20 Signs of a One-Sided Relationship

How to stop the pattern of lopsided loving.

Posted Dec 27, 2019

A one-sided relationship has dramatic consequences for our emotional and even physical health. Once you’re in one, it's hard to feel emotionally safe. You’re perpetually working to make the relationship something that it may never be.

This conflict creates stress, and stress hormones cause physical side effects including anxiety, difficulty sleeping, hypervigilance, irritability, and generally feeling internally keyed up. One-sided relationships take an enormous toll, and yet often continue far longer than they should. Take a moment to consider if your relationship is one-sided and, if so, start overcoming this pattern by trying out the reflection exercise below.

Here are 20 signs that your relationship is one-sided:

1. You never feel secure in the relationship.

2. You overthink and second-guess your partner’s true motives.

3. You constantly feel you are lacking in some way.

4. You feel empty after your interactions.

5. You initiate deepening the relationship, to no avail.

6. You don’t share your true feelings with your partner.

7. You do all the “work” and maintenance of the relationship.

8. You feel you’ve already invested so much in the relationship that you have to make it work and can’t leave.

9. You feel like your relationship is a house of cards.

10. You are afraid of upsetting your partner or of causing conflict.

11. You feel like your self-esteem depends on this relationship lasting.

12. You do not feel truly known by your partner.

13. You make excuses for your partner.

14. You settle for little bursts of connection even though you crave more intimacy from your partner.

15. You worry about when you will see or talk to your partner again.

16. You are constantly distracted by your relationship dynamics and so can’t focus on other parts of your life or be present in them.

17. You enjoy moments with your partner, but after the interaction you feel alone and lonely.

18. You are not growing as a person.

19. You are not authentic with your partner because you want to make sure he/she stays happy with you.

20. If you express yourself, your partner turns the tables on you and you end up feeling that you are the root of all the problems in your relationship.

If you recognize more of these signs than you’d like, start undoing the pattern by trying this reflection exercise. Ask yourself the following questions and be honest with yourself:

1. How long have you repeated the pattern of one-sided relationships in your life?

2. Did you have a one-sided relationship with a parent/caregiver while growing up (in whch it was always more about them than it was about you)?

3. Can you consider a relationship in which your needs were met, and how good that felt to you, or imagine how that might feel if you were in one?

4. What keeps you working so hard and not letting go or moving onto something more emotionally fulfilling?

5. If you're working to feel safe and complete, consider if there's another way to get these very normal needs met.

6. If you were to end the relationship, how could you fill the void in a way that would be deeper and more nurturing for you?

7. Do one-sided relationships represent your lack of self-esteem? Are you coupling with people who keep you stuck not feeling so positively about yourself?

8. Are you working to no avail on something that sucks away your energy and resources without much payoff for you?

9. What can you do that will deliver more and fill your tank more than this relationship?

10. Can you start to recognize when you're overworking in the relationship and instead step back and let go?

Uncoupling from one-sided relationships takes work but it's possible. The first step is to recognize that you're in one. The second is to start considering other ways you can feel good about yourself and what you need, separate from your relationships, to have a gratifying life.

For more strategies on dealing with one-sided relationships check out my book, Having Sex, Wanting Intimacy: Why Women Settle for One-Sided Relationships. 

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