Is my relationship one-sided?
5 signs the answer is yes.
Relationships are worth fighting for, but you can’t be the only one fighting.
September 21, 2020
Dating is stress-inducing. Dating during a pandemic is even more so, with the added concern that it will be harder to find someone new if you pass on your current or prospective partners.

Stress like this can cause us to accept toxic behavior we might otherwise refuse. For example: one-sided relationships.

In one-sided relationships, one partner gives much more than they take. As Kelly Campbell, Ph.D., puts it: a one-sided relationship is one where one partner is "putting in a lot [more] in terms of resources (time, money, emotional investment) [than the other] and getting little to nothing in return."

These relationships are depleting, exhausting, and...actually, pretty common.

Wonder if you’re in one? We’ve compiled a list of warning signs from relationship experts.


1.The level of commitment is undefined.

Are you dating? Talking? Exclusive? Open? There’s no one right way to have a relationship, but it’s important that all partners agree on the terms.

Vulnerability is hard. Talking about what you want and what your partner will accept can be challenging. When we avoid having these conversations, we wind up illaligned. According to Psychology Today, today’s dating culture increases that risk, as “changes in relationship norms make the possibility of mismatched commitment levels greater.”

You may perceive that your physical intimacy or time spent together means you are exclusively partnered, while your partner might see the situation as more casual. In some cases, people share a home or even a child without agreeing on the boundaries of their relationship.

These discrepancies in commitment can lead to negative consequences for you: including emotional dissatisfaction as the more committed partner, painful interactions, and even physical aggression.

If you haven’t defined the terms and boundaries of your relationship or you feel that you and your partner are on different pages, conversation is key. An open dialogue wil reveal any mismatched perceptions.

2.One person consistently puts in more effort.

Life is messy. Work stress, family problems, and even our health can stop us from fully focusing on our relationships. For that reason, it’s perfectly normal for the effort to shift between partners over time.

As Kelly Campbell, Ph.D, shares "Sometimes one person ‘carries’ the relationship, but in order for a relationship to be healthy and satisfying, it takes effort from both people."

If you find yourself giving more than you’re taking for weeks, months, even years—don’t brush it off.

Brian Ogolosky, a professor in human development and family studies, spent two years reading everything published about relationships since 1950. His research highlights how critical it is for both partners to sacrifice, stay generous, help one another, and think as a team.

3.There is a win-lose mentality in your relationship.

In a healthy relationship, the couple functions as a team. Compromise feels good because you can both find happiness while strengthening your bond.

In a one-sided relationship, there is little to no compromise. One partner sacrifices what they want for the other person, time and time again.

Your partner’s resistance to compromise might feel like a reflection of you—if I were worthy of love, they’d be more careful with me—but studies suggest it has more to do with your partner.

One study grouped individuals by their goals: compassionate goals and self-image goals. While people with compassionate goals “believe that it is important that people look out for one another,” people with self-image goals “believe that good outcomes for one person come at the expense of others. For this reason, people with self-image goals resist compromise.

Do you often find yourself eating where your partner wants? Organizing the house as they wish? Do they pout and punish you if you get your way? It may be time to consider if you are in an unhealthy relationship.

4.You feel insecure.

A bad partner can cause you to doubt yourself. If you consistently need to apologize to keep the peace, you may doubt if your opinions were ever valid. When you’re required to change to meet your partner’s expectations, you can lose who you really are.

Clinical psychologist, Jill P. Weber, Ph.D, shared with Oprah Magazine, “[in a one-sided relationship] you are focusing your attention and energy more on being liked than on truly being known and nurtured.” This could diminish your own perception of the great person you are.

5.Without your effort, the relationship would end.

You text first. You initiate sex. You plan dates. Who puts their friends and family to the side? You guessed it. You do.

If this sounds like you, then you are what one study calls the “strong link.”

If you feel, and even fear, that the relationship would crumble if you didn’t hold it up—you’re in a one-sided relationship.


Think you might be in a one-sided relationship? It can be helpful to talk it out.

Download Hapi today to talk to an anonymous Listener -- studies show that talking to strangers has immense therapeutic benefit.

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In addition to using Hapi, you can use tools like journaling to record and reflect on your feelings before starting a conversation with your partner. Ultimately, relationships require listening and talking. You can use this guide for having difficult conversations to guide you as you go.