Dating is supposed to bring together two people who have mutual respect and love for one another. Sadly, this isn’t always the case for introverts and highly sensitive people, who commonly become entangled in one-sided relationships.
We may be the ones giving more to the relationship and rationalizing away our partner’s lack of effort or initiative. Or we may fall on the other side and play a passive role, allowing ourselves to be swept up by a lover who has a more domineering or outgoing personality than our own (perhaps this person is an extrovert, but that’s not always the case). Not only are these lopsided relationships draining and unfulfilling, but they also keep both partners from finding true connection and lasting happiness.
One-sided relationships are especially common for women, writes Terry Gaspard, a clinical social worker and college instructor, because women tend to put other people’s needs before their own. At a young age, girls may learn to tune out their inner voice due to family experiences, and this prepares them for unbalanced relationships later in adulthood. However, men can end up in one-sided romances as well.
In one-sided relationships, one person’s interests are put at a much higher priority than the other person’s. Certain needs may go unmet. One partner may be distant, emotionally unavailable, or avoidant of commitment. At the very worst, feelings of attraction may be unrequited.
We introverts and highly sensitive people tend to be especially at risk for one-sided relationships because we’re ultra-tuned in to the needs of others. Often we’re good listeners and we don’t make waves in the relationship, so to speak, because we dislike conflict.
“Like anyone else, we want to be liked and appreciated, but because we are reserved and don’t draw a lot of attention to ourselves, we might have a tendency to offer ourselves up as sounding boards and to anticipate others’ needs and sublimate our own for the connections we crave,” writes Sophia Dembling in her new book, Introverts in Love: The Quiet Way to Happily Ever After.
Certain personality types, such as the INFJ, INFP, ISFJ, and ISFP, who have a high level of empathy and a desire to please and serve others, are at greater risk. About INFJs, Megan Malone, founder of INFJ Blog, writes that this personality type is nicknamed “the counselor” for a reason — most people find it easy to open up to INFJs. Unfortunately, this creates a lot of one-sided relationships in which the INFJ listens to and supports the other person emotionally, but doesn’t get much in return. INFJs, and others like them, should be wary of these “emotional vampires” who will slowly but surely drain their time and energy, and most likely leave them feeling lifeless and dissatisfied.
One-sided relationship checklist
Here are 10 signs you’re at risk for a one-sided relationship. This checklist was adapted by Gaspard from the book Having Sex, Wanting Intimacy: Why Women Settle for One-Sided Relationships, by Jill P. Weber, Ph.D. The more questions you can answer with a “yes,” the more at risk you are:
- Are you super empathetic and do you easily feel the suffering of others?
- Do your friends often turn to you for emotional support, but you often feel that no one is there for you when you have a problem?
- Do you tend to hold in your feelings and then suddenly have an emotional meltdown?
- Do you judge yourself harshly when you make a mistake?
- Looking back, is it hard to remember one or both of your parents comforting you when you were upset?
- Did you often find yourself in the caretaker role with one or both of your parents or a sibling when you were growing up?
- Do you feel that you grew up too fast either in terms of maturity level or sexual activity?
- When you are upset, do you tend to obsess over your emotions and find it hard to move past them?
- Are you a people pleaser? If you have this tendency, you may find setting limits hard, and you might have trouble asking for what you need from your partner. This is a pattern that often starts in childhood, but it can be reversed.
- Do you feel like you have to be in a good mood or positive when you are with friends, family, or intimate partners regardless of how you really feel?
What should you do?
If you’re at risk for a one-sided relationship, above all, don’t feel discouraged. It’s a common problem, but it’s one that can be fixed by changing your expectations about what a healthy, “normal” relationship is. Remember that you’re in control of your life, and you get to make choices about how to interact with others and who you will pursue romantically.
You don’t have to settle for less. Choose someone who likes and respects you as much as you like and respect him or her. “The best partner will compliment you and bring out your very best,” Gaspard writes. When you are with this person, “you will begin to see untapped possibilities within yourself and in the world.”
8 signs your relationship is not one-sided
Again, from Gaspard:
- You feel comfortable with each other and it’s easy to get close. In other words, you feel that you can be yourself and don’t have to walk on eggshells. You feel safe in the relationship and free to express your thoughts, feelings, and desires openly without fear of rejection.
- You feel there’s real mutual respect. You accept, admire, and respect each other for who you are. If you don’t have respect for your partner, it will eat away at chemistry until you have nothing left.
- Your partner keeps his or her agreements. Your partner calls or takes you out when he or she says he or she is going to. Two people who are interested in each other keep their agreements.
- Your partner makes time for you on a regular basis. Your partner makes you a priority because he or she values your relationship. This includes regular text messages or phone calls to show that your partner is thinking of you.
- Your partner is comfortable talking about the things that interest you and asks you questions about your hobbies, friends, and family.
- Your partner makes plans to do things with you and includes you in his or her inner circle. If something special is going on in his or her life, he or she invites you and encourages you to come.
- Your partner makes you feel good about yourself. A partner who truly cares about you is a boost to your self-esteem. Your partner values you and give you positive reinforcement such as compliments.
- You talk about your future together. If your partner says he or she isn’t ready for a commitment, take this statement seriously — it means your partner just isn’t that into you. Don’t waste your time on a relationship that doesn’t have a future.