One-Sided Relationships: Been There, Done That, Here’s The Tea
“And so I wondered, in the poker game of love, if I’m all in and my partner always bluffs, is it time to fold?”
Sometimes, love makes you feel like the star of a romantic comedy. Sometimes, everything feels warm and bubbly. Other times, you realize your storyline is a one-sided relationship — cue the rain and breakup music.
It isn’t always easy to see the writing on the wall. Relationships have natural ups and downs, with one partner’s offering of time and energy occasionally outpacing the other. But if you find yourself in a relentless chase for attention, it may be time to get to the part of the script where you break up and move on. We’ll help you figure out whether your partner is gunning for a starring role or just a cameo appearance in your love life.
What is a one-sided relationship?
A one-sided relationship might feel like unrequited love as you endlessly try to capture your partner's affection. But this is more than a lopsided romance that needs extra effort. It's an unequal partnership. The scales are heavily tipped, and you’re putting in more effort, emotional labor, and resources than your partner. Such an imbalance is a far cry from the ideal healthy, balanced, and mutually supportive relationship.
Relationships form a big chunk of your identity, reflecting and influencing your sense of self. An imbalance in your romantic life doesn’t stay confined to your partnership. When you constantly give affection and don't receive any in return, it can make you feel undervalued, invisible, or unworthy of emotional intimacy. That imbalance drains you and inevitably seeps into other parts of your life, affecting your friendships, career, and overall mental health.
Healthy relationships thrive on a rhythm of give and take, where both partners contribute and receive love. No relationship is a constant 50/50, but your partner should support, connect, and invest in you to the best of his ability. Without that equilibrium, your relationship stops being a source of support and growth and becomes a drain on your well-being.
Signs of an unequal relationship
It’s not always easy to see the signs you are not valued in a relationship when you’re in the middle of it, even if your friends keep telling you to dump his ass.
We’ve compiled some common indicators of a one-sided relationship to help you see the writing on the wall. So take off those rose-colored glasses, grab some chalk, and start tallying up the score.
You are always the one initiating plans, text exchanges, and important conversations. Whether it’s planning where you’ll eat dinner or working through a relationship grievance, you’re leading the charge. Maybe you’ve waited for them to initiate, but nothing seems to happen if you don’t get the ball rolling.
Lack of emotional support
You fought with your BFF, or you’re excited about an upcoming promotion at work, and he’s totally indifferent. Most of the time, he’s emotionally absent or unresponsive when you need him. Basically, he has zero fucks to give you.
Your needs? Secondary
You voice your needs, desires, and preferences, but they always take a backseat. You constantly compromise and sacrifice — words that aren’t even in his vocabulary.
“You just don't know him like I do.”
Sound familiar? You feel like a broken record, constantly making excuses for your man when you get together with your friends or family. Whether it’s his lack of involvement or constant fuck-ups, you’re always apologizing or coming up with excuses for his behavior.
Party for one, please
Even when he’s right there, it’s like you’re alone. Maybe you’ve been together for years, but it still feels more like a casual relationship or a friends-with-benefits situationship. Your attention is never reciprocated because he always finds a way to distract himself, whether it’s messing around on his phone or busying himself with other people’s company.
He’s never invested in the conversation
You’ve been asking important questions since the first date — where he grew up, his favorite movie, and his first kiss. Unfortunately, the interest isn’t mutual. He barely remembers the conversation you just had. Talking to him often feels like shouting into the void.
R for resentment
The small things pile up — ignored text messages, decisions made without you, dismissive shrugs. Every little thing makes you resentful, like how he clears his throat so loudly.
“What if we just…”
Unrequited love has you looking for that magic ingredient to perfect your relationship. You may have considered polyamory to solve a sexless relationship or adopting a pet to revive a one-sided marriage. You’re grasping at straws, hoping one minor adjustment will make everything click.
Shrinking self-esteem, growing insecurity
Your confidence takes a hit every time your efforts go unnoticed. You develop insecurities you never had, like feeling unattractive, boring, or unworthy of attention. Things that used to make you feel good about yourself make you feel insecure now.
Your life vs. his calendar
Plans orbit around his schedule. Free time, holidays, and even your sex life are calendared for his convenience. If he’s not interested in doing something, it’s an immediate deal breaker.
You’re the only one reaching for his hand, initiating affection, or planning those special moments most couples cherish. When it comes to romance, it’s a solo show rather than a duet. His idea of romance is just showing up.
You feel unhappy when you walk away from conversations. It’s like you’re speaking two different languages, and his is stonewalling and gaslighting. Communication feels like conflict even when you aren’t arguing, because he never fully understands the message.
Unbalanced bank accounts
You’re more invested — literally. You’re constantly picking up the check on shared costs. He expects you to pick up the slack for his financial responsibilities, from paying bills to grabbing movie tickets.
How to fix a one-sided relationship
So, what do you do when you and your partner are on different pages? Bringing you both up to speed requires honest conversations that may be tough to start. But with hard work and a commitment to communication, you could rebuild a healthy relationship.
1. Start a dialogue
Initiate a candid conversation about your feelings and the imbalance you perceive in the relationship. It’s helpful to gather your thoughts beforehand to assess whether the one-sidedness is a symptom of your relationship or your partner’s overall interpersonal skills. You can also take this time to define which areas of the relationship are most important to work on.
When you’re ready, explain your perspective without pushing blame. Instead, focus on how the situation makes you feel. Encourage your partner to share his perspective, too. He may not be aware of the imbalance or how his actions (or lack thereof) negatively impact you. Clear, honest communication isn’t always easy or comfortable, but it’s the first step toward positive change.
2. Set expectations
Be clear about what you need and expect from the relationship. That includes your emotional needs, time investment, and how you can both contribute to a more balanced partnership.
Setting expectations isn’t the same as making demands. It’s about expressing what’s necessary for your happiness and well-being within the relationship.
3. Try couples therapy
Communication isn’t easy, especially when dealing with resentment or overcoming mismatched attachment styles. A couples therapist provides a neutral space for both of you to speak openly and rebuild a more balanced, romantic relationship — even if you need to vent your frustration about his constant mouth breathing.
4. Move on
Not all relationships have a fix. You deserve a partnership that brings you more joy than stress. If that means walking away from your current significant other, so be it. You’ll come out better on the other side.
Plus one is the loneliest number
It’s fun being the main character, but not when the plot revolves around Prince Charming constantly leaving you on read. If you’re ready to find a new leading man, download the Grindr app today and get started.