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  • Michaela Patel


Updated: Apr 28

transactional love

A disconnected heart is only capable of transactional love.

Transactional relationships (TRs) use attention, compliments, displays of affection and generosity to extract admiration, attention, sex, money, or information in order to aid climbing the status ladder. Typically, these relationships 'work' because of the emotional inequality with one partner on the higher end and the other on the lower end of the empathy spectrum, with both partners coming from families where conditional love was the norm. The basic message was ‘I will love you more if you do ... for me' or 'I will show up this way if you show up that way’. Having received a distorted (and unfulfilling!) view on love they are both endlessly seeking validation through each other and the world around them. Being conditioned by people who weren’t aware of the damage to their authentic selves, they carry many core beliefs that make the world a place of worry and scarcity, in which they must compete for love by means that only further disconnect them from who they truly are.

When relationship becomes hard work, when love brings up mostly painful memories and confusing experiences, it pays to take a break in search for the truth. By being honest with ourselves about what truly feels good and what what simply doesn’t, by admitting the truth instead of fighting it, opens a new door that can take us to many new, exciting, previously undiscovered places.

Most relationships lie on a spectrum of the ratio of transactional vs. unconditional exchanges. Wavering in various situations in a particular day or week dictates the overall level of satisfaction and fulfilment. Toxic relationships operate through a more distorted, transactional love lens. Upheld by the unhealthy, immature expectations (modelled in our primary relationships with our carers), the level of distortion determines the frequency of destructive conflicts.

That is until we say enough is enough.

Embarking on a journey of self-acceptance, we eventually start learning how to put ourselves first, honouring our feelings and expressing our truth, unafraid of others.

The road to self-love, however, isn’t straightforward. It can feel like we are at a disadvantage when we start practicing unconditional love. Being loving without expectations, giving without holding ourselves and others to a standard, we are being VULNERABLE. Something we aren’t used to. It can frequently, at least at the start, feel like taking a step forward only to retrieve two steps back, thinking 'What's the point?' Old habits die hard and giving without expecting something in return may feel like we are being used...

A closed heart, warded off by its protective Self, is unwilling to be vulnerable. It puts up a resistance out of fear of being taken advantage of, unaware of the consequences and disadvantages of such choice.

Let me clarify something right away. Being loving doesn't imply allowing ourselves being used. Which is what we were practicing anyway by making our love for ourselves depend on someone else's mood or opinion. True love doesn't exclude, nor it fluctuates with mood. Even though it may be temporarily obscured by our challenging emotions like anger or sadness in the same way the truth can be temporarily obscured by lies.

Being loving implies remembering ourselves and caring for our needs. Our vital need to express love abundantly fills our heart with pleasure whilst calming our mind. When we can express it without the fear of being taken advantage of we feel an unshakable sense of inner security - a feeling no one else's acceptance could ever replace. Being loving is also about knowing our limits and protecting them. Setting our limits however, we must know where we end and where others start, which is tricky in enmeshed relating built on transactional exchanges.

If we are to discover who we are and meet those who truly belong to our tribe, we must be willing to step outside of our current 'comfort zone' and feel momentarily exposed. Keeping our hearts warded off will only bring a false sense of security. In this restricted space we will continue being disconnected from ourselves, our pain and the reality, 'protected' by inauthentic people. Self-awareness helps us to notice how our mind automatically grants access to love depending on how others (and ourselves!) are being. We are only capable of unconditional loving when we are unconditionally loving towards ourselves in the first place. Which has nothing to do with spoiling ourselves with buying the latest stuff. It has everything to do with us sitting down with ourselves, attending to our feelings and expressing ourselves with honesty, unafraid of being unloved by others because our love for ourselves is enough - a true feat when we were led to believe the polar opposite! If we are to remain authentic, connected to our heart, we must practice self-awareness to catch ourselves and pull back whenever our thought of giving is tainted by the old attitude of our false Self who thinks that our value hinges on showing up a certain way.

What are our inauthentic exchanges and transactional interactions costing us?

They quickly vane into hollowness that fills us with irritability, always tainted by the bitterness of the deceit (whether consciously admitted or not) towards others and ourselves. They perpetuate our fears and false beliefs of inadequacy, filling us with constant unrest, feeding into the notion of never having enough of anything which is abundantly unfulfilling.

Transactional relationships fill our hearts with disappointment and pain by preventing us from connecting to our authentic core. By forcing us to wear a mask they deny us discovering who we are, keeping us away from ourselves and ever experiencing wholeness. Sadly, by giving all that we truly desire to give to ourselves away to others, expecting to be nourished back, we cause the abundant love stream of our heart to dry out.

There are, however, instances in life that can awaken us to the love travesty and remind us of love's true source:

  1. Having children

  2. Losing someone

  3. Losing ourselves and hitting rock bottom.

Children are the source of pure love that affords us the opportunity to experience boundless, carefree joy. Losing someone teaches us vulnerability and appreciation for what really matters. Hitting rock bottom forces us to face our illusions about life and ourselves. If utilised it’s potential fully, it is the first class lesson in self-care and self-love. At the beginning of all of the above is pain which, with correct guidance, can be transformed and enrich our lives. But it can only happen with the removal of the lies that currently obscure the truth.

The truth has always been there, like love. Being loving is our nature. We were born with the capacity to love without expecting others to show up. Because we had no template for how a loving parent looks like, we have accepted their inauthenticity as the truth. Our minds obliterated by preconceived ideas about how love looks like, we allowed others to tell us who we should be in order to ‘get love’. As the source of love, we so freely used to express, ceased flowing, we started being careful. Our selves became fearful and restricted in self-expression, inauthentic, because being ourselves simply wasn’t welcome. We were too loud or too quiet, too smart or too stupid, too daring or too afraid. Nothing was ever good enough so love became our currency...

To undo the damage of your family and cultural conditioning, become present to your emotional truth and learn to validate it. Learn about enmeshment, why you may be disrespecting your needs and how does this actually impact your ability to live a truly happy life.

Thank you for reading. If my article contributed to understanding yourself, please be generous and share it with others.

Copyright © 2023 Michaela Patel


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