When you are meeting someone’s mental, emotional, physical, or financial needs and they are not meeting any of those needs for you, you are in a one-sided relationship. In these kinds of interactions, there is typically a pattern of you being the “go-to” and the other person acting as the receiver.
There are some instances where it makes sense for a relationship to be one-sided, like the relationship between a parent and a child. Kids are not in a position to treat you in the same way that you treat them. But for healthy adult relationships, there is often an understanding that there will be reciprocity. You don’t both have to give in the same way, but it is expected that there will be give and take for both parties. However, that doesn’t mean reciprocity will show up in the same way. Just because you give someone $20 doesn’t mean they have to be there for you by giving you $20. Maybe they support you emotionally.
Now, one-sided relationships aren’t an issue for everyone, however, when one person begins to feel challenged by the way things are, that’s when you have a problem. When you are attempting to change the dynamic of a one-sided relationship, try the following strategies:
State the issue. For example, “It seems like whenever we connect, I am always the one inviting you to do something. I would like for you to initiate some of our interactions.” Let the person know what you are missing. When you state the issue, you also express your needs and open up the conversation around whether the person can meet them.
Dial back on initiating. Sometimes we will say a person is demanding a lot of our time and attention when we are the ones initiating the interactions. Are you always calling them? Are you always inviting them somewhere? If this is making you feel resentful, you can decide to scale it back.
Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself. If you stated your needs a couple of weeks ago, and it feels like nothing has changed, it is ok to remind the person of what you talked about.
Accept that things may not change. Some people are not interested in participating in relationships in the way that you would like. Some people won’t step up to do more, and you have to decide what you want to do with that. It may not be that you need to end the relationship, though that is an option. Another option is changing the way you interact with them. Call them when you won’t be bothered. Hang out with them with whatever frequency works for you. Think about what you may want to change or shift to be in a relationship with them.
Are you currently in any one-sided relationships? Are you on the giving or receiving end of that relationship, and how does the dynamic make you feel?
Have you been able to shift a one-sided relationship into a more reciprocal relationship? How did you make that transition?
How Loneliness Is Damaging Our Health: Even before the pandemic there was an “epidemic of loneliness,” and it was affecting physical health and life expectancy, by John Leland, in The New York Times.
How does being in one-sided relationships make you feel? Tell me about it in the comments below.
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