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Do You Have One-Sided Friendships?

Updated: Nov 30, 2023

Man and woman talking at a café
Are you putting in all the effort in your friendship?

Sometimes people from homes with dysfunctional patterns of relating find themselves in relationships with peers that are one-sided. They may do all of the effort and invest much more energy than the other person does. This happens to a lot of people, and it hurts when we realize that our affection for the person is not reciprocated. No one wants to be in one-sided friendships, but unfortunately you might find yourself in one if you don't have good boundaries and practice assertiveness.

Usually people extricate themselves from these relationships what they realize that the other person does not share their same level of interest. However, the people who stay in these relationships sometimes suffer from low self-esteem.

They might not know how to receive care and attention from another person, or it might seem frightening to them because it's unfamiliar. If they find themselves in such relationships, it is their decision to stay and allow themselves to be (possibly) ignored or emotionally harmed, or to leave.

Assertiveness can sort out one-sided friendships

People can manage to change the dynamics within the relationship by being assertive. For example, they might say to their friend, "I noticed that lately I've been calling more often. Is there something going on in our friendship that I'm not aware of?"

Sometimes people get busy, or they had something in their personal lives that is too private for them to discuss with you but also big enough for them to be preoccupied with it. Other times, however, the person does not know how to reciprocate effort or attention because of their unique psychological issues.

They might grow to expect you to do all the effort and be offended or feel victimized when you stop giving all the attention. If the recipient of the one-sided relationship is not receptive and open to changing, there's a good chance that the relationship will end.

Asian young man looking sad and wistful
It can be very lonely to be the only person putting in the effort.

All the Work

If you find yourself in a relationship where you do all the giving and make all the effort, you can ask yourself what you are gaining from this. Relationships should have an even flow of give-and-take. You don't have to keep record or score of who gave what on what date, but if you find that you are on the receiving end of too much attention or you are giving too much attention to the other person, that can be unsatisfying for both of you.

You can evaluate what kind of a relationship you want with this person and whether there are enough good times to justify working things out. If you are continually having to remind the person to either give you space or return your phone calls, for example, then chances are that the person is not open to working with you to improve the friendship.

Frightened woman in orange sweater
Fear of abandonment can make people stay in unhealthy friendships

Fear Factor, the Hidden Trap in One-Sided Relationships

Sometimes people are afraid that if they don't continue with this pattern, they will hurt the other person's feelings are they will wind up alone. This makes the assumption that there are only users people in the world and that they will never get any friends better than what they have now.

This is a false assumption, because I've seen many times that once a person works on repairing their self-esteem and looking after their own needs as well as the needs of others, they attract healthier friendships.

However, there is the uncomfortable time when they are not approved of by the distant or user us friend. The recipient of the effort is not always necessarily malevolent or usurious; they might simply be too busy or not interested in having a friendship.

Once they make it clear by their lack of motivation or active participation in the relationship that they're not interested, what is the point in pursuing the relationship further? Some self-examination is in order, regardless of the motives of the other person.

Are you confused about the relationships in your life? Please call 661-233-6771 to learn how to enjoy mutually enjoyable relationships.

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