What to Do About One-Sided Relationships

Tamsen Butler
Woman frustrated with a man

One-sided relationships can sadly be intentional, or they might evolve from an otherwise equal relationship where one person simply begins to care less about the other person without encountering resistance. No matter how a couple winds up in a one-sided relationship, it can spell real trouble for those in a relationship that they never intended to be less than equal.

Signs of a One-Sided Relationship

The litmus test for a one-sided relationship is this: does one person put in much more effort to the relationship than the other? Other signs that a relationship might be one-sided include, but are not limited to:

  • Does one person's needs consistently come before the needs of the other person?
  • Does one person frequently concede to the other in all matters?
  • Does one person make very little effort to ensure the other person feels happy and loved?
  • Does one person feel taken advantage of in the relationship?

How One-Sided Relationships Happen

One-sided relationships aren't always intentional; sometimes one person simply gets too "comfortable" and stops trying to cultivate the relationship. On the other hand, a one-sided relationship can be the result of someone who is too lazy to put effort forth, or too selfish, or just doesn't care about the other person enough. Some people feel entitled to love yet don't know how (or don't want to) show love in return.

Where Blame Lies

It's easy to place all the blame on the person who isn't putting effort forth to make the other person feels loved, yet in any couple, the blame lies with both people. The other person needs to establish and protect boundaries that include equality within the relationship, if that's what they want. If one person just takes a step back and allows the other person to take advantage of them without speaking up, it allows the problem to continue.

Equaling Things Out

Making a one-sided relationship two-sided takes effort and lots of honest conversations. Both people must be willing to work through things because a one-sided attempt at solving a one-sided relationship isn't going to work.

  • Talk about what makes you both feel loved.
  • Both people should agree to make increased efforts at making the other feel loved.
  • If one person feels taken advantage of, they need to express it clearly.
  • A fundamental change in behavior of both people may be necessary, and may best be accomplished with the help and guidance of a licensed couples therapist.

A Tough Road

Attempting to fundamentally change the dynamics of a relationship - especially one that has many years behind it - can be a stressful and takes profound effort and dedication. The good news is that two people who are willing to do the work to make the relationship better for both of them will come out the other end of it more invested in the partnership and perhaps even stronger than ever.

Avoiding Future Relationship Inequality

After a relationship is repaired, or when entering a new relationship, open communication and setting boundaries can help avoid allowing the relationship to fall into an imbalance.

  • Just because someone expresses interest doesn't mean a relationship must happen - an apprehensive relationship can easily lead to a one-sided relationship.
  • Boundaries and expectations should be set early in the relationship.
  • Both people should make clear what makes them feel loved.
  • Consistent, open communication about how each person is feeling is important.
  • Situations in which a person feels unloved or disregarded should be addressed in the moment if possible.
  • If one person feels disregarded and unheard despite attempts and communicating their feelings, it may be time to end the relationship.

No Excuses

While it is true that some people are needier than others, it doesn't mean that it's acceptable for one person to feel as if they aren't loved simply because the other person demands so much attention and love, leaving no room for balanced love between the two people. A loving, healthy relationship should include both people feeling as though they are loved - and sufficiently and eagerly love the other person in return.

What to Do About One-Sided Relationships