What is a one sided friendship?

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In this article we will discuss what one sided friendships are.

We will also discuss the signs of a one sided friendship, why it happens, and how one can manage being part of such a friendship. 

What is a one sided friendship?

In simple words, a one sided friendship is an arrangement between two friends- often one of the individuals is unaware of this arrangement- where one side gains much more than the other. 

The individual who is gaining more- in terms of resources, emotional support, company etc- stands to gain more with respect to the effort it takes to manage a relationship while giving back much less or none at all. 

In such a one sided relationship or friendship, the individual; who appears to be investing more of themselves and their resources in the relationship/ friendship often tends to feel like there is a lack of quality in the friendship and is often unfulfilled because of the disparity.

While it is not possible that all friendships are exactly equal, it becomes extremely one-sided where there is no equal give and take but only a situation where one only takes while the other only gives. 

What are the signs that you are in a one sided friendship?

Here are some signs that you are in a one sided friendship:

You are always the one reaching out 

When it comes to communication, even just a quick “how are you doing” text or phone call, you are always the one who is doing it and never your friend. 

If you do not do it, there is radio silence for weeks on end, even months. While this is not a sure sign that they are being one=-sided, it might also be because your friend is an anxious individual, it is one sign that falls in line with other patterns.

When they reach out, it is always because they need something from you

If your friend tends to do this; contact you and often their check ins are followed by a request, or them asking for a favour- it is possible that you might be in a one sided relationship.

It is a sign of a one sided relationship when they do not call you at all, do not text or reach out- and only do so when they need something- be it as small as a contact number or something substantial like money, etc,

While it is important that friends help each other out, it is a different case when they do not step up to the plate when you do need help but expect you to help them always and when you do not, they are either passive aggressive about it or they become upset. 

It’s Always About Them

This is a very crucial sign where conversations and meet ups are always about them, their life, their successes, and their achievements and you do not have the space to share your own joys. 

This means that they never ask about you, and even when the meet up is to celebrate something about you- say your birthday or your promotion- somehow, it becomes about them. They make a scene, or they talk incessantly about themselves.

Conversations and time spent together should be equally shared- when friends are seen as equal and treated as such, however, if you are not given the chance to be heard, seen, and your presence acknowledged- then there is something arry.

They Prefer The Company of Others

Another sign that the friendship appears to be tilted is the fact that you consider them as important friends while you are just one of the lot for them.

This is particularly felt when you are in a group with this friend versus when you are alone with them. The difference being that when they are alone, with no one else- they treat you differently in the sense that they make you feel needed, special even.

However, once a group of other people join the lot, suddenly you are just one of their many friends and they don’t even notice what you are up to. In some cases they might even choose the company of other people over lunch rather than having brunch with you. 

You Have To Come To Them

Another sign of an unequal relationship is the fact that in any case, any scenarios you have to go out of your way for them, and this includes you going to meet them- always. 

There might be situations where they constantly invite you over but they never make it a point to travel the distance to see you nor do they agree to meet somewhere in the middle. 

This could be one sign of the relationship being one sided because even in this case, you make the effort, you go out of your way to reach them and they do not offer the same effort.

They only need you when they are down in the dumps

Another obvious sign is that they need you when they are emotionally struggling and when they have no one else around them.

While it might appear that they trust only you  to be vulnerable with them, it becomes a little toxic when they expect you to drop everything to be with them while they never do the same for you. 

Once they are better or they feel secure in their own reality again, suddenly their calls stop and so do their eagerness to be with you or spend time with you. 

Why do one sided friendships develop?

It is extremely difficult to accept and acknowledge that you are part of a friendship that is one sided, especially because you might have loved this friend at some point and treasure the relationships- the bond that you thought you shared. 

It is difficult to understand that this relationship and friendship was something else entirely than what you thought it was. You might be angered, hurt, and you might even be grieving the idea of the relationship and friendship you thought you had with this person. 

To understand why this happens, you have to understand that friendship and all relationships often require the participation of everyone involved. Some people [participate in this relationship simply because they are emotionally toxic whereas others do it for the gains.

You also have to understand that some people do it because they are unaware that they are doing so and most of the behaviour one engages in comes out of their own attachment issues. Some of the reasons why this one sided relationship has occurred could also be because of the lack of healthy boundaries.

Let us take a look at some of the reasons why.


Lack of boundaries between two friendships, to understand each other’s needs and to have these needs and expectations communicated while also respecting each other as valuable parts of our lives and with that comes respect for each other’s boundaries could be one reason.

Perhaps it is the case that your friend did not respect your boundaries nor did they care to understand your needs or it could also be the fact that you did not respect your own boundaries, you did not stand up for your own needs. 

As blunt as that seems, to think that you were the reason why you are hurt today, it is a possibility. Ask yourself this: “Do you find it hard to say ‘no’ to people?”

If the answer is yes, there seems to be an issue with boundaries on your part as much as on theirs. 

You were lonely

Perhaps, you wanted friends. That could be another reason why you could have allowed yourself to be treated as such- simply because you wanted a friend who would have done the same for you as you have done for them. 

There is no shame to want relationships as such- to have a friend that can bend over backwards as a testament of your loyalty and in this way you have been a good friend to them but it is also the case that you have not been as good of a friend to yourself. 

They are using you

To put it simply, most cases when people find themselves in tilted one sided friendships- they are being used. 

Your friend might have used you for your money, your car, your house, your job, and even for your time. You might think that this is what friends do- help each other. 

While that might be the case, it is not helping each other if you are the only one doing it and when you find that you are discarded when they no longer need you- they it is quite simple that they used you.

Disparity in labels

It is also possible that this one sided friendship is because you view them as friends while they simply view you as an acquaintance. 

This could be because of no fault of any of the parties involved and simply because of a lack of communication and understanding of what the relationships between both of you actually is which could be why they do not seem to be as invested in you as you are with them. 

Life happened

It could be the case that you and your friend have had different experiences with life over time to the point that things have changed- they no longer have time to spend with you because of their job or their new baby. 

It could also be that the world views both of you shared has changed and life has changed them and led them on a path that is different compared to yours. 

This could be a hard thing to accept- that people change and so do friendships. You might be feeling lost and alone because of how your friend has changed which is why you feel that this friendship is now one-sided, with you being the one left behind, and waiting. 

How to handle a one sided friendship?

Here are a few things you can do to handle this situation:

Talk To Them About It

The best thing you can do about this situation is to talk to them about it. Don’t confront them and avoid accusing them of anything and everything. 

The best thing you can do is to assertively talk about how you have been feeling in this friendship, and that you would appreciate some clarity as to what this friendship means to either of you. 

If this friend of yours is really a friend who cares about you, it is likely that they too will share their side of the story and the confusion for both sides will clear up.

Set boudaries

The next thing you do is to set new boundaries that allow equality in the friendship and make it more two sided. You can ask this to your friend and any friend who cares will agree on this take. 

When you set boundaries with them, make sure you clearly tell them what you will and will not do in the name of friendships. For example, you will come driving half way into town to see them but not across the whole state or you will pick up their calls but not after seven pm. 

Make sure that all of these boundaries are not to lock them out, but rather to give yourself your own space, your own life back and that this has nothing to do with them. 

A friend who understands this will mostly agree and understand , however, if they become defensive and aggressive- we have a toxic friend rather than a friendship that is one sided. 

Cut them off

In the case that your this friend doesn’t respect your boundaries and you, cut them off. While no one wants to lose a friend, it is better to protect yourself first rather than to appease everyone. 

While some mean things might be said and some feelings hurt, you will have to decide whether you put yourself first- your dignity, your space, your rights, and your own feelings or you put someone else first- someone who does not seem to really care about you. 

Seek out support

If the aftermath of this particular conversation and boundary setting is bothering you or if you have not been able to set boundaries with them and you are still in that one sided friendship, it’s okay. It happens more than you might think.

Often the one who has cut off a toxic friend is more hurt and distraught than the other party and often, when you are part of a toxic relationship, it is hard to cut them off because of the hold they have over others. 

If this is the case, get yourself some support from other friends and family who love you and care for you. Go the extra mile- for yourself this time- and get yourself a professional counsellor who can help you sort out your feelings, and work on strengthening your boundaries if need be. 


In this article we have discussed what one sided friendships are.

We have also discussed the signs of a one sided friendship, why it happens, and how one can manage being part of such a friendship. 


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Blumberg.P. 15 Signs Your Friendship Is Seriously One-Sided. WomensHealth. Retrieved on 13th Feb 2022. https://www.womenshealthmag.com/relationships/a34672004/one-sided-friendship/

Raypole.C. Beware the One-Sided Friendship. Healthline. Retrieved on 13th Feb 2022. https://www.healthline.com/health/beware-the-one-sided-friendship#signs-of-imbalance

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