How to Tell If You're in a One-Sided Friendship

Signs Your Relationship Is Unbalanced

Ideally, friends should give and take fairly equally in order to have a balanced friendship. This means that they both want the friendship, they both value the other person, and they both give of their time and themselves. When one person has more vested emotionally in the relationship, it can be difficult on many levels.

While these types of relationships may satisfy a temporary desire for friendship, ultimately they will break down. This can leave the person that put more effort into the friendship feeling sad, used, angry, or any combination.

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Signs of Unbalanced Friendships

two women ignoring another woman on the same couch
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Every friendship goes through times when one person is doing more (contacting the other friend more, scheduling things, taking more time) than the other person. However, this should be temporary, like when one friend is just busy at the moment and unable to devote the same amount of time to the relationship.

But when a friendship is unbalanced, it means that the norm is for one person to be more invested in the relationship. Maybe a friendship is unbalanced from the very beginning and maybe it happens later down the road. 

Signs of an unbalanced friendship include:

  • One person repeatedly having to call or email to get a response from the other.
  • One friend failing to contact the other unless they need a favor.
  • One person at the whim of the other in terms of plans, the frequency of get-togethers, and activities.
  • One person who talks over the other about his or her problems, but then fails to listen when their friend needs something.​

The key characteristic of an unbalanced friendship is consistency. In an unbalanced friendship, one person repeatedly "keeps the friendship going" while the other seems to care less about the relationship.

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Why One-Sided Friendships Occur

You might wonder why anyone would put effort into a friendship when the other person just doesn't seem to care. There are several reasons why one-sided friendships occur. Typically one person:

  • Mistakenly believes they are friends while the other thinks they are acquaintances
  • Is lonely and desperate for friends.
  • Feels that everyone has a good side and will spend the time to see if it's true with their new friend.
  • Believes that their mentoring relationship has crossed over into friendship.
  • Is a fan of a celebrity or someone on social media and thinks they have a friendship when they don't.

If you are the one who believes you give more to the friendship, take some responsibility for why this might be true. You need to examine your actions and expectations to make sure you haven't assumed a closeness about your friendship that isn't there.

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How to End a One-Sided Friendship

The great part about unbalanced friendships is that they are very easy to walk away from. If you are the one putting the effort into keeping in touch, simply stop and move on to find other friends. Very often in one-sided friendships, the self-absorbed friend won't even notice or care enough to contact you to find out what is the matter.

If your friend does contact you at some point, be cautious with how much effort you put into the friendship going forward. You may be dealing with someone who will continue to use you or worse, someone that just doesn't get what friendship is all about. If you find that your friendship immediately falls back to an unbalanced state, move on from that person for good.