Give and take: It’s basically the foundation of any healthy, happy relationship. It means that both partners are putting in equal effort to meet each other’s needs. Sometimes, that means compromising on where you’re spending your summer baecation, or snagging takeout on a Friday. Sometimes, it means putting your to-do list aside when your SO had a tough day and is craving some TLC. The bottom line is, relationships are a two-way street. And when they become a one-way — well, problems inevitably arise. Wondering how to save a one-sided relationship? Fortunately, experts say it's totally possible — but only if you have the courage to face the issue head-on.
First, let’s define a one-sided relationship. According to Dr. Gary Brown, a prominent couples therapist in Los Angeles, it refers to an imbalance.
“In general, the distribution of power in a one-sided relationship is clearly weighted to the needs of one partner,” he explains. “One partner dominates most conversations and decisions in the relationship, controls things like money, and may dedicate very little time to the well-being of the other partner.”
Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, licensed clinical psychotherapist, relationship expert, and author of Training Your Love Intuition, notes that as a result, one person may end up feeling like they’re doing all the work, and pulling all of the weight in the relationship.
“At that point, at least one partner no longer feels that he or she has a teammate for a partner,” she adds.
Of course, there are exceptions to these circumstances. Dr. Brown points out that if one partner suffers from a chronic or even temporarily debilitating health issue, there’s obviously going to be an imbalance in terms of the couple’s individual needs. Still, he emphasizes that the caregiving partner’s needs should still be met somehow, whether its through self-care or their significant other providing support in other ways.
It’s not just illness that can cause a relationship to be one-sided, either. Dr. Wish notes that other stressful events, like a layoff or financial struggles, can also disrupt the dynamic.
Regardless of how or why it happens, experts agree that a one-sided relationship is problematic.
“One of the partner's typically abandons their own needs or is frustrated in getting their needs met because the dominant partner's needs almost always take precedence,” says Dr. Brown.
It’s particularly harmful for the partner who’s putting in all the work, according to Dr. Wish.
“That’s when loneliness, resentment, and regret take over,” she says.
The good news is, there are ways to work toward a more balanced relationship. First thing’s first, however: Dr. Wish recommends doing some soul searching to figure out your role in this one-sided situation.
“For partners who tend to shoulder too much, ask yourself: Why am I not speaking up? What am I gaining by taking on so much responsibility?” she tells Elite Daily.
Once you’ve done an internal assessment, you’ll need to open an honest conversation with your SO about how you’ve been feeling. Dr. Brown advises emphasizing what you’d like for your partner to do more of, rather than what they’re not doing. In other words, frame your discussion around positive suggestions rather than negative accusations.
“You want to focus more on what your needs are, rather than blaming or judging your partner for not taking care of your needs,” he explains. “It will help if you have a vision for what a healthy loving relationship would look like. Fleshing out this vision will help both of you get a clear idea of what it is you are looking for so that you can have a healthy give-and-take relationship where you can both thrive.”
For example, say you feel like you’re the one doing all the housekeeping, like grocery shopping, dishes, and general tidying up at your shared apartment. Saying something along the lines of “You never lift a finger around the apartment!” is likely to trigger your partner to become defensive. Instead, you might try saying, “It would really make me happy if you were able to help out with some chores around the apartment. Is there a certain day of the week that you might have time to do that?” Ideally, your boo will get the hint, and want to put in the effort to make you happy.
“When you focus on solution rather than gripe, you will feel happy and strong again,” adds Dr. Wish.
If your SO is able to acknowledging the problem as well as its impact on you, then hopefully they’ll feel motivated to correct it.
“You have to be with a partner who both recognizes that this is a problem that is causing you pain, and who actually wants to do something about it,” says Dr. Brown.
If your partner refuses to own up to the issue or doesn’t show an interest in at least trying to do what you’ve asked, then the one-sided nature of your relationship will likely prove more complicated to correct. This is especially true if you find yourself in a codependent relationship, which is a dynamic that definitely requires commitment from both partners to change. That doesn’t mean it will be impossible to restore balance, but you might need some guidance from a couple’s therapist, who can shed some more perspective on the problems with your dynamic and how you can work together to make a shift. The point is, you deserve to be in a relationship where both partners take up equal space. Every relationship goes through ebbs and flows, and both partners’ needs will fluctuate over time. But if you’re consistently feeling like you’re bending over backwards for your boo, then it’s high time for a change.
Remember: Speaking up isn’t just for your own benefit, it’s for your partner’s, too. By compromising and sacrificing too much, or suppressing your own needs, you may very well begin harboring a lot of resentment, which will no doubt eventually begin to come out in strange ways. And resentment is something that can be super challenging to chip away at once it begins to build. So, do you and bae both a favor and let them know what you need from them. At that point, the ball is in their court to meet you halfway. Because that’s what relationships are all about, right?