When it feels like a one-sided relationship…

16 June 2020

Feeling like your relationship is one-sided can be painful and upsetting. It can make you feel like a spare part in someone else’s life – as if you aren’t as important to your partner as they are to you.

There are a variety of things that can make a relationship feel as if it’s one- sided. Perhaps you find you’re always making the plans while your partner is ambivalent or apathetic. Perhaps you feel like it’s always up to you to maintain contact when you’re apart. Or perhaps it’s just a general feeling that you’re putting the relationship first in ways your partner isn’t – as if it’s one of the most important things in your life, but just ‘something’ in theirs.

What does it mean?

Feeling like your relationship is one-sided doesn’t necessarily mean your partner doesn’t care about you as much as you care about them.

It may be that your partner has trouble expressing affection or emotion. It may be that your partner has trouble with commitment. Or it could be that your partner simply doesn’t understand your expectations – and it hasn’t occurred to him or her that you’re finding this upsetting.

Each scenario has a common solution: talk about it.

Talking it through

When you do talk about it, it’s important you make it a conversation, not an interrogation. Consider:

  • Setting aside some time. Don’t bring things up when you’re feeling frustrated or upset. That’s likely to make your partner feel under attack – or that you’re just saying things because you’re in a bad mood. Make it a proper conversation: sit down without any distractions and take time to explore what’s going on.
  • Listening as well as talking. When you’re the one feeling aggrieved, it’s tempting to simply vent without actually listening to what your partner has to say. A conversation works only if there’s two people in it. The whole point of the exercise is to gain a better understanding of each other’s feelings and thoughts so, even if you find explanations frustrating or upsetting, try to take them seriously.
  • Taking responsibility for your own feelings. Explain how things are affecting you, rather than just going in with accusations and anger. Take ownership of your feelings without turning everything on your partner, i.e. ‘When you don’t talk to me for days at a time, it makes me feel isolated’, rather than ‘You’re so distant! What’s wrong with you?!’.

Thinking it over afterwards

After talking things through with your partner, you may feel relieved. You may have been able to reach a greater level of understanding, where your partner has come to better appreciate what you want from the relationship, and you’ve been able to get a better idea of how they’re feeling too.

Or you may have discovered that your partner simply doesn’t see things the way you do – that they see the relationship as having a completely different role in your lives. This can be frustrating or upsetting but, ultimately, it’s better to have this understanding of your relationship than no understanding at all.

Either way, you can now go forward with a better idea of what staying in the relationship would mean. You don’t need to be part of something that isn’t satisfying to you but, equally, knowing more about your partner’s ideas or values may mean there’s room for compromise or change.

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