5 Tips to Deal With a One Sided Marriage

conflict resolution dedication one sided marriage Nov 15, 2023

After meeting with thousands of couples over the last 25 years, one of the most common issues I see arise, is the issue of a one-sided relationship. A one-sided relationship is where one person does not seem to be pulling their weight or even care about the health and well being of the relationship. These relationships tend to be frustrating to the people involved and in the end, end up spiraling to the ground in exhaustion to both partners. However, with that being said, the one sided relationship is a reality that can be improved upon and changed. Here are 5 Tips to use to improve any of your one-sided relationships.

Tip number one, is to Frame the Problem as Relationally Challenged, Not Personal Rejection.

Many times when we are in a one-sided relationship we tend to think that the detached partner is detached simply because they must not be interested in us.  We take their distancing behaviors personally assuming that if we were a better partner, more interesting, more exciting or better looking than they would obviously act more positively toward us.  By doing this we tend to personalize and take offense to our partner’s lack of action and interest in the relationship which, in my experience is a pretty unhealthy view of the problem. The truth is, many people who aren’t actively engaged in their relationships aren’t intentionally rejecting their partner but are simply relationally challenged.  They don’t see the importance of the relationship, or understand the need to have to work hard to make the marriage work. Many have never had strong role models of healthy relationships in their life and don’t quite understand the real costs of losing a marriage and a family. In my experience there are more people in the world who are relationally challenged than there are people who are actually tired of their partner and ready to move on.  Properly reframing your partner’s inactivity as a sign of being relationally challenged versus a personal rejection can be the first step toward a healthier and happier life together.

 Tip number 2 is: Don't Follow the Lead of the Most Relationally Challenged Partner. Based on the first rule of reframing your partner as relationally challenged and not personally rejecting, you can more easily determine who should be the leader.  The simple rule for someone who is dealing with a partner who is relationally challenged is not to become ineffective relationally, simply because they are.  Instead of getting mad when your partner seems mad, or ignoring your partner when they ignore you, we just simply lead the relationship by the rules of healthy relating.  The problem with letting the relationally challenged person lead the relationship is that in the end, no one who has a clue is in charge.  Instead we should learn to lead our relationships based on our deepest values and beliefs, regardless of how our partner acts or behaves.  Just as you wouldn’t expect your young toddler to lead the family back to the car after a shopping trip at the mall, you shouldn’t expect the person that is most relationally challenged to take the lead on improving conditions in your marriage.  If you know you have higher needs and abilities relationally than your partner, than it is time to start leading your partner using all of your relational talents and skills. 

Tip number three is to Clearly Communicate the Changes, Timeline, and Results You Need.

At some point if you’re dealing with someone who is relationally challenged, you must make your expectations clear.  Don’t just simply hope that your partner will understand what it is you need in the relationship, because if they truly are challenged, usually their needs will not be your needs.  Instead, sit down with your partner and have a very clear and concise conversation.  Discuss where you are struggling and what it would look like if it was going better.  Don’t place all of the blame on your partner but instead take ownership of where you need to pick up your game, and where they can pick up theirs.  Also discuss specific timelines to work on the behaviors you want to improve. Sit down together, and discuss a plan for how you will learn the new behaviors, involving experts and classes where needed and set some guidelines for how you will measure progress and success.  Be specific in your needs and discuss what positive changes would look like and how you would know that you’re making the progress you need to make.  Also set up accountability meetings where you will come back together to discuss the progress that is or isn’t being made.  You can also discuss consequences if real change is not obtained like outside interventions from marriage experts or counselors, advice from spiritual leaders, parents or possible separation.

Tip number four, is to Demand a Win-Win, or No Deal Option! All healthy long term relationships demand mutual benefit.  If you want a partner to be with you forever, they must be benefitting mutually, your results must look like a win-win.  If you don’t, then the fastest way to ensure that a relationship will end is to go for Win-lose, where you always win and they always lose.  One way to increase the likelihood that you’ll get a win-win with your spouse is that you must also have the “no-deal” option on the table as well.  The Win-Win or “No Deal” option is simply the mutual agreement that we are going to work together to create a win-win or we will both be willing to walk away from the deal instead of expecting the other person to take the loss.  By having a partner that understands that the deal must be mutually beneficial or it’s not going to work is critical.  This concept however gets even more complicated in long-term relationships where the “no deal” would also affect the kids and family status as well.  When the family is involved, many partners are ok to be on the losing side of a marriage relationship, just to keep the family together.  This choice is noble and can work for a while, usually as long as the children are still around.  The truth however, is that at some point you’re going to have to take a stand and be willing to say “no-deal”, either sooner or later.  By not pushing the “no deal” option, you will always be left with one of following three scenarios; A win-lose (where they win and I lose), a lose-win (where they lose and I win) or lose-lose (where we both lose).  I’ve found that the sooner you’re willing to push the win-win or “no deal” position, the sooner you’ll start to see the relationship turn around.  By taking the Win-win or “no deal” approach we are saying that we are mature and empowered enough to not be in a relationship where one of us is constantly going to lose and that we’d rather change than to force the other to constantly lose.  The healthiest approach is that both parties maintain enough character to continuously work for the win-win solution together.

The fifth and final tip, is to Get the Help and Support You Need To Keep Going. People in one sided relationships tend to burn out easily.  They get tired of going it alone and feeling like they’re pushing sand up the side of a mountain.  One of the most important things to turning around a one sided relationship is to maintain the positive energy and drive to keep making the changes that need to be made.  To stay energized, keep in close touch with friends and family.  Find a close confidant that you can share you journey with.  Find someone that is pro-marriage and not quick to tell you to quit the relationship.  Talk to experts in the field, take classes and read books from those who know how to work in one sided marriages.  Also make sure that you are strengthening your own abilities to communicate and relate in your marriage.  The stronger you personally get at your relationship, the better your relationship chances are of getting stronger.  Right now you are the motivational factor in the equation, if you lose your motivation, you’re relationship will inevitably pay for it. If you feel like you could use a relationship makeover, click the button below to learn more about my program Becoming One, where you have access to be coached by me, watch others get coached, and have access to new workshops every month! 


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Tired of unresolved marital conflict?

Join Becoming One today!

Becoming One is the ultimate affordable solution for married couples looking to improve their communication, resolve conflict, & increase marital satisfaction, all from the comfort of your own home, and without having to break the bank.

Learn More