Do You Feel You Are in a One-Sided Relationship? Here’s What a Therapist Recommends

Do You Feel You Are in a One-Sided Relationship? Here’s What a Therapist Recommends


The Good News Is, if You’re Currently in One, There’s Hope

By Christa Cutler

There’s a specific moment in “500 days of Summer” when you FINALLY realize the thing you’ve tried to deny the entire movie. It’s the moment when Tom goes to Summer’s party with high expectations of restoring their relationship. And then he sees it: her ring. The engagement ring that did not come from him.

That’s when you realize this has been a one-sided relationship all along.

Some of us hate that movie. Maybe it’s because it goes against our idealistic senses of what a chick-flic should be. But it’s also possibly too close to home. Each of us can relate to having a one-sided relationship, whether friend or lover.

The good news is, if you’re currently in one, there’s hope. We reached out to therapists to see what can be done if you feel you’re the one constantly putting in the effort of keeping your love alive.

How do you know you are in a one-sided relationship?

Clinical psychologist, Dr. Traci Stein, said, “Pay attention to how you feel. One-sided relationship leave you feeling overwhelmed, or exhausted, frustrated, or resentful more often than not. If you were raised to take care of others even at your own expense, you’ll probably also feel guilty or anxious when you think about trying to raise this issue with the other person. But your gut will always tell you when something’s off. The key is listening, and then enlisting outside support if needed.”

What is your advice for people wanting to fix their one-sided relationship?

Stein advised, “Strive for direct, but respectful communication. Be specific and concrete about what you are hoping will change. Understand that this will require compromise on both your parts. Be willing to seek out the help of a professional if you both agree that you want the relationship to be better, but find yourselves at an impasse.”

You can’t read each other’s minds. You may feel like you are doing all the work, but is it possible your spouse may be feeling the same way? If they haven’t had the chance to express their feelings you can’t know. Sometimes in “one-sided” relationships both spouses feel like they are carrying the burden of the marriage. Communicating more effectively as a couple will transform your marriage into a support system instead of a burden.

How should you communicate with your spouse in a one-sided relationship?

“This can be tricky, but it’s worth doing,” Stein said. “First, don’t assume your partner knows either what you feel or what you need. Not everyone is as naturally empathic or aware of how they impact others.”

Stein said this requires being direct, respectful, concrete and specific.

“So rather than, ‘I need you to be more supportive,’ state what that would look like, as you both may have different ideas about what ‘more supportive’ means,” she said.

These conversations are easiest when you’ve both calmed down about an issue. Don’t try to approach a sensitive topic when either of you is emotionally charged. And if having productive conversations is still difficult, going to a therapist will guide you through developing healthy habits.

Marriage & Family Therapist, Dr. Saudia L. Twine recommends some do’s and don’ts for these conversations.

Couples who break up tend to:

  1. Criticize – criticize their character instead of listing the complaint
  2. Act with contempt – be hurtful or disrespectful
  3. Become defensive – this creates a sense of separation
  4. Stonewall – shut them out through silence
  5. Reject – block a partner’s invitation to connect

Couples who last tend to:

  1. Use soft start-ups to express a complaint.
  2. Complain without attacking the person.
  3. Turn towards their partner by using nonverbal and verbal cues of connection and receive their partner’s connection cues as well.

Small things to do to improve communication:

  1. Touch affectionately
  2. Laugh together
  3. Touch playfully
  4. Share thoughts and feelings

What are the best ways to develop intimacy (not just physical intimacy)?

Intimacy weakens when one partner feels taken advantage of because of their constant giving. The therapists recommended maintaining intimacy by continual connection, developing healthy habits and making time together a priority.

“Intimacies development and maintenance is dependent upon continued connection between partners,” Twine said. “Communication with your partner either strengthens or weakens the relational bond. The more you do it, then the stronger your relationship. Couples who last tend to shares their vulnerable side and is validated, supported and feels loved by their partner.”

Stein said all healthy relationships depend on five pillars: openness, genuineness, respect, compromise and compassion.

“Understand that compromise is also fundamental in creating a relationship that is meaningful and enjoyable for you both. In this way, you can connect with each other in a way that is honest and caring, and that respects both of your needs and desires. Ideally, your partner will be your best friend, so treat each other as if this is so.”

Couples Counselor, Dr. Wyatt Fisher added, “One of the keys is to spend at least 10-15 hours of quality time together a week and every day share your head/heart. Head is your agenda for the day and heart is what you’re feeling and why you’re so mad, sad, glad, and why.”

The main problem with one-sided relationships is that the couple does not know how to effectively communicate, or in other words, the couple doesn’t understand how to express themselves and validate their partner.

How to Famifi it:

This week, take 15 minutes every night, put away electronics and talk to your spouse. Ask about their day — what made them sad, glad and mad. Ask what they have planned for the next day and how they feel about their plans. At the end of your conversation give them a long hug and thank them for sharing their feelings with you.


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