Stuck In A One-Sided Relationship? Here’s How To Talk About It So Resentment Doesn’t Take Over

If you are wondering if you are stuck in a one-sided relationship, think about if these statements sound like you:

“I feel like I’m doing all the work here.”

“Why do I always have to take the initiative?”

“I’m sick of trying.”

“He’s lazy/insensitive/callous/doesn’t care about me.”

Sound familiar?  If so, you may have stumbled into a one-sided relationship.

What Is A One-Sided Relationship?

It’s important to make a key distinction here between normal fluctuations and a consistent imbalance.  In other words, every relationship has its weak moments, which is because every person has his weak moments. 

We are all susceptible to bad moods, bad days, and other factors that occasionally make it difficult to give our relationships the attention they deserve.

However, in a healthy relationship, the other partner can understand, forgive and compensate for these rough spots.  He or she recognizes the need for support and lends it in the most appropriate way.  The relationship remains balanced.

In a one-sided relationship, however, the scale becomes uneven; one partner is doing all of the giving and none of the taking.  

That’s a pretty subjective phrase, though.  So how do you know for certain that your relationship is one-sided?

What Are The Signs Of A One-Sided Relationship?

Although every relationship is unique, many one-sided relationships are typified by a few common denominators, explains therapist April Eldemire.  These include:

  1. Frequent apologizing
  2. Difficulty bringing up serious topics with your partner
  3. A tendency to censor when relating aspects of your relationship to others
  4. Consistently seeking excuses for your partner’s behavior
  5. A feeling that your relationship is fragile and requires kid gloves
  6. Generally negative emotional associations in your relationship
  7. Difficulty reading your partner’s emotions, often leading to confusion and sometimes self-doubt

Those of us who have been in any of these positions know them to be extremely uncomfortable.  This discomfort is often compounded by feelings of helplessness (that we don’t know how to change the situation), guilt (“maybe it’s something about me?”) and most notably, resentment.

What Is Resentment?

Simply put, resentment is the bad aftertaste in your mouth after a frustrating interaction or sequence of interactions, but in reality, there is a lot more to it than that. 

Resentment is something that takes a while to develop; it’s not the initial response to situations but rather one that percolates over time.  (Maybe you could call it fermented anger.) 

It’s the voice in the back of your head that speaks up when you feel rejected or unnecessary.  It walks you through your memory of the situation as you perceived it, sometimes over and over, and concludes by informing you that you’ve been victimized.

Although resentment is just as existent and valid as any other emotional reaction, it is unique in its ability to wreak havoc in relationships.  However, despite our intuitive awareness of this fact, it can nevertheless be very difficult to fight off the feeling. so you don’t feel like this is a one-sided relationship. 

What Causes Resentment

If you’re feeling resentful, you’re not alone. 

Resentment is deeply rooted in the human psyche, and most of us experience it at one point or another.  It doesn’t indicate a flaw in the person feeling it; it means, rather, that there is unaddressed pain in that area. 

Similar to the way a child will continue to cry until his needs are met, resentment will continue to present until its needs are addressed.  However, before you can take that step forward, addressing those needs, you must know what is causing you to feel resentful in the first place.

In relationships, the cause of resentment is usually unmet expectations.  For example, you may expect your partner to express gratitude for kind things you do, and you may feel unappreciated when this doesn’t happen. 

Initially you may experience pain and frustration, but over time, as these emotions simmer and remain unexpressed, they often coagulate into resentment. 

Resentment is a very sticky state from which you may find it hard to extricate yourself and your relationship.

How To Communicate So You Don’t Feel Resentful

In response to resentment, our gut instinct sometimes tells us to express our anger and pain in a way that makes our partner feel as terrible as we did when he or she acted in the way that caused our hurt.  However, we know (hopefully from instinct and not bitter experience) that this is not the solution. 

By inflicting the pain we feel on our partner, we are more likely to cause defensiveness than understanding, anger than empathy, and backtracking than progress. 

Very possibly the cycle of pain will continue, now featuring twice as much resentment as before.

There’s hope, though!  It is entirely possible to salvage a relationship that has been marred by resentment, and it can even grow and flourish afterwards.  The key ingredient is proper communication.

Remember your goal here.  It’s bigger than revenge – it’s to address your own needs. 

Although it can be tempting, as we mentioned before, to lash out and communicate pain by passing it on, it is much more productive and sensitive to express your feelings in mature words.  “I” statements are great for this because they totally subtract the element of personal affront that may, however unintentionally, present to your partner.  “I feel hurt when you don’t answer if I ask how your day went.”  “I feel unappreciated when you don’t thank me for making dinner.” 

Even better if you can add in a positive statement, such as, “I feel loved when you answer my questions about your day and show attention.”  “I feel appreciated when you thank me for making dinner.”

Although it can be difficult to produce phrases like this from a place of pain, the remembrance of your goal (to maintain this relationship, which you wouldn’t do unless you cared about your partner) can help you to find those words. You can learn how to move from a stuck one-sided relationship and resentment to a loving and nurturing relationship. 

Additional reading to support your relationship as you explore options for couples therapy and healing:

How To Communicate With A Man That Won’t Communicate

What Causes Resentment In A Marriage (Plus How You Can Heal Resentment In Yours)

How Long Is Too Long Without Sex In A Relationship?

ADHD & Relationships

Stuck In A One-Sided Relationship? Here’s How To Talk About It So Resentment Doesn’t Take Over


Lisa Rabinowitz

Lisa Rabinowitz, LCPC is a certified Gottman therapist working with couples in the US and internationally. Lisa has worked for many years with couples who have both diagnosed and undiagnosed ADHD. Her certifications and experience uniquely qualify her to support couples with relationship challenges that often feel insurmountable. Please reach out for a free 20-minute consultation with Lisa today.

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