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What Is a One-Sided Friendship? 13 Signs You’re In One

When the only words out of their mouth are “me me me,” you better run.

Ever heard that cliche phrase, “the phone goes both ways”? Aside from the fact that no one talks on the phone anymore, it’s true. And if you’re in a one-sided friendship, you might find yourself wondering if your pal is aware of the “reply” function.

In a healthy friendship built on mutual care and respect, both members feel supported and heard. But if you have a friend who isn’t holding up their end of the friendship agreement, it can be mega frustrating, upsetting, and even downright heartbreaking. Now you know how your landlord felt when you broke your lease early last year.

It’s tough to acknowledge that someone who you consider a close friend isn’t treating you as such. If you think you might be in a one-sided friendship, read on to see if you find yourself nodding along. And then re-download Bumble BFF to make new friends.

One Sided Friendship - frustrated woman

What is a One-Sided Friendship?

A one-sided friendship is a relationship where one party is putting in significantly more effort or emotional labor than the other. This can manifest in many ways. Maybe your friend is never the one to make a plan to see you, they only reach out to talk about themselves, or they don’t reciprocate any of the nice things you’ve done for them.

If you feel like you’re being used, disrespected, or that your friend doesn’t take a genuine interest in your life, you could be in a one-sided friendship.

These friendships can be toxic to your mental health and affect your overall happiness. It’s important to recognize when you’re in one so you can decide whether you want to remain in it or break up with them.

One Sided Friendship - depressed woman

What Are the Signs of a One-Sided Friendship?

One-sided friends come in many different forms. Here are some of the most common signs that you’re in one. You might relate to one or more of the symptoms of one-sided-friendship-itis.

1. You are always the one to initiate plans.

We all have the one friend (or several) who is never the one to start the text thread about dinner plans. If you scroll through your messages and can’t find a single instance of them asking you to do something together, that’s a pretty good sign that you’re in an unhealthy relationship.

Friendships require energy to maintain. Especially as an adult, it’s important to nurture relationships that are special to you. Your close friends should want to spend time with you, and you shouldn’t feel solely responsible for keeping the friendship afloat.

One Sided Friendship - texting

2. They treat you like their therapist.

News flash: you’re not. Even if you are a therapist, we’re pretty sure you’re not theirs. And those conversations should be had in-session, anyway. Hello, $25 co-pay.

Look, it’s totally normal to complain to your friends, ask for advice, and share some emotional baggage. What’s not normal is for one person to monopolize every conversation and make it all about them. If they don’t treat your problems with the same weight, they’re not a good friend.

One Sided Friendship - conversation

3. They don’t remember details about your life.

You’ve told her four times now about your upcoming trip to Portugal, and now that you’re back, she hasn’t asked you once how it went. In fact, she didn’t even seem to remember it happened at all. What, those six Instagram posts weren’t enough of a reminder?

A friend who doesn’t remember anything about your life isn’t listening to you when you talk. Moreover, if you’re always asking her about important things going on in her life and she can’t bother to do the same, there’s a pretty good chance that’s a one-sided friendship.

One Sided Friendship - one side conversation

4. You don’t know anything about them.

On the flip side, if you find that your friend never opens up to you, that could be a sign of a different kind of one-sided relationship. A friend who won’t open up to you and become vulnerable in the same way you do creates imbalance.

True, deep friendship is built on emotional intimacy. A lack of openness on either side results in a pair of friends who are on totally different pages about the depth of their relationship. This could just mean your friend isn’t ready to open up yet, or it could mean that they don’t want to do so with you. Like, ever.

One Sided Friendship - arguing

5. You second-guess yourself around them.

Why is she mad at me? Did I say something wrong? Why won’t she text me back? Am I just a bad friend? 

Healthy relationships require that both parties feel secure and at ease. In an unbalanced friendship, you might find yourself constantly wondering and worrying over the status of the relationship.

One Sided Friendship - depressed woman

6. You can’t rely on them.

Whenever you find yourself in a tight spot or needing a shoulder to cry on, this friend is the last person you’d turn to. The first person is actually a cat.

Maybe this is a result of past behavior, like them canceling on you frequently or not returning your messages in times of distress. This is especially harmful if when the situation is reversed, they ask for a lot from you. Think: that friend who sends you a flurry of panicked texts when their ex reaches out, but won’t give you a call back when you need them.

One Sided Friendship - upset friend

7. They are flakier than a puff pastry.

We’re talking late-to-your-wedding, canceling-dinner-plans-when-you’re-already-at-the-restaurant, might-as-well-schedule-back-up-plans-level flaky.

Meanwhile, you show up promptly to their birthday party and give them ample notice if something comes up at the last minute and you can’t make it.

One Sided Friendship - woman stood up

8. They don’t care about things that are important to you.

You listened to them go on and on (and on and on and on) about last night’s episode of The Bachelor that you didn’t care to watch, but when it’s your turn to tell them about that cool new crochet project you’ve been working on, they practically yawn in your face.

Aside from the gross whiff of coffee breath you just got, it’s downright disappointing and degrading to feel like your friend doesn’t take an interest in your life.

One Sided Friendship - yawning

9. They put you in a bad mood.

You’re normally a breath of fresh air, but whenever you leave a hang out with this friend, you feel like Garfield on a Monday. Friends should put a smile on your face, not a sourpuss.

The reason for this might be because the friendship isn’t adding value to your life and you’re left feeling uninspired. One-sided friends have a way of making you question your own self worth and sucking all of the energy out of the room.

One Sided Friendship - bad mood

10. They refuse to meet you halfway.

This can be taken both literally and figuratively. In the literal sense, this could be a friend who always wants you to come to their neighborhood to hang out or meet you at the restaurant they recommend. They aren’t open to suggestions and it’s their way or the highway.

Figuratively speaking, this one-sided friend doesn’t like to compromise. About anything. You suggest taking a weekend trip, they send you the itinerary and ask you to sign the dotted line. This is an indication that your friend doesn’t actually care what you want or value your opinion.

One Sided Friendship - bored conversation

11. They never return the favor.

You send them a gift card to their favorite restaurant for their birthday and they don’t even send you a text.

One-sided friends are takers, not givers. They enjoy the attention that you bestow upon them, but they refuse (or forget) to return it. And honestly, which is worse?

One Sided Friendship - fighting

12. You feel like they’re using you.

For example, maybe they only invite you out to look cooler and more popular. A friend like this cares about you only in terms of the value you add to their life. They glean some sort of benefit by befriending you, but they don’t actually care about you as a human being.

Consider this: what are the benefits that you provide to this friend? Do you have a lot of Instagram followers, a great job with connections, or a lot of money in the bank?

One Sided Friendship - fighting women

13. This behavior is consistent over time.

Everyone goes through rough patches in life. It’s a good idea to give your friends some grace and understanding. Maybe over the course of a few months, you notice a friend withdrawing or talking a lot about their personal problems without asking you about yourself. That person might be experiencing hard times, so it may not be indicative of a larger issue.

However, if this behavior is consistent over a long period of time, even when your friend seems otherwise happy and content with their life, it’s probably a bigger problem. Pay attention to how your friendships change over time, and make adjustments as needed.

One Sided Friendship - frustrated woman

How to Fix a One-Sided Friendship

There are two options when you find yourself in a relationship like this: you can either try to fix it, or move on. If this person means a lot to you and you’re not ready to call it quits, there are a few ways you can try to approach them to repair the friendship.

  • Take stock of how you’re feeling. If you’ve reached a point of resentment that can’t be repaired, adding fuel to the fire by confronting this person might not be the best course of action.
  • Think about how your friend will react. Are they the type to accept responsibility? Or will their defenses go up making it impossible for them to see your perspective? Talking to a brick wall won’t get you anywhere.

Once you’ve decided your friend is rational enough to try to fix things with you, the first step is to open up and have a conversation. The key is to be super vulnerable and honest with them. Frame the conversation in terms of how you feel to avoid sounding accusatory.

If your friend appears open to the dialogue – and even apologetic – establish what you need from the friendship going forward. Once you set boundaries, keep them.

However, if they are blaming you, making excuses, or acting oblivious, it may be time to simply move on.

One Sided Friendship - difficult conversation

When to Let Go of a One-Sided Friendship

You’ve evaluated the friendship, realized it’s one-sided and toxic, and your friend won’t own up to it and realize the error of her ways. Ugh.

At this point, the only choice left is to move on.

Breaking up with a friend is hard to do, but sometimes it’s necessary. When a friend brings more negativity and anxiety to your life than fun and support, they’re not worth keeping around.

When it comes time to walk away, you have two choices: tell them it’s over, or simply fade into the sunset. While no one likes being ghosted, it’s sometimes a necessity if you’re dealing with a super difficult pal.

Friendships change, and while it hurts, it’s normal. Grieve the loss and move on to bigger and better relationships. Your true friends will be waiting on the other side with champagne and chocolate.

By Laura Davis

Laura was born at the beach in New Jersey, but she'd be the first to tell you her childhood was nothing like Jersey Shore. Sadly. When she's not writing, you can find her reading on her beloved Kindle, listening to true crime podcasts, or looking up adoptable cats.

Outside of her 9-5 as a writer, Laura is the owner of Looks by Laura, an online thrifted clothing boutique. She's the co-founder of Adultescence, a podcast and lifestyle website about navigating that challenging space between adolescence and adulthood. And she makes a mean eggplant parm.

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