Have you ever felt like your partner or spouse just isn’t pulling their fair share of weight in your marriage or love relationship? Like they aren’t putting in the same amount of effort, care, and intention into your marriage? If this sounds like it’s hitting close to home, ask yourself another question:
Do you feel like you’re investing more energy, time, emotional or financial support than your spouse?
You may very well be answering “yes” to the question, “Is my relationship one-sided?”
If this is your marriage, you’re probably feeling exhausted. A marriage or love relationship should ideally be a safe space for you to relax, play, and grow together. It shouldn’t be a physically, mentally, or spiritually depleting stress ball.
Over time this kind of unhealthy marriage can lead to greater resentment and burnout, an easy recipe to kill desire between you and your spouse. The responsibility can’t solely be on you to keep the marriage afloat.
Here we’ll go over ten signs that you’re in a one-sided relationship, including major themes that may be related to this one-sidedness that are “life traps,” or chronic patterns you may have experienced in your significant relationship. With some work, you can thoroughly address the problem(s), especially with the help of one of our marriage therapists in NY at Loving at Your Best, or to get help getting out of the toxic relationship dynamic.
1. You’re always apologizing (Self-Sacrifice Lifetrap)
A typical sign of a one-sided relationship is if you are highly empathetic regarding your spouse’s emotions and needs, but your spouse is completely checked out and indifferent to your experiences and emotions. To reduce the stress of this imbalance, you might find yourself apologizing far more than necessary just to reduce friction and appease them, even if you did nothing wrong. Over time this pattern will become more evident, as will the overall imbalance in the relationship. As a marriage expert, I call this a “self-sacrificing” schema or sensitivity, a chronic pattern of feeling and acting like your needs don’t matter that schema therapy addresses.
What is the Self-Sacrifice Schema? Excessive focus on voluntarily meeting the needs of others in daily situations, at theexpense of one’s own gratification. The most common reasons are: to prevent causing pain to others; to avoid guilt from feelingselfish; or to maintain the connection with others perceived as needy . Often results from an acute sensitivity to the pain of others.Sometimes leads to a sense that one’s own needs are not being adequately met and to resentment of those who are taken care of. (Self-Sacrifice overlaps with the concept of co-dependency.)
2. You do all the work (Entitlement Lifetrap)
Do you arrange everything, including all the trips, dates, food plans, initiating sex, and more?
Does it seem like much of your relationship’s inner workings would collapse if you stopped carrying all the load?
Have you talked to your spouse about some of this, but they offer only empty excuses, get defensive, or act like they don’t know what you’re talking about? This imbalance hurts and is not sustainable or desirable for the long haul. Your spouse may have an “Entitlement” schema or lifetrap, taking advantage of you in ways that lead to a lot of resentment and loneliness inside.
What is the ENTITLEMENT Schema? The belief that one is superior to other people; entitled to special rights and privileges;or not bound by the rules of reciprocity that guide normal social interaction. Often involves insistence that one should be able to door have whatever one wants, regardless of what is realistic, what others consider reasonable, or the cost to others; OR an exaggerated focus on superiority (e.g., being among the most successful, famous, wealthy) to achieve power or control (not primarily for attention or approval). Sometimes Entitlement includes excessive competitiveness toward, or domination of others, asserting one’s power, forcing one’s point of view, or controlling the behavior of others in line with one’s own desires without empathy or concern for others’ needs or feelings.
3. You sugarcoat the reality of the relationship with your loved ones (Defectiveness Lifetrap)
Because you sense there are problems, you hide aspects of the relationship with your friends or loved ones. Subconsciously you may be avoiding this because this could lead to them raising questions that you don’t want to answer truthfully.
What is the Defectiveness Schema? The feeling that one is defective, bad, unwanted, inferior, or invalid inimportant respects; or that one would be unlovable to significant others if exposed. Defectiveness may involve hypersensitivity to criticism, rejection, and blame; self-consciousness, comparisons, and insecurity around others; or a sense of shame regarding one’s perceived flaws. These flaws may be private (e.g., selfishness, angry impulses, unacceptable sexual desires) or public (e.g., undesirable physical appearance, social awkwardness).
4. You feel insecure in your marriage or love relationship (Abandonment Lifetrap)
If you generally feel a sense of insecurity or lack of safety when you’re with your partner, this is a red flag. You keep trying your best to invest in the relationship, but your efforts aren’t being reciprocated. This can lead to a sense of insecurity, feeling that the marriage could suddenly end at any moment with a lot of fear or even panic about that. This is triggered by an “Abandonment/Instability” schema that links to often questioning of your worth.
What is the Abandonment/Instability schema? The perceived instability or unreliability of those available for support and connection. Abandonment involves the sense that significant others will not be able to continue providing emotional support, connection, strength, or practical protection, because they are emotionally unstable and unpredictable (e.g., angry outbursts), unreliable, erratically present, or because they will die imminently or abandon the patient in favor of someone better.
5. You make excuses for your spouse’s behavior
Does it seem like they are always “having an off day” or going through some unexplainable rough patch? It is positive to give your partner grace and patience, but there is a line where you might be avoiding the painful truth and merely enabling their behavior with your excuses.
When you think of your spouse, mostly negative emotions arise (Negative Sentiment Override — NSO)
All relationships encounter some healthy amounts of anger and guilt, but if mostly negative emotions arise when you think of them, this is a sign of an imbalance in the relationship. The Gottman Method Couples Therapy approach defines negative sentiment override, based on decades of research with thousands of couples:
What is Negative Sentiment Override (NSO)? Based on every day, mundane, non-conflict interactions in your marriage, negative sentiment override occurs when neutral situations with your spouse are judged by you as if they were negative.
6. There is financial instability between you and your spouse
If your spouse or partner is in a tough financial predicament and you have the means to help, it’s understandable to want to offer your resources and lend a hand during a time of financial hardship. It’s a completely different scenario, however, if you end up paying for most things – bills, groceries, transportation, vacations, etc. without a mutually agreed-upon arrangement, and your partner makes no signs of trying to help and pitch in whatever they can. This imbalance can represent an unhealthy, imbalanced relationship dynamic and can easily lead to feelings of being used or unappreciated.
7. There is a lack of communication between you and your spouse
You never quite know how your spouse feels because your communications are not clear and easy. Because of this, you may find yourself constantly overthinking their behaviors and excessively anticipating their emotions. Because of this uncertainty, you might relegate your needs and feelings behind what you perceive theirs might be.
8. You’re usually the only one expressing your feelings in your marriage (Emotional Inhibition Lifetrap)
Unless your partner or spouse has been over-compensating with fake displays of love or they aren’t genuine, you may have found that it’s usually only you are expressing emotions or feelings. Other factors such as different communication styles may play a role, but if you’re more willing to open-up about your emotions in comparison to your spouse, and it doesn’t seem like they’re willing to work on it, you may start feeling lonely in your marriage. Your spouse may have an “Emotional Inhibition” schema that makes it hard for them to share their more vulnerable parts of them, impacting you in ways that deepen your sense of being alone in your marriage.
9. You don’t feel “good enough” around your spouse
This might sound obvious, but it’s a strong indicator that your relationship may be out-of-balance. One of the biggest signs of a one-sided marriage is if you simply don’t feel good enough around them. This isn’t just a question of your self-esteem. It may always feel like an uphill battle or a fight. You’re doing all you can to make it work, and no matter what or how much you do, it just never feels like enough. This is unsustainable and an unhealthy dynamic. At the end of the day, if you don’t feel like you’re enough in the relationship, maybe it’s time to question if it’s worth your time or energy. Because no matter what they do or don’t do, you have to put your well-being first – for yourself AND any hope for the relationship. You are enough.
Realizing that you are in a one-sided relationship can be painful and challenging, but facing the truth is the first step to having a healthier marriage. You can address this imbalance together in marriage therapy in NYC, doing all you can on your part to improve the relationship. If your spouse refuses to address the imbalance, you may also need help using individual schema therapy in NYC to get out of the toxic relationship, and to live with more freedom and joy.
Finding effective emotionally based therapy, such as Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), Gottman Method Couples Therapy, and Schema Therapy, all models our marriage therapy experts in NYC at Loving at Your Best use, can be a highly productive way to move through this difficult time. If you choose to stay in the relationship and make a mutual commitment to work on it, marriage therapy can be an incredibly effective use of your time and effort.