When Relationships Feel Unbalanced


Ideally our relationships would feel mutual. We want to know that we matter to our friends as much as they matter to us. We want to feel invested in just as we are investing in others.

What about when our friendships feel unbalanced?

If we’re the one who always initiates plans, we might wonder if the friendship would just fade away if we waited for the other person to reach out.

We might go out of our way to plan meaningful celebrations and remember our friends' special occasions…only to feel forgotten once again when our birthday goes unremarked.

We listen supportively to all the ups and downs of our friends' lives, hoping that one of these times they’ll ask how we’re doing and really listen to our answer.

If our friendships have a pattern of feeling unbalanced, we may worry about what that means about us.

Is there something wrong with us that others don’t seem as invested in our relationship as we are?

Do we need to become someone different or better if we want any hope of having close friends?

The short answer is no. The number or quality of your friendships is not an indication of your worth as a person. While there may be beliefs you can shift and skills you can cultivate to improve your satisfaction in your friendships, you are absolutely worthy of love and belonging.

So…is the person who seems to take more than they give or doesn’t make us feel assured of their love a bad friend?

Not necessarily.

There are, of course, people who will take advantage of our willingness to please them or who just aren’t willing to take responsibility for their part in a relationship or who won’t treat us well for any number of reasons.

At the same time, there are a lot of factors that go into friendship. Each person is a complex human being with a different personality, background, skill set, level of awareness, and set of expectations.

Examining our friendships doesn’t mean our only choices are continuing to give in a way that doesn’t feel good or ending relationships. I don’t have a quick fix, but I do believe connection and community are worth the effort. I want so much for each and every one of us to have deep connections with other people and know we are loved.

There are so many aspects to friendships (and relationships in general). Check out these articles for insights, questions, and exercises to help you grow satisfying friendships:

  • We don’t need any one person to be everything we need. We can turn to each person for the type of support they are best suited to give. This article has a free worksheet to help with finding the support you need.
  • Is your generosity building the type of relationship you want? Sometimes our motives for being generous can be complicated. Ask yourself these three questions when to get clear on whether it is truly generosity.
  • We don’t have to be exactly the same in order to have a strong relationship. Conflict doesn’t necessarily mean that something is wrong or that our relationship is in jeopardy. Consider what it might mean when someone disagrees with you.
  • The Story we believe impacts our emotional experience and influences our response. Examining our Stories can help us recognize where they aren’t serving us and look for other possibilities. This article has a free worksheet to help separate Story from fact.
  • We want to be known, but we unwittingly do things to keep people at arm’s length. Recognizing these three things that keep us from connection can help us take responsibility for our actions and break down those barriers that keep us from feeling known.
  • It’s tempting to lurk around the edges, seeing others without the vulnerability of letting ourselves be seen. But we miss out on a sense of connection and belonging when we remain hidden. Community cannot be experienced vicariously.
  • Relationships aren’t built through strategies and certainties. They are aren’t what happens when we change ourselves to please another. Do you know the secret to meaningful relationships?
  • We don’t have to make everyone like us in order to have rewarding relationships. It’s vulnerable to let go of other people’s approval and let ourselves be seen. Try out these two ways to feel more connected in your relationships.
  • If we’re looking for evidence that we don’t belong, that’s exactly what we’ll find. I want to learn to see ways we can belong together even if we aren’t the same and don’t always agree. Here is an eye-opening truth about belonging.
  • When we’re not sure why someone would want us, we try to give enough to them that it’s actually easier for them to keep the relationship than to let us go. We wonder…if they don’t need me, why would the want me? What if you were wanted?
  • No one can make someone feel worthy of love and belonging. When that friendship is not everything you hoped for it’s worth asking whether we’re demanding something that’s impossible to give.
  • It’s a natural human tendency to want to gain others’ approval. While we may have good reasons for meeting expectations, basing our lives on what other people think has its drawbacks. Here’s why I will not tell you to stop caring about what other people think.
  • People-pleasing can seem like a way of connecting with others. We believe that if we keep people happy, then they’ll like us and want us around. Changing and editing ourselves, however, can’t create the connection we long for. Here are three things that are kinder than people-pleasing.
  • We all fill a variety of roles in the course of our lives. But a problem comes when we struggle to trust that who we are is enough to fill the roles in which we find ourselves. Here are some ideas on how to be yourself in each role you fill.
  • It’s a powerful thing to take ownership of our part in relationships. It’s vital, however, to make the distinction between taking responsibility for our part in a friendship and taking responsibility for the success of the friendship. What is your responsibility in relationship?
  • It is worth asking where we are maintaining healthy boundaries and where we are hiding out. If we want to hold equal space in our relationships, we need to occupy our share of that space. Where are you hiding in your relationships?
  • Are your friends aware of what makes you feel seen and loved? We actually put a burden on our friends when we neglect to ask for what we want and then resent them for not giving it to us. What are you communicating in your relationships?
  • Friendship isn’t something that we’re either good at or not. Much of what it takes to meet people, to be a good friend, and to cultivate satisfying friendships is made up of friendship skills we can practice.