Are You Caught in a One-Sided Relationship?

You're caught in a one sided relationship when you give everything for nothing; when you end up emotionally exhausted and psychologically drained. These are the main effects of unilateral emotional bonds.
Are You Caught in a One-Sided Relationship?
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

A one-sided relationship contradicts every principle of how an emotional bond should be. It’s the rupture of reciprocity and the violation of the perfect balance the relational substrate must be in. Everything falls apart without a joint commitment, without that spontaneous and authentic will each person has to take care of the details of their daily lives. Everyone wants respect and affection in a relationship.

Now, the most complex thing is how long it takes for a couple to realize it. Due to relationship wear and tear, distancing happens progressively. Routine has the power to camouflage it, apparently. In addition, there’s the pressure of the daily routine that often takes time away from home and love. At this moment, a person finally becomes aware that there’s no longer equity in their relationship. In fact, the other person may be barely present in it.

Your significant other might be sitting right next to you and, yet, you feel their coldness; they’re emotionally distant. This absence of affection and will is what one-sidedness is about. It’s a scenario in which only one partner contributes, nurtures, and strives to keep the relationship afloat. Psychologists often define these types of dynamics as sick relationships. Continue reading to find out why.

A woman ignoring a man.

A one-sided relationship

One could define a unilateral couple quite simply. It’s one in which only one member of it invests energy, will, and time in it. However, it’s a much more complex reality, because the causes that promote it can be many.

Often, people continue a relationship in which this dynamic appeared from the very beginning. Then, other times, it happens gradually. In any case, a unilateral relationship isn’t healthy. In fact, it constitutes a rather harmful situation for those involved in it, for those who try to reverse it and sustain it at all costs.

This explains why anyone would consider this kind of relationship a sick one. It’s because the emotional and psychological overstrain that a single party generates in maintaining the bond is often devastating.

Below, you’ll learn to identify if you’re currently caught in one of these relationships.

You always give in

Dr. John Gottman is a great connoisseur of romantic relationships and their most common dynamics. His studies span decades and his research in the so-called “love laboratory” already helped hundreds of people either save their relationships or get out of them.

Undoubtedly,  The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work is one of his best-known books. He stresses one of them: the need to reach an agreement. This is because something inevitable will happen when one of the partners always gives in; when only one prioritizes the other to save their relationship: it won’t be long before it ends.

A person will slowly experience emotional suffocation in which their self-esteem, dignity, and even health might vanish when the balance always tilts to the same side. This is a common situation in a one-sided relationship.

You’re in a one-sided relationship if you can’t express your feelings and meet your needs

One of the common characteristics of these types of bonds is the feeling of emptiness. There’s always something missing. It’s like being thirsty and only being able to drink vinegar. Your partner might be right next to you and you might even talk to them and do things with them. Yet, there’s something off. It’s definitely possible for one person to need more than what the other can give, but unilateral relationships are more dynamic.

That “something” is an emotional block. It’s about trying to express your feelings, thoughts, and needs to your partner and feel like you’re talking to a wall. How many times have you heard “This isn’t a good time to talk about it”, “You’re always complaining about the same thing”, “What do you want from me?” or “What am I supposed to respond?”  These are just the most common reactions. However, when your partner needs your support or affection, you seldom hesitate to respond and meet their needs as soon as you can.

Your partner takes you for granted and doesn’t make any effort

For instance, it’s normal for you to do what’s expected of you. The same goes when you solve a problem, and so on. This scenario configures a one-sided relationship. There’s a passive and proactive part that not only strives when confronting a given task or challenge that might lie ahead.

In addition, you’re not to protest or complain because you’re ultimately fulfilling your duties. Thus, be clear: the relationship is unhealthy the very moment one of you takes these kinds of things for granted and fails to recognize what the other one does. It’s also sick if only one of you always takes charge of a given task or unforeseen event. This kind of scenario is basically a mortal wound for any relationship.

A man thinking.

A one-sided relationship is confusing and exhausting

There are many red flags in this type of relationship, even if you refuse to acknowledge them. The reason why this happens is simple: you’ve invested too much effort, time, and emotion and don’t want to give it up. Thus, you give more opportunities, as well as love, dedication, and patience, while you wait for something to change.

Obviously, nothing changes. In fact, there’s mental and physical exhaustion. A person goes down in almost every respect, psychologically and often financially. You can’t forget that there are unilateral relationships in which a bond is based exclusively on self-interest.

Yes, every relationship is different, but there’s a basic principle that should never fail: love is about balance and reciprocity. Is about being a team, caring for something, and joining forces to obtain it. Furthermore, it’s about caring for one another and enhancing the relationship. Thus, everything falls apart when this isn’t the case.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Gottman, John (2012) Las siete reglas de oro para vivir en pareja. Debolsillo

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.