Young couple one-sided relationship

One-Sided Relationships

Signs Your Giving More Than You Should.

If you’re doing all the work–whether it’s household chores or emotional labor–in your relationship, you’re probably frustrated and unsatisfied.

Relationships require a mutual give and take. Both people need to demonstrate empathy and care for each other. They need to show interest in each other’s goals and ideas, and a desire to meet each other’s needs whenever possible.

One-sided relationships lack mutuality. One person consistently does all the giving and caretaking but receives little in return. This is not a recipe for a sustainable and fulfilling relationship.

Signs you’re in a one-sided relationship

  1. You feel like you’re putting more into the relationship than you’re getting back.
  2. Your partner doesn’t seem interested in you as a person.
  3. You make sacrifices for your partner that they wouldn’t make for you.
  4. Your partner frequently lets you down or breaks promises.
  5. Your partner doesn’t appreciate your help, caretaking, or sacrifices.
  6. Your partner complains that you’re demanding, controlling, or meddlesome.
  7. You’re reluctant to ask for anything.
  8. Your partner’s needs and preferences are always more important than yours.
  9. You feel like you need to take care of or fix your partner.
  10. You frequently feel frustrated, resentful, and unappreciated.

Trying to fix or change your partner leads to burnout, resentment, and conflict

Sometimes you don’t realize that your caregiving has crossed the line into codependency or unhealthy caretaking. A healthy relationship consists of two whole and independent people who mutually support each other. Several problems can result when you’re focused on taking care of or fixing your partner.

  • Your needs don’t get met. You’re so busy meeting all your partner’s needs that you don’t prioritize yourself. Over time, you’ll probably become resentful and burnt out because you are taking care of your partner, but not receiving care in return. You’re also not prioritizing self-care. You don’t go out with your friends or see your family. You don’t prioritize exercise because it takes you away from your partner. You may not feel worthy of spending time or money on yourself. Some people accept one-sided relationships because they don’t feel worthy of care.

  • You become frustrated and discouraged because you are trying to change your partner. You are working harder than your partner to improve the relationship. Perhaps you suggest counseling, self-help books, or 12-step meetings. But all you get in return are broken promises. Your efforts to fix or change your partner could be better spent elsewhere—on your own hobbies, friendships, career, or mental health.

Read more in this article: Codependent Rescuing, Resenting, and Resenting

  • You lose sight of who you are and what’s important to you. Because your focus is on your partner, you eventually lose touch with your interests, goals, and values. You compromise so much of who you are to please or take care of your partner that you lose yourself in the process.

How to let go of unhealthy caretaking and create a more balanced relationship

If you’re in a one-sided relationship, there are things you can do to try to create a more balanced and fulfilling relationship. Below are several suggestions to help you get started.

  1. Prioritize meeting your own emotional needs by showing yourself the same love and care that you give to others.
  2. Set clear boundaries so that you and your partner both know what to expect. Boundaries demonstrate respect for yourself and others.
  3. Speak up. Specifically, ask your partner for what you need or want. Don’t assume that they know.
  4. Consider your options. Unfortunately, not all one-sided relationships can be saved. If you’ve repeatedly asked your partner for support, help, or attention and they can’t or won’t change, you need to carefully consider your options—either accept that you will not get the support and care that you want or leave the relationship.

If you’re not sure that you want to end your one-sided relationship, please read the following articles for more information and support. It is normal to feel ambivalent.

Should I Leave a Dysfunctional Relationship?

How to Stop Trying to Change or Fix Others

Most importantly, remember that we all deserve mutually caring relationships where we both give and receive support.

©2023 Dr. Sharon Martin, LCSW. All rights reserved. Photos courtesy of

Additional Resources

Free codependency worksheets

Sharon Martin, DSW, LCSW is a psychotherapist and author specializing in codependency recovery. For the past 25 years, she’s been helping people-pleasers, perfectionists, and adult children overcome self-doubt and shame, embrace their imperfections, and set boundaries. Dr. Martin writes the popular blog Conquering Codependency for Psychology Today and is the author of The CBT Workbook for Perfectionism and The Better Boundaries Workbook.

2 thoughts on “One-Sided Relationships”

  1. Sharon I often read your emails and have searched often for wisdom for my own relationships but this one takes the prize! So wise and succinct. No outrage or pity, just insight, cause and effect and practical achievable steps to take into a better direction.
    I’m surprised you are not on best selling lists the world over, you should be.
    With gratitude, kim de Bruis x

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