Christine Walter takes a closer look at romantic relationships vs. transactional relationships.
There are many articles today that send messages about how your partner SHOULD treat YOU. These articles ask you to assess and evaluate your partner’s behavior and search for what may be considered toxic or unhealthy. It makes sense that there are numerous articles educating people about what negative signs to avoid since the fear of failure exists in all humans.
Two Kinds of Relationships
Relationships reveal the quality of your life and are the key to overall health and happiness. The belief about love in today’s culture is that it should be reciprocal and what you give should be returned to you equally. This type of dynamic is called a transactional relationship. The old testament, an eye for an eye, is what many people think love should still look like in 2020. Some common beliefs today: my partner should put in the effort every day to pursue me; my partner should treat me like a king or queen; they should treat me the way I deserve and make me the priority in every way. The emphasis is on what my partner SHOULD be doing.
These expectations derive from a narrow immature developmental stage of early adolescence.
At this stage in life, self-esteem is not always fully developed. Many adolescences are looking for family, friends, and community to validate their self-worth. In early adulthood, we start making decisions about our romantic life and what a romantic relationship should look like. It is in this stage of life that we get a glimpse of how our self-worth improves or remains stagnant through an intimate relationship with another. It is also in this stage that couples first experience transactional romantic relationships and expectations become disappointments.
Confusing a transactional relationship with a truly loving relationship results in divorce, anxiety, depression, loneliness, and health issues. To achieve a relationship that is loving, both individuals must be committed to giving without seeking reward. It is not a balancing equation or a contest. It is important to communicate your needs, yet when the desire to be understood becomes more important than the desire to understand the other, tragedy ensues.
Love doesn’t measure, judge, keep score, or require your understanding. Love is a challenging concept that doesn’t need the mind to validate its meaning or existence. Logic has limits, love can’t be rationalized.
Consider the last time you genuinely offered yourself, your time, your thoughts, your energy without wanting or needing anything in return. Most people will give, but they start to feel resentful if they are not acknowledged or receive what they believe is equally valuable to their efforts. The emotional pain of not being seen or heard dominates the mind. It starts to feel impossible to be connected to another person.
The truth is you can feel resentful AND be loving and connected.
The term self-differentiation involves being able to possess and identify your own thoughts and feelings and distinguish them from others. It is a process of not losing connection to self while holding a deep connection to others. This includes those you love whose views may differ from yours.
When a pattern has established itself that one person is incapable of anything other than a transactional relationship then compassion is needed. It is not wrong or bad; it is exactly where they are in their stage of development and can’t be taken personally. The relationship can still be loving and change forms to friendship or respect. The new relationship may not feel like a relationship at all because it is different, but nonetheless, it is still a relationship. Learning the art of love is a lifetime practice, and it’s wise to let humility be the coach. Truly loving someone is the only way to evolve.