7 unmistakable signs you’re in a one-sided relationship

If you’ve spent time and effort learning about how to be a good partner, you’ll know that compromise is key. And that expecting perfection or only bliss from a relationship is not realistic. 

But how about when it goes the other way? How can you tell?

Here are some clues that the effort is all one-sided.

1) You’re the one who always has to say sorry

Unless you know that you’re always doing messed up things (and if you are, stop!), then always having to apologize isn’t right. It could even be a sign of a manipulative relationship.

It’s normal to inadvertently upset our partners from time to time. Sometimes we will agree with our partner’s reasoning and sometimes we may not.

Either way, the key to a good relationship is realizing that your partner’s feelings are valid, and taking responsibility when they are hurt.

That said, if after an argument, you are always the one to back down and apologize, no matter what the cause or what your feelings are, then this could be a sign that things are one-sided.

2) You listen to your partner’s grievances, but you never get heard

This relates to our previous point. Relationships should have balance. There should be a give-and-take. We all feel hurt from time to time and we all need reassurance sometimes.

Do you feel that your own emotions are regularly being squished down to keep the peace?

This started to happen to me in a relationship I had last year. I would patiently listen to everything my partner said and try to bring solutions or take responsibility.

But sometimes I felt that what he was saying was very one-sided. It was like he couldn’t see things from my perspective at all. 

Our relationship “chats” would go on for hours leaving me drained. After some hours I would sit there in silence or just agreeing, regardless of how I really felt. Wishing the conversation would end.

And I’m someone who deeply believes in open communication in relationships!

Eventually, I started to have panic attacks, my body could no longer deal with this constant barrage of his feelings being more important than mine.

3) You tiptoe around them and can’t express yourself

The previous point leads us to this situation. You feel that any little thing you might say or do could lead to a massive blowout, so you tiptoe around them, suppressing any unhappiness from your side, lest you wake the beast!

And there’s another way that one-sidedness can manifest. There was another guy that I was seeing, let’s call him Barney. In many way, Barney was very chilled, unlike the ex above.

But he also made it clear that he did not like being ‘reproached’. Barney told me that it simply didn’t work on him and he wouldn’t accept it.

Fine, I thought. But then he did something that I felt really hurt by. And then I realized: How can I share my feelings if I’m not allowed to express them? Or at least not any that would look like a reproach.

So I kept it all bottled up. But eventually, my feelings bubbled over causing me to act strangely at times without being able to explain myself.

I also experienced a lingering resentment that I was barely aware of. Only through using the technique of focusing was I able to see that I was in pain due to our one-sided communication.

If you want to be a better partner let go of these 9 harmful 7 unmistakable signs you're in a one-sided relationship

4) You’re the one who takes care of all the practical details

Now this is a little different, but important all the same. I know a married couple and only one of them takes responsibility for all the practical things in their life. 

This ranges from booking a plumber to fit a new bathroom (and everything that goes with a big undertaking like that), redecorating, fixing things, replying to bureaucracy like bank letters or building maintenance notices, to cleaning and making sure the partner goes to the doctor when needed.

She actually saved his life by pressuring him to visit the doctor when he had a strange cough – it was the early stages of lung cancer, which I’m happy to say was eradicated safely as they were caught in time.

The burden of this weighs heavy on her, and a lot of resentment builds up due to the one-sided nature of their partnership.

5) You’re financially responsible for everything

Are you the one who takes care of everything money-related? Some couples do find that one partner is better at, and prefers to manage the money, and that can work, if both are happy with it.

But if things are very one-sided, then you might find that you have to do everything – from earning the money to paying the bills, taking care of bank accounts, and monitoring savings and investments.

Although this might work for some, if your partner doesn’t take up the slack in another area of life, it’s likely to make you feel drained. 

6) You’re the one who takes care of the children, always

Families who can afford it can have a stay-at-home parent. And the other one may spend a lot of time at work. And that’s ok.

But there still needs to be balance. Raising children is exhausting, it’s like a full-time job and then another full-time job on top! It’s a 24-hour pursuit!

Even if one parent works, they should still take time to care for, look after, and spend time with the children. Parenting has to be a joint undertaking. This isn’t 1970!

And if it’s left to one parent entirely, not only will that person feel that the task is one-sided, the other will fail to make valuable bonds and connections with their little ones.

While we’re talking about the 1970s, Harry Chapin wrote a poignant song that tells of the dangers of not making time for your children (aside from upsetting your partner!)

“My son turned ten just the other day

He said, thanks for the ball, Dad, come on let’s play

Can you teach me to throw, I said, not today

I got a lot to do, he said, that’s okay

And he walked away, but his smile never dimmed

It said, I’m gonna be like him, yeah

You know I’m gonna be like him”

And then the last verse, especially the last line is so haunting:

“I’ve long since retired, my son’s moved away

I called him up just the other day

I said, I’d like to see you if you don’t mind

He said, I’d love to, Dad, if I can find the time

You see, my new job’s a hassle, and the kids have the flu

But it’s sure nice talking to you, Dad

It’s been sure nice talking to you

And as I hung up the phone, it occurred to me

He’d grown up just like me

My boy was just like me”

Don’t let this cautionary tale become your family’s story!

7) You feel overwhelmed, stressed, lonely, and neglected

Sometimes the best way to know that something isn’t right in your relationship is to ask yourself how you feel.

Everybody feels down at times, but if overwhelm, stress, loneliness and neglect are common emotions in your relationship, this could well be because your relationship is one-sided.

If this article has resonated with you, don’t worry, there are things you can do.

Where feelings are concerned, initiate a talk about taking responsibility for actions. It can be tough to approach things like this without seeming as though you are ‘nagging’, ‘complaining’, ‘shaming’, or ‘reproaching’.

So one way to do this is by learning a technique called “non-violent communication” (NVC). 

The name may sound a bit shocking, but it’s much less about violence and more about saying things in a way that allows you to express your needs – without making the other person feel defensive and shutting down.

For practical tasks, you can use your NVC skills to talk about how you would like to share tasks more fairly, or even divide them up in ways that both people feel good about. 

Maybe one of you is great at paying the bills and the other is great at providing emotional and physical support in stressful situations or after a tough day. Both of these things need to be honored and recognized with love and compassion. 

Open up the topic with NVC and see if you can bring more balance and understanding to your relationship.

Picture of Louisa Lopez

Louisa Lopez

Louisa is writer, wellbeing coach, and world traveler, with a Masters in Social Anthropology. She is fascinated by people, psychology, spirituality and exploring psychedelics for personal growth and healing. She’s passionate about helping people and has been giving empowering advice professionally for over 10 years using the tarot. Louisa loves magical adventures and can often be found on a remote jungle island with her dogs. You can connect with her on Twitter: @StormJewel

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