6 Signs You’re In A One-Sided Relationship

A one-sided relationship is a relationship that you shouldn't be in at all.

Love & Relationships

Many years ago, I was a spokesperson for a particular pageant organization. While in the position, I got asked a lot of questions. If someone had asked me the traditional, "What would you like everyone to have?" I actually would've said something along the lines of, "I'd like everyone to stop settling for being in one-sided relationships." Although world peace is dope, relationships are my lane of interest. Shoot, if more of us stopped settling, world peace would be more attainable anyway because there would be inner peace. Amen? Amen.

Anyway, I thought about my personal wish for mankind when I checked out two skits by an actor named Ms. Sade. One skit showed what happens when a woman finds herself in a one-sided relationship. An example was her and her man being at the gas station, him offering to pump the gas in her car with her credit card, then asking if he can also use it to get something else out of the store. An example of her taking her man for granted is her asking him to use his car, him asking her to put gas in it, her saying "no" (then following that up with announcing that she's going 20 miles away), him asking to borrow her credit card and her looking at him like he's crazy. The skits are funny, but you know what they say—humor makes it easier to digest the truth. Not only that, but if you're like me and you're a survivor of the chronic pattern of being in the kind of relationships where you find yourself doing most of the work, the skits might actually be triggering, too.

It took me many (many) years before I realized that one-sided relationships are totally unhealthy and extremely less than what I deserve. If you agree with that point in theory, but you're still on the fence about whether you're actually in one, there's no time like the present for a red-pill dosage so that the truth can set you free. Ready?

ONE-SIDED SIGN #1: His Expectations Are Met. Yours? Not So Much.


One of the reasons I am such a fan of two people having what I call a "pre-commitment interview" before they get involved with each other is so they both can be on the same page when it comes to their expectations. I didn't come to this conclusion as a result of being a marriage life coach. I figured this out via very personal experience. For example, although I don't observe holidays, something that is a big deal to me is my birthday. It always has been and probably always will be. My crew typically holds me down, but sadly, I can't think of one ex who impressed me on my birthday. Not. One. Meanwhile, ask all of those jokers—I'm sorry, fellas; I just got a little triggered—how I handled their special day of birth. Hmph…hmph and another hmph.

Yeah, I'll be the first to say it. Part of the reason I found myself in one-sided relationships more often than I care to count or recall is because I assumed that what I gave is what I would receive in return; perhaps not exactly but damn—at least somewhere in the general vicinity. And that came out of my making sure that I met their expectations (because I cared enough to ask what made them happy) without requiring that mine be met as well. It really is true that when both people are not interested in what is expected to keep a relationship in a good place, there's a good chance that someone is going to end up doing more of the work; that the relationship is gonna end up being totally one-sided.

ONE-SIDED SIGN #2: The Word 'Selfish' Comes Up a Lot


Personally, I think that one of the most overlooked red flags that someone isn't relationship material is that they are selfish. It is also my belief that a lot of folks overlook this particularly unhealthy trait because they don't really know what to be on the lookout for during the first couple of months of dating. And just what are some indications that someone is truly self-consumed? They have a sense of entitlement. They rarely put themselves in the shoes of others (in order to gain another or different perspective). They don't really do anything for someone unless they can find at least three ways it will benefit them directly. They don't take other people's needs or feelings very seriously. They don't compromise. They always feel the need to be right. Me…me…me; that's what they are about. Ugh.

Aside from the fact that selfish people are hella annoying, another challenge that comes from dealing with them is they don't really find your needs to be all that important. They might say that they do but their actions convey a totally different message. Listen, it doesn't matter if someone is fun to be around or if the sex is totally off the charts, if someone were to come up to you and ask you to define your relationship, and the world "selfish" comes up fairly often, even if/when you try to hide it under the guise of joking—that is no laughing matter. A selfish person can bring pleasure and good times into your life; that is, until it no longer serves them to do so. Then, they're out. If you're hurt in the process, so be it. How can someone be like that? Because anything that they do is all about them and no one else. Does that sound like a healthy relationship to you? Me neither.

ONE-SIDED #3: There’s Hypocrisy When It Comes to Traditional Gender Roles


Some of y'all are gonna get mad---perhaps even big mad---about this point. That doesn't mean it doesn't need to be made, though. I can't tell you how many times I will hear about, read or have a conversation with a woman who is super offended when a guy asks if she can cook but then turns around and is equally as offended about him not opening doors for her or picking up the tab on every single date that they go on. The way these ladies see it, a guy should provide because "it's a man's job", but a woman needing to cook is ridiculous and chauvinistic. Is it? Or is it that you want gender roles to fit when it works for you and not necessarily for your partner?

Y'all, there's no time to get into the battle of the sexes today. All I'm saying is, if you've got certain expectations from men and it's solely based on "that's what a man is supposed to do", how is that any less sexist than him also having expectations under the definition of traditional female roles in a relationship? Another way to look at this is, if there is a lot of resentment because you want him to "be the man" but you find every feminist book in the world to debate why he's wrong to expect you to fulfill certain roles as a woman, I'm not saying it's right or wrong; only the two of you can determine that. All I'm simply pointing out is picking and choosing when gender roles should apply is another example of two people oftentimes being in a one-sided relationship. Why can't you both pay sometimes and you both sometimes cook? If you looked at the monitor like I was crazy…you just proved my point. (Actually, Aba & Preach recently posted a couple of videos that touch on some of this. One's entitled "Successful Women Are Unhappy That They Have to 'Date Down'"; the other is "Women Should Approach Men. Make the First Move".)

While we're on this point, if your man wants you to cook and clean, but he doesn't even know how to fix a flat—oh, I've been there, girl—that is another example of things being one-sided.

True partnership figures out who excels at what and works together to make sure things run smoothly. Anything else is going to exhaust one or the other. One-sided relationships always do.

ONE-SIDED #4: There Is a Clear Initiator—of Just About Everything


You make most of the check-in calls. You plan most of the dates. You bring up the "So, where is this going?" and "So, what are we doing?" conversations. In fact, when you really stop to think about it, the only time when your man actually does initiate anything, it's when he's tryin' to get some. I think the reason why this particular sign slides by so much is because a lot of us don't think it's that bad that we're the initiator; that's typically because, once things get to going, it's all good. After we call, it's a great conversation. Once we meet up with ole' boy, we have tons of fun with him. When we bring up the state of the relationship, for the most part, he's pretty engaging. Because of this, we tend to rationalize that maybe our man simply needs us to take the lead in this way. Maybe. Or maybe he's just relationally lazy. Or maybe, just maybe, we're so freakin' eager that we don't know how to chill out and let him take the first step sometimes.

Whatever the case may be, what I do know, for an absolute fact, is people make a priority what is a priority. Remember when Ms. Toni Braxton sang back in the day about seven whole days going by and not hearing from her man? I'm willing to bet that if she called, he'd pick up. But since she didn't, well, he found other things to do. That's kind-of the problem. When someone is in a relationship with another person, they should want to take initiative to participate in keeping the connections strong. If they're fine with not doing so, that's having a detached mentality. They're allowing someone to pull the weight on both sides. And any guy—any human being, period—who is cool with that, they are someone who is all good with being in a one-sided relationship. And that's never good.

ONE-SIDED #5: Mutuality and Reciprocity Are Foreign Concepts


On the relationship tip, there's no doubt about it. Two of my favorite words are mutuality and reciprocity. Mutuality is awesome because of a key word that's found in its definition—"possessed, experienced, performed, etc., by each of two or more with respect to the other; reciprocal".

Did you catch it? When something is mutual, things are experienced and performed because the two people involved respect one another. You know what that boils down to—if you are in a relationship where you are doing most of the work, I don't care how much he claims to care about you, there is a lack of respect for you and the relationship going on.

As far as reciprocity goes, a wise person once said, "How they treat you is how they feel about you." If the person you are with isn't proactively making sure that you are satisfied and fulfilled, I don't care what they've got to say; what they are showing you is that your happiness doesn't matter all that much. Meanwhile, by you going out of your way to make sure they're good, you're showing them that they matter…a lot. How can a relationship that lacks respect and mutual giving be beneficial or anything but one-sided?

ONE-SIDED #6: Being Unhappy in the Relationship Somehow Seems Better than Being Happy Alone


Boy, just when I thought I'd heard it all, an episode of Divorce Court that showed up in my YouTube feed reminded me I hadn't. This particular couple included a guy who would bring women he'd slept with to the house he shared with his girlfriend. How was he able to pull that off? He told her they were his cousins. (This guy.) In response, his girlfriend was out there following him around, breaking her own car window and crying all of the time. When Judge Lynn Toler asked her why she'd put up with him and his foolishness for five years, the young lady said, "Because that's all I know. I don't know nobody else…I love him, and I don't want to start over." (Chile.) The judge's response was priceless: "I can have a disease for five years, but I still want to get rid of it. I'm used to the disease. I know what it's like. I know the pain that it brings me. But I still want to get cured. You need to get cured of this particular disease." Yes.

Some of us settle for one-sided relationships because we're afraid to be alone. And we're afraid to be alone because—please catch this—we're not in a relationship with our own damn self. If you're settling because you don't want to start over, or you're afraid to be by yourself, or you're worried that you won't find better—do yourself a big favor and start putting as much effort into your own self-care as you do into that relationship of yours. I can pretty much guarantee you that the more you become your own friend, the less you'll want to be around anyone who doesn't see your value and honor it; the more you'd rather enjoy the pleasure of your own company as a single woman than to be drained by some dude who only wants something one-sided.

I say it all of the time. At the root of relationship, there's the word "relate". If a man is not relating to your needs and feelings, you're in something one-sided and you need something more and better. The sooner you let the weight of one-sidedness go, the closer you'll be to getting with something more. There's no time like the present, sis. Give to yourself what you've been giving to him all of this time. Then watch how the Universe reacts. Just. You. Watch.

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

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