Recently, a few girlfriends and I were discussing our relationships and the question was asked:
“How do you know you’re in a one-sided relationship?”
In the beginning of a relationship, you’re in the moment of newness and excitement. It’s difficult to think about anything or anyone, other than the person who has stolen your attention-or most likely your heart. You’re blinded by the fantastical feelings of being spellbound by “THE ONE.” In the purpose of keeping these feelings and your partner’s attention…you find yourself in a relationship that is off-balance. You’re doing all the work and by the time you realize it…you are in an emotionally one-sided relationship.
How does it even happen? As little girls our daydreams of Prince Charming didn’t include being emotionally unfulfilled.
Whether it be by their selfishness or ignorance, a one-sided relationship can leave you feeling vulnerable and insecure.
Thirty-nine year old Teresa found herself in a one-sided relationship when she married her high-school sweetheart at the age of nineteen. She was married for fifteen years and for the majority of her marriage, she says she was in a manipulative one-sided relationship.
“I didn’t truly recognize the relationship was one-sided until after we split. He was always manipulative in the sense he made me feel as if everything was my fault or my sadness or anger [over a situation] was all me. He was never at fault or empathetic. I was doing all the work…making sure he was happy. I’d drop everything for him and keep my feelings and opinions bottled up. Telling him only made me feel worse anyway.”
My friend, Joy* says she often felt humiliated. “I don’t know what my deal was. Insecurity? I felt as if I deserved his lack of attention. I was dealing with a lot of health issues at the time, so when his lack of showing any love or attention towards me, I felt it was deserved. I wasn’t a lot of fun being so sick. However, he’d ask me to do something-anything– and I would jump and do it. I wanted him to know I loved him, despite the fact I rarely felt cared or loved for.”
Realizing Your Worth
When you’re in a one-sided relationship, you aren’t a priority. As time goes on, you justify and rationalize the reasons and find yourself wondering, “What can I do or HOW can I be…to make this relationship balanced?”
Fifty-two year old Susan Wolf, says she knew she was in a one-sided relationship when she found herself going the extra mile to make her boyfriend happy. “I was always finding new ways to surprise him with fun gestures or doing little things to let him know how happy he made me. It was never reciprocated. Ever. I always felt bad and I’d ask myself, ‘What can I do to have him love me more, or show he loves me?’ That seems like a lifetime ago. I’m not that way anymore. What I had to realize was it was never about me…it was all about him. Until I realized my own self-worth… then that kind of relationship would always be okay with me. It’s not now.”
“Relationships are rarely 50/50. Life ebbs and flows,” says Eden Lunsford, MS. a licensed therapist counselor in Anchorage, AK. To keep the relationship from being one-sided, Lunsford suggests weekly check-in’s with your partner. “The responsibilities for picking up the slack and helping one another in a relationship should be evaluated weekly”
How would you go about doing a weekly check-in?
“I’m trying to imagine this scenario, Eden,” I say. “Tell The Boyfriend, ‘Hey, dude, it’s time to do a weekly check-in to make sure we’re not off balanced.’ And do I ignore his eye-rolling or do I bring it up and make it a part of the weekly check-in’?”
We’re on the phone, so I don’t know if she rolls her eyes or not to my question, but she answers, “Wherever way works. Having time set aside on Sunday evenings to look at one another’s respective weeks and discuss priorities, responsibilities, errands and pending stuff.” She emphasizes on the importance of communication with your partner to keep things balanced so there isn’t resentment building.
When you’re in a one-sided relationship, you’re (as I like to call it) “puddle sitting”. You’re not growing as a person. You’re stuck. It is impossible (despite our best efforts) to change the other person. If all your focus is on your partner and not yourself, this is a breeding ground for insecurity, vulnerability and sooner or later, resentment.
You deserve much more than being in a one-sided relationship, despite any hogwash that’s been told to you.
*Joy asked to remain anonymous and is not her real name