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8 Types Of Unequal Partnerships

unequalpartnershipsIn my post last week at PsychCentral, I mentioned thinking of emotions as warning signals. If you are feeling what might be considered “emotional” or “over-emotional” in a relationship, then it’s time to take a look at that relationship and see how it’s working.

In my book, Stop Giving It Away, I describe eight types of unequal partnerships. In these relationships are the the kinds of guys/partners Giveaway Girls fall for. The feelings of dissatisfaction might be obvious, or they might be underlying, waiting for the dam to burst.

You see, awesome women have been picking not-so-awesome partners for a long time. Sometimes it’s a reflection of low self-esteem, poor boundaries or a lack of self-respect. Sometimes these women simply aren’t demanding to be treated equally and setting healthy boundaries.. 

Whatever the reasons, when a woman passively tolerates an unequal partnership, there’s a pretty good chance it’s going to become a problem.

Who puts the unequal in unequal partnership and why? (Feel free to change the word “guys” to “partner”, depending on your coupling).


The name Boxcar Willie is a historical reference to men who lived in boxcars (the freight cars of trains) during the Great Depression, when times were tough in the United States and unemployment hit an all-time high. Today, those men who might’ve ridden the rails hitch up with successful women who support them financially. They have alligator arms.


Lame ducks are guys who don’t do anything to help around the house or work to sustain their partnerships. They may have gainful employment, but they are self-centered and always have a “What about me?” mentality when making decisions— even decisions that will affect their partners. These are the guys whose golf game comes before anything else. Some of these partners aren’t mean about it and don’t appear selfish, but they still aren’t equally participating in the relationship.


Some statistics conclude that as many as 23.5 million Americans are addicted to alcohol or drugs—in other words, one in every 10 people.  And this figure doesn’t even take into account other addictions (sex, gambling, debt, porn, etc.). The addict “needs” so much attention, worry, and energy, and so upsets the world, that a Giveaway Girl can’t even begin to think about what she needs for herself.


Abusers are people who get what they want when they want it through physical and/or verbal intimidation and abuse. They don’t compromise, listen to others’ needs, work on growing as a person, or give much. Instead, they use bullying as a short path to getting what they want.


These guys have to have things their way. They may not be as aggressive as abusers, but somehow they manage to be the ones making the rules. The guy who inspired the title ruled the cooking with fattening sausages, steaks and hamburgers all the time. A Meat Boss takes charge of more than just the cooking—he makes all the financial and family decisions too. No one else’s needs or opinions matter with Meat Boss.


The one-foot-out guy is a great guy—everything a girl could ever want. Only problem is, he can’t commit to anything more serious. He wants to, but the time just isn’t right—“yet.”


Cheater types can sometimes be identified by their wandering eyes. This happens when the cheater you’re on a date with gets distracted by an incoming or passing person of interest.


Controllers can sweep you off your feet in no time. They quickly figure out how to be your Prince Charming. Soon after you are hooked, they start asking you to make some changes. These might include not wearing as much makeup or not being on Facebook “because of all the competitive guy attention” you are getting. Controllers are jealous of innocent behavior.

Getting into a relationship with any of these people can feel natural and even okay. Maybe we have observed unhealthy relationship role models throughout life, or we’ve experienced trauma that makes us vulnerable to strong personalities. Whatever the case, know that life can be different and better.

In my 20+ plus years of counseling and social work experience, I’ve seen hundreds of women (men too) learn to set boundaries and break the codependency that kept them tied to unsatisfying relationships and circumstances. Learn more in my book, Stop Giving It Away.

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Take care,

Cherilynn Veland, MSW, LCSW, is a psychotherapist and coach based in Chicago. She has been helping individuals, couples and families for more than 20 years. She is author of Stop Giving It Away, which is on sale now at  Barnes & Noble. 

Join the conversation and get tools and tips for how to stop being a Giveaway Girl on my other blog at



8 Types Of Unequal Partnerships

Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW

Cherilynn Veland, MSW, LCSW, is a counselor and coach based in Chicago. She has been helping individuals, couples and families for more than 20 years. She is author of Stop Giving It Away, a book about developing healthier relationships with yourself and others. The Stop Giving It Away movement aims to stop the detrimental level of self-sacrifice in which many women live and work. Winner of the 2015 National Indie Excellence Book Award in the Women's Issues category - Stop Giving It Away.

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APA Reference
, . (2015). 8 Types Of Unequal Partnerships. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 26, 2020, from


Last updated: 1 Jul 2015
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