Here’s what Dr Kerry Ashton-Shaw, Clinical Psychologist and relationships expert, has to say about unequally committed relationships.
In unhappy and unhealthy relationships ‘one-sidedness’ is a theme I see again and again. You know the type of thing; one partner is always the one to say, “I love you” and plan for the future. While the other partner seems to just ‘turn-up’ and be along for the ride (so to speak).
Asymmetrically Committed Relationships (ACRs) are relationships in which one partner is significantly more committed than the other, leaving the less committed partner more “in control.” Research suggests that a high percentage (35%) of romantic relationships are ACR’s. Why do we stay in one-sided relationships?
I worked with Charlotte a couple of years ago. She described striving to make her partner happy, giving up friends, sports and work to do so. In return, she was cheated on, bad mouthed and left waiting around for hours on end. Yikes. Why did Charlotte put up with it?
Charlotte had severe ill health throughout her childhood. This meant she missed vital experiences of how to relate well to others. When she returned to school at fourteen, she was way behind her peers in terms of social development. She decided there must be something wrong with her – she must be unlikeable. This became her core belief. Because she believed she was unlikeable, she put the needs of others before her own. As you can imagine, this left her vulnerable to others taking advantage, which only reinforced her belief about herself.
Fast forward to her current partner, and the cycle makes sense. She was desperately sad and searching for happiness in her relationship, but missing how she was relating to herself. She saw the world through the lens of “unlikeable” and in romantic relationships, “unloveable.” And this wasn’t working out well.
When Charlotte recognised her core belief, she could work to change her pattern of relating to others. She spent time learning to see herself differently. She built friendships and spent time doing the things that mattered to her. She is now in a much better position to move into an equally committed romantic relationship.
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BSC. (hons) MSc.,D.Clin.Psych., AFBPsS