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Three Ways to Deal with Unfair Relationships

unfair-relationshipsUnfair relationships are those that are one-sided or non-reciprocal.

Keep in mind that you might not consider an “unfair” relationship unfair if you prefer the one-sidedness in any of the following scenarios.

Unfair relationships can happen when one party:

• Does a lot of talking, but little listening.
• Makes all the decisions while the other goes along.
• Takes and takes, but doesn’t give.
• Pays all the bills while the other doesn’t contribute in any way.
• Does all the work, while the other plays.

And so on.

An unfair relationship is out of balance. Again, you may prefer an out-of-balance relationship. Maybe you prefer to do all the listening and little talking. But on the whole, it’s reasonable to expect reciprocity in healthy relationships where each party brings something of value to the other person.

If you tend to invest in unfair relationships and are tired of it, you have options.

Ask yourself a key question and consider your options:


•  Ask yourself how you know when a relationship is unfair – what are the specific red flags? (make a list:)

If you’re sure a relationship is out of balance, then consider these three options:

1) Ask for reciprocity

Bring it up. If the relationship is important to both of you, it’s worth mentioning the issue and trying to resolve it. If the relationship has potential to be reciprocal, this is clearly the best option.

2) Cut off all contact

Move them out of your life. It’s an option. The ideal may be to work toward a life where all your relationships are reciprocal. You’re rewarded and you bring rewards to the others. Relationships that don’t offer this possibility may just have to be let go. This ideal may not always be practical. No one can know this but you.

3) Adjust your expectations and stop expecting reciprocity

This would limit what you offer, perhaps. This strategy would apply best to relationships you need or want to maintain, but keep you from being disappointed/hurt. When you’re not expecting fairness, balance, and reciprocity, you won’t be disappointed when you don’t get it.

For example:

Your cousin never listens to what you have to say but expects you to sit there and maintain an interest while he gabs on about his life. Ok. That’s what you get with your cousin. At extended family dinners, don’t expect anything else from your cousin. You won’t be disappointed. And you’ll decide for yourself how much of this person you want in your life.

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Three Ways to Deal with Unfair Relationships

Mike Bundrant

Mike Bundrant is the author of Your Achilles Eel: Discover and Overcome the Hidden Cause of Negative Emotions, Bad Decisions and Self-Sabotage and co-founder at The iNLP Center which offers online certification in Neuro-Linguistic Programming and life coaching.

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APA Reference
Bundrant, M. (2018). Three Ways to Deal with Unfair Relationships. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 20, 2019, from


Last updated: 12 Apr 2018
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