely one of the biggest one-sided relationship signs. 

Related Reading: Is Limerence Toxic Love? 7 Signs That Say So

13. There’s an overall dissatisfaction 

Unless you’ve been skimming through the article so far, you’ve probably caught on to this. In a one-sided relationship, you’re not feeling particularly over the moon about the connection you have with your partner. You very likely already know there’s something amiss, and yours isn’t at all like the all-smiles relationships you see on Instagram. 

Save the #couplegoals captions and the cute selfies for another partner, you’re not getting much out of this relationship. A conversation turns into a fight way too quickly, and you’re eventually the one trying to reconcile. If all of this is beginning to sound way too real, let’s talk about what you need to do to get out of this dynamic. 

How To Fix A One-Sided Relationship? 

If the above signs and causes have got you saying things like, “Why am I always in one-sided relationships?”, the first thing you need to do is figure out how, if you even want to fix it. Now that you’ve been faced with the harsh reality that yours isn’t just a “work in progress” and is actually a one-sided relationship, here’s what you need to do about it: 

unhealthy relationship

1. Self-respect is the vaccine

“Have some respect for yourself, otherwise you’re going to live through misery and compromise on things you shouldn’t,” says Dr. Bhonsle. “When you don’t have any respect for yourself, you end up accepting anything and everything that comes your way. Ask yourself why yours is a one-sided relationship and what you want to do about it. If your partner cared for you adequately, you wouldn’t have had to jump through hoops of fire like a circus creature,” he adds. 

The next time your partner says they’re too busy on yet another weekend to be with you, tell them they better get used to hanging out alone every weekend henceforth. Learn to walk out of a toxic dynamic. The devil you don’t know is a lot better than the devil you do, we promise. 

2. Understand that loving is easy

No, it isn’t supposed to feel like a chore. But you knew that already. You probably lost your way in the midst of it all, trying to compromise and adjust your way into a disrespectful dynamic. 

“It’s supposed to feel like slipping into the right shoe that fits perfectly. It looks great on you, you enjoy wearing it, so it becomes a part of your skin. That’s the best kind of love, where there’s a friendship that underscores it, simply because you’d never treat a friend with indignity,” says Dr. Bhonsle. 

3. Communicate

When push comes to shove, there’s really only one thing that can help if you do decide to fix your one-sided relationship: honest, open communication. Unless you tell your partner how you feel and how you want this relationship to change, they probably won’t care enough to try and fix it in the first place. 

Dr. Bhonsle sums up everything you’ll ever need to try and begin fixing it perfectly. “develop mutual respect in your relationship, lots of communication, lots of trust, lots of dignity. And that’s all that’s required.” 

So, there you have it. Everything you’d ever need to know about a one-sided relationship. How it happens, whether you’re in one or not, and what you need to do. Hopefully, you now know what you need to do and won’t end up believing it when your partner goes, “Of course I care!”

If you’re currently struggling with a one-sided relationship or any other mental health issue, Bonobology has a multitude of experienced counselors who’d love to help you get through these trying times, including Dr. Bhonsle himself.

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