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14th Mar 2024

What is an effort imbalanced friendship and how to repair it

Anna Martin


We’ve all had a friendship where we felt like we were putting in the most effort

Maybe you were always the one to arrange to do something or remember the other’s birthday or even something as simple as always texting first.

Though it might not seem like a big deal at first, it can feel like a strain or even at times completely draining.

There’s actually a name for this, effort imbalanced friendship.

What is a power imbalanced friendship?

Credit: Getty

It’s exactly what it says on the tin.

If you don’t call or text months can go by without contact.

Yet when you do talk or get together it feels like a genuine connection; it feels like a real friendship.

You feel silly for being petty or childish but the truth is you don’t feel comfortable about the asymmetrical relationship.

Sometimes life gets busy and it’s not easy to keep the communication in equal parts and that’s okay.

Yet when this becomes more and more regular it can feel like the situation is just you giving and the other person taking, ultimately causing a lack of fulfillment in the relationship.

It can get partially tough when it feels like they only come to you if they need something, but you know if it was the opposite way, you wouldn’t get the same reaction.

According to a 2010 study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, social rejection can feel as distressing as physical pain.

Speaking to Vox, Kasley Killam, a Harvard-trained social scientist said, “We live longer if we feel connected and supported.

“So when someone expresses that they’re perhaps not as interested in being friends with us or they need a break or whatever, that can trigger this innate fear inside of us that we’re going to be alone or that we’re not of value.”

Having a lopsided friendship doesn’t automatically mean that your friendship is unhealthy or toxic, but if you feel it’s getting to you it’s good to talk about it.

Tips to repair the relationship (if you want to)

Credit: Unsplash

Of course, if you feel like the friendship has run its course or is taking too much out of you, don’t feel obligated to fix it.

Yet if you feel like there’s a chance it could be repaired and it’s something you want to do there are things you can try.

Talk it out: Lots of things can contribute to a one-sided friendship. Your friend might have something going on they don’t want to share or maybe they didn’t even know you felt unsupported.

By opening a dialogue, you can let them know how their behaviour affects you and provide an opportunity for them to share what’s going on.

“I” statements can help you avoid sounding accusatory for example, “I’ve noticed that I’m the one who reaches out. I sometimes think if I didn’t talk first, we wouldn’t talk and that makes me a little sad. Is there some reason I don’t hear from you as much anymore?”

Change your interactions: Pinpointing exactly where your friendship feels one-sided can often provide solutions.

It could be that they never text first and then reply to messages with just a few words.

Although you think this means they don’t want to talk to you at all, when you explore the issue, you discover they simply dislike texting.

You could then suggest having conversations over the phone instead.

Take a step back: It’s okay to invest a little less energy into others when you feel drained. Easing up on communication for a week or two can often help paint a clearer picture of your friendship.

If they text after a few days to say, “Are you okay? I haven’t heard from you,” they may just have a hard time reaching out first. If they don’t it might help you reconsider if the friendship is worth it.