When Your Marriage Feels One-Sided

Five things you can do right now to help move your marriage back towards togetherness – 6 minute read


Kylie and James have been married for 7 years and their relationship has gone stale. They have a son who is 4. It’s become almost guaranteed that once Kylie gets home from work James will be sitting on the lounge on his phone. She has no idea what he does there for the next hour or so but it’s driving her crazy. They normally say hello and she leans over and gives him a kiss on the cheek. Then it’s generally dinner prep for her and whatever on his phone for him. Sometimes he’ll play with their son but often the 4-year-old is somewhere on his own iPad.

Kylie feels like the relationship is becoming more and more one-sided. When asked to clarify she would say that it’s only been in the last 6 months and her problem is about the effort James is not putting into almost everything. He’s not engaging like he normally would with her, their son or the household in general.

What can she do? Marriage and family is a team sport. We need every person playing their part. So what do we do when it feels like we are doing all the work? Is there anything we can do apart from nag and fight about it?

Yes and absolutely. Let’s talk about how we foster togetherness and unity and bring the love and teamwork back.

Imbalance is normal

Most relationships feel one-sided at times. It’s true. Sometimes it feels unfair and you feel unsupported. It might feel like you are carrying most of the load right now. Whatever load you’re referring to; housework, the kids or maybe your actual relationship. It’s pretty normal for things to feel and be imbalanced. We can normally step in and do extra for a while, sometimes a long time… it’s when it 

The load we are each carrying changes over time. We need to be committed to the ebbs and flows and changes to what we’re doing. For example, 3 years ago our roles were reversed. I was working long hours but Beck was more flexible. I would cook twice a year and Beck would carry most of the emotional load of the family. Now, that’s completely reversed. Beck works far longer hours than me, I cook 5-6 times a week and carry a greater load for the family than she can. That’s ok. It’s part of the ebb and flow of life. Things change as the seasons and stages of life shift.

Fairness is a terrible goal

There is a lot of emphasis on fairness these days. But for me, the goal isn’t to make everything feel fair… but to juggle and balance our way through life in a way that feels together, loving and healthy. And that looks different for each stage of life and each context. Fairness can’t be the goal. Because you can have everything perfectly 50/50 and have no love. So the goal has to be more about love and togetherness than breaking everything down so we do the same amount.  

Love isn’t about fairness. Love goes beyond. Love is sacrifice and serving. Love is gifts and notes for no reason, doing their most hated chore when they’re not looking. Love doesn’t merely satisfy the expectations of your spouse but desires to go well beyond them. We want to make them feel accepted, liked and appreciated and that exists way beyond the point of fairness.

So, instead of fairness, let’s consider two much more important goals. Generosity and Togetherness. When we are operating in a spirit of generosity we’re not keeping score all the time. We are seeking the best for our spouse and family and we’re approaching the marriage and household from this radically generous place. What if you didn’t worry about how much they did around the house for a while? What if you moved towards them in love and served them regardless. That’s true love right there. Unconditional.

What we want to move towards is the sense that we are together. Not just in the same house, but together in heart and in life. The goal of togetherness is what we want to restore in one-sided relationships.

What you CAN do right now

Ok, apart from the powerful attitude change towards generosity and making togetherness a goal here’s what is in your power to do right now:

1. Identify exactly what feels one-sided

Identify as clear as you can what elements feel one-sided. Is it the household chores? The mental load of organising everything? Parenting the kids? Maybe it’s that you feel you are the one putting in all the energy and effort in your relationship. Take some time and maybe even journal about it. Get some clarity until you can articulate it clearly. What do you want to change? What is required for you to feel together again? What would be the best-case scenario here?

2. Work on yourself

Your personal happiness isn’t the responsibility of anyone but you. Hard truth alert! Sure, we should love and try to please and enjoy our spouse. But that doesn’t make them responsible for your happiness. We are responsible for our own personal growth. Our attitude. The way we speak to them. How we choose to love even when we don’t want to. So, work on yourself. Read books. Reading this blog is a good start. Keep going! Read books. Learn who you are. Upgrade yourself. 

3. Communicate with clarity, kindness & gravity 

It’s time to prepare for a difficult chat with your spouse. Here’s how to have a hard conversation. You want to start with kindness and help them engage as much as possible without putting ALL the pressure on which may cause them to switch off. Grab some wine and chocolate and say, “Hey babe, I really need us to talk about something important to me. Is that ok? Is now a good time?”

4. Focus on momentum, not perfection

Moving forwards one step at a time is a good thing. No marriage is perfect. It’s a constant journey where we improve and make mistakes. If you’ve taken a step forwards together that’s awesome. Celebrate it and move towards the next step.

5. Consider the context

What else is happening in your lives? Is there something else going on that might be contributing to the one-sidedness? Is he becoming depressed? Did she have a fight with a close friend? Perhaps the first thing to do is to find out if your spouse is facing something or fighting a battle you’re not currently aware of. Context is key.

When you’ve done all these things, you’re working from a place of generosity towards the goal of togetherness then you’re well on your way. The only thing left to do is to pray. Seriously. For some of you, you’re at the end of your rope in this relationship. It might be your last resource. And my guess is, you’re going to find it super helpful and pretty powerful. 

Keep going. You got this. Don’t give up.

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