What Is A One-Sided Friendship, And How Do You Avoid It?

Medically reviewed by Majesty Purvis
Updated November 17, 2023by Regain Editorial Team

Friendship often involves effort on both sides. In a healthy friendship, both individuals may put forth an effort to give each other equal attention and care. However, if you notice that your friendship is only thriving due to your actions and not your friend’s, you might be experiencing a one-sided friendship. 

Having a friend that you care about that is not offering the same care to your connection as you can be distressing and challenging. Knowing the signs of a one-sided friendship can help you discuss this topic with your friend and find support for a healthier connection in the future. 

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Are You In A Healthy Friendship Or Being Taken Advantage Of?

What Is A One-Sided Friendship?

A one-sided friendship can involve one friend making most, if not all, of the effort to continue a platonic relationship.

One party might find themselves planning all of the hangouts, communicating first, giving gifts, and offering support when the other doesn’t do the same.

The friend might also take an interest in the other person’s life in honest conversation and try to keep conversations flowing when they die down. 

Not all healthy friendships between friends necessarily include an equal amount of communication. However, if one person always initiates conversation or keeps conversations going, it may be a one-sided friendship. Below are a few other signs of a one-sided friendship. 

You Always Text First

When initiating communication and emotional support, you might be the first to do so. Although it can be normal for this to occur sometimes, it might signify an underlying issue if long periods of your friendship have consisted of this behavior. Ask yourself what your friend would do if you stopped initiating conversation or support. Would you go months without speaking? If so, your friend may have different priorities than you about communication. One-sided behaviors and desires in a friendship can hurt your self-esteem, self-worth, and self-confidence. 

However, note that some individuals might not value the same types of communication. For example, your friend might be someone who doesn’t like to text but enjoys spending time together in person, whereas you value frequent text conversations. Neither of these preferences is necessarily unhealthy, but a conversation about these preferences could be beneficial. In other cases, a friend might stop reaching out when they experience a life transition, such as moving, a new relationship, or a new baby. 

They Only Contact You To Ask For A Favor 

If you only receive messages or contact from your friend when they need emotional, physical, or financial support, it could indicate they’re taking advantage of you. Instead of asking you to hang out or to strike up a conversation, they may feel that you have helped them in the past and will do so again. Although occasionally helping a friend can be healthy and kind, frequently helping someone who doesn’t return the favor or takes you for granted may not be beneficial. In these cases, setting boundaries on your time, money, and support may be valuable. 

They Only Talk About Themselves 

If your friend only talks about themselves, interrupts you when you talk about yourself, or doesn’t ask you questions about your life, it may be a sign your friendship is one-sided. In a friendship, sharing information back and forth and offering guidance, support, and kindness to each other can be healthy. However, if you feel your friend doesn’t know much about you, ask yourself why that may be. 

Consider whether your friend supports you when you’re having a bad day or how they’ve responded to you in the past when you’ve experienced stress. Then, consider how you’ve responded to them in these situations. If it helps, write down how these experiences differ and how you want your friend to make changes to feel that the relationship is two-sided. 

They Prefer The Company Of Other Friends 

It is healthy to have more than one friend. However, if you consider your friend your best friend and want to spend lots of time together and they consider you an acquaintance or general friend, you may have different expectations for the relationship. A conversation about your place in their life can be beneficial as you decide whether the relationship is one-sided. 

They Don’t Come To You 

It may signify a one-sided friendship if you constantly visit your friend’s house, neighborhood, or favorite shops and restaurants, and they don’t do the same for you. Consider the circumstances surrounding this situation before deciding whether their behavior is founded. For example, your friend might not have transportation, funds, or a way to reach your area. 

If you have been over-extending yourself to reach them, consider setting boundaries on how often you can or whether you pay for the transportation or ask them to help. It may signify a one-sided or unfair friendship if there’s no reason for your friend not to visit you in your area, and they continue to choose not to. 

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Why Do One-Sided Friendships Occur? 

There are several reasons why one-sided friendships may occur. At times, a friend might be acting unhealthily toward you. At other times, they may not know their behavior is one-sided or may be experiencing a challenging event that makes it difficult to offer the same behavior that you offer them. If your relationship lacks communication about boundaries, goals, and communication styles, your friend might not know how you’re feeling or what you need from them. 

Talking to your friend may help you understand why their behavior isn’t up to par with what you expect or need from them. Ask questions and try not to assume an ulterior motive unless you’ve been attempting to converse about this topic and feel disrespected. A few other reasons your friendship might be one-sided can include the following. 

You Want Friends More Than You Respect Your Boundaries 

If you want to have friends but haven’t found many healthy people to be friends with, you might make friends with people who disrespect your boundaries. If you fear being alone or not having friends, being the friend of these people might feel more comfortable to you than the idea of the unknown. However, unhealthy friendships can negatively impact your mental health and well-being. Studies show that healthy relationships are closely tied to long-term well-being and mental wellness. 

Social connection is often meaningful and can significantly impact an individual’s life. Friendship can bring fun, joy, and adventure to your daily schedule. However, if your friends do not offer the same effort you are willing to give, you may feel hurt, left out, or unloved. These feelings can be painful, and they may not be necessary. Finding healthy friendships is often possible through various methods, and being able to set boundaries and end relationships when they don’t fit your needs is one way to find them. 

Your Friend Is Using You 

If you notice your friend taking advantage of specific resources like emotional support, transportation, money, advice, or status, it may be that they are using these resources for their benefit and not out of a desire to be your friend. In these cases, you might notice your friend not offering the same resources back, not checking in with you, or not offering you emotional support or care. 

You might be able to tell this is the case if your friend stops talking to you when they receive what they’ve asked for elsewhere. For example, if you give your friend a ride every weekend and they stop contacting you when they buy a car, it might signify that they were only contacting you for a ride. Studies show that healthy friendships can cause greater life satisfaction, so finding a friend that enjoys spending time with you for you instead of what you offer them can be beneficial. 

They View You As An Acquaintance 

For many, the definition of “friend” can differ. You might consider someone a close friend when they only consider you an acquaintance. Social media can impact this occurrence for many, as it offers a way to connect with people without meeting them face-to-face. In these cases, asking your friend what they think of you might be beneficial. You may not be close friends if they’re not open to discussing your friendship.  

They Are Introverted Or Struggle With Socialization 

You might find that your friend feels the same way about you but struggles to socialize or sometimes feels introverted. They might not start conversations out of fear, uncertainty, or the assumption that you feel the same. In addition, they might invite you to their home or neighborhood since it’s familiar to them. When making friendships with introverted people, discuss social boundaries to understand what feels best to each of you. 

You’ve Lost Common Interests 

If you’ve been friends with your friend for a few years or more, you might find that your interests have changed over time. Your friend might not know what to talk to you about or feel you don’t have much in common. If you think you’ve grown apart, consider having an open discussion with your friend about their feelings about the relationship and what might benefit from a change. 

Circumstances Have Changed 

Life circumstances can change friendships. For example, your friend might have a new job, recently enrolled in college, a new relationship, or a young child to care for. If you have a long-term friendship, coping with these changes in your friend’s life can be challenging if you’re used to talking to them and seeing them often. For example, you might feel hurt if they suddenly have a new partner and do not want to spend time with you. Note that the beginning stages of a romantic relationship can be emotionally intense and often become more manageable over time as the stages of love change. 

If you feel like your friendship is slipping away, determine if this relationship is important to you. If you no longer have the same interests, it might be safe to let go. If you feel the relationship is one-sided, it may be the healthiest option to stop communicating, set a boundary, or ask for a change. For some, a change in the amount of communication or expectations for a friendship may be beneficial. 

Not all friends expect the same from each other, and you might find that communicating less but staying in touch feels healthy to you. If possible, talk with your friend and gauge how they feel. If you two are still close but can’t get together as often as you want, you can stay in touch through email, texts, or the occasional phone call and still potentially have a meaningful friendship.

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Are You In A Healthy Friendship Or Being Taken Advantage Of?

How To Handle A One-Sided Friendship

If you determine your friendship is one-sided for an unhealthy reason, it may be healthiest to end it and make new friends. You don’t have to stay in a dynamic with someone who doesn’t appreciate you. A one-sided relationship can feel unfulfilling, and there may be others in your community that align more with your goals for a friendship. However, if your friend is going through a difficult time or doesn’t know how you feel, sitting down to converse can be beneficial before deciding on a course of action. Consider the following methods of handling a one-sided connection. 

Have A Conversation 

Communication can be the healthiest way to understand what someone else is feeling and let them know how you feel. Your friend might not recognize their behavior as one-sided and apologize or make a change when you bring it up. Try to avoid sounding accusatory or hostile when talking to them about it. Use “I” statements, such as, “I feel sad that we aren’t talking as much lately.” 

Your friendship may be unhealthy if your friend acts hostile, dismissive, or unkind. You can try to problem-solve or offer a chance for resolution. However, pushing a conversation or an idea your friend is not open to may cause you to feel worse. In some cases, ending the friendship may be the healthiest option if your friend is not willing to communicate or try to change their behaviors. 

Ask For A Change 

Ask for the changes you need. If you’re unsure what you want, brainstorm ideas before meeting with your friend. For example, if you’re always traveling to meet them at their house, ask them if they’d come to see you at yours next time. If you’re constantly texting them first, ask them if they’d be open to suggesting hangouts or sending check-ins occasionally. It may be an unhealthy dynamic if they ignore you, act dismissive, or are unkind. 

End The Friendship 

Losing a friend can be challenging to cope with. However, if you are hurting in your friendship, it may benefit you in the long run. Caring for yourself as you grieve the loss can be valuable; you don’t have to do it alone. There are many ways to make new friends, and you can reach out to others in your social circle to ask for advice or support. 

See A Counselor 

Friendships can be hard to manage. You can also talk to a counselor if you’re struggling to find someone in your life to connect with. Counselors are trained in healthy relationship skills and coping mechanisms for loneliness and social challenges. Many people can benefit from seeking out counseling when ending one-sided friendships. Conversely, a counselor can help you figure out how to get your friendship back on track and how to stay away from one-sided relationships in the future. They may show you how to cope with your feelings and set boundaries to avoid hurt. 

If you’re ready to reach out to a counselor, a relationship and friendship therapist like those through an online platform like Regain may benefit you. Regain offers connection to thousands of therapists, many of which offer individual therapy focused on how relationships in your life impact your mental health and well-being. In addition, you can choose between phone, video, and live chat sessions with your licensed therapist. 

One study on online therapy platforms found that 71% of participants found them more effective than in-person options. The participants also reported a more significant quality of life after treatment that lasted in the long term. If you’re looking for someone to talk to about your friendships, know that an online therapist can offer a cost-effective and flexible option. 

Takeaway

One-sided friendships can happen for many reasons and may be emotionally painful to experience. Support is available whether you choose to leave your friendship, set boundaries, converse with your friend, or learn more about friendships. Consider contacting a mental health professional online or in person for further guidance.

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