By Callie Albaugh, MA, LAMFT
“But what about me?” Raise your hand if you’ve ever asked this question. (I know I have!) In life, relationships come in all shapes and sizes. Some are elegantly structured and extend beyond time; while others appear rigid and brief, with jagged edges that leave us with a lasting pain. At times, we develop a functionality in relationships that is organized around equal benefits for both parties, leveraging on a ‘transaction’, if you will. Transactional relationships state, “You fulfill my need, then I fulfill your need.” For example, a child completes a chore in order to get another gold star on their Chore Chart; or, a wife cooks and cleans in hopes of guilting her husband into completing his ‘Honey-Do’ list. These are behaviors we all act within; however, sometimes we root our actual relationships into this concept. You may participate in a transactional relationship if you find yourself asking, “What do I get out of this?” This type of relational pattern brews resentment and frustration over time. When we build our relationships on the structure of, “What’s in it for me?” rather than authentic connection, we short change ourselves on experiencing true genuine and intimate relationship.
Healthy relationships promote true identity and authenticity. We want an interactional relationship, as opposed to a transactional relationship. Interaction is a flow between two people, consistently interchanging with one another without tracking the exact ins and outs of the exchange. Think of an infinity symbol – ∞ – it consistently flows through the ups and downs without a stopping point, similar to riding the waves of an ocean on the beach. . Healthy dialogue, teamwork, and sincerity are all qualities of relationships that highlight an interactional experience. When our relationships shift into an interactional pattern, we develop deeper care and understanding for the inner layers of who we are and the person with us.
Today, we are all being called to pause our daily lives. We’ve started to re-structure how we work, go to school, and run errands. We have also the opportunity now to re-structure how we do relationships. This is a time that we get to deepen our relationships with intention; to meaningfully root our relationships in a foundation that is authentically present; a time to foster and nourish meaningful connections with those around us. As we come together as one community, we set aside our individualism and promote the needs and interactions of us all. We can begin to change our mindset from, “What can this person do for me?” to, “How do we do life together?” When we shift our focus away from our transactions (but what about me?) and towards our meaningful interactions (how do we love and serve each other?) with others, we will begin to experience a deeper connection and intimacy and build a community of support and care.