Transactional Relationships – some personal anecdotes



I want to help,” he said handing over a stack of cash. “But I don’t want to get involved.” 

I can think of no better example of unconditional love – giving with the only expectation that the gift be used for good and the betterment of one’s current situation. In this example, he wasn’t expecting any sort of favor or a more-intimate relationship. He didn’t give explicit direction on how to spend it. He gave the gift freely without strings attached – only that he wants my life to get better. This is the exact opposite of transactional love.

If you live or have grown up in the West, you are undoubtedly familiar with this concept. Transactional Love exists when giving is not free – when there are strings attached and expectations to be met.

I can think of a time I engaged in Transactional Love without recognizing it as such. In my college days, I rented a two-bedroom apartment. The smaller room was where I slept and the larger room was kept as an office. But I had developed a friendship with Jannica* and she was in need of place to stay. I could easily reorganize my sparsely-furnished apartment by relocating my office items into my bedroom and the living room. So I invited her to move into the second bedroom. She graciously accepted.

Over few years since we’d met, we had developed a pattern in our relationship of spending a great deal of time together and frequent communication regarding the most-intimate aspects of our lives. I had an unspoken expectation that when she moved in this would continue. But it did not.

Once she was settled in, she spent some of her time in class as she was also a student. But after class instead of coming back to our apartment, she would go to her boyfriend’s place for the rest of the night. We began to see each other only in passing when she came by to take a shower or do her laundry. This was not the roommate relationship I had anticipated.

I had envisioned us spending many moments, days, and evenings together – helping each other with homework, cooking meals and baking cookies, continuing to talk about the ever-evolving desires of our young hearts. Instead, we were drifting apart. While we did still spend some time together over that summer, her room was absent its occupant more often than not.

And so when summer ended, I finally told her about my feelings and the expectations I had allowed to remain unspoken. This was a crucial conversation. I needed to express myself without knowing for certain how she would react. I also deeply desired our friendship to remain in-tact. Without yet having read the book, we sat down together at the table in our dining area and had it out. Through the course of our conversation, we agreed that she should move out – and as it turned out she already had a place in mind to go. She was ready to move in with her boyfriend.

That very week, we signed her off the lease and she packed up her room. When her man arrived with a pickup to load it all up I helped haul the boxes down three flights of stairs. We parted with an embrace and I am happy to say that our friendship did not end there. I could have – but it didn’t.

Without yet knowing the words “Transactional Love” I had unwittingly engaged in such a relationship. I gave up extra space in my home to make room for her. I did so with the unspoken expectation that the intimacy-level of our relationship would not wane. But it did – and it damaged our relationship, but thankfully only for a short while.

Once she was settled into her new home, our relationship quickly fell back into the old routine of us spending a great deal of time together. We had adventures visiting art galleries and perusing thrift stores. We spent evenings together which involved intimate conversations late into the night. We shared many cups of cocoa and the occasional glass of wine – but most importantly to me, we shared quality time.


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