Transactional Relationship (11 Signs Of A Transactional Relationship)

Last updated on August 29, 2022 by April Maccario

Before researching for this article, I was guilty of seeing relationships a little transactionally. Believe me, it's hard not to when you’re the only one giving timely birthday gifts.

Yes, relationships should involve responsibilities of giving and taking but then when you only give to take, there’s a problem.

Transactional relationships are like business deals; so many rules and clauses to follow and if not, the deal is off!

Agreed, there are clear expectations in relationships. However, a true partnership between couples shouldn’t have a transactional nature. Even though many married couples in an arranged marriage started off with relationships that were transactional, they tend to term fragile loving transactional relationships.

Taking advantage of a partner is not the same as having emotional expectations of them. If you’re with your partner only for the benefits they bring, that's not love. No doubt, many relationships today are transactional. Everyone seems to forget the nature of the true partnership. 

Transactional relationships begin with the transactional thinking that you have to take whenever you give irrespective of responsibilities. 

The highest priority of true partnership does not lie in the benefits each partner brings; it’s in their ability to be one entity. You’re at the right place to find eleven signs of a transactional relationship so you can look at your relationship, old or new through an informed lens.

11 Signs of a Transactional Relationships

1. A giver must equally take

This is one of the easiest signs to spot, especially when the parties involved are upfront about what they want and what they are willing to give for it. Take the old men that look out for young girls, for instance. What they want is usually purely transactional—money for sex and company. 

The moment these daddies start getting less than they pay for and vice versa the deal is off. It's not simply about giving and taking in marriages, it's a problem when the entire partnership thrives on the exchange alone. No matter the environment you find yourselves as a couple when what you do for each other is determined by what you get, that's transactional. 

2. Failure means the end

Life itself is full of transactions and it's part of human nature to be transactional despite the environment. This is what makes loving transactional relationships not so linear. The problem, however, is when the relationship is fueled by the continuous exchange of whatever benefits. That is not what love or partnership is totally about. 

If your partner is quick to threaten you about calling off the relationship because to him you didn't uphold a side of the bargain, that is not a role but a benefit. This means that your partner is guilty of thinking transactionally. Failure in marriage and partnership is taken as a team, and so is correction and wins. Failure to uphold your side of the bargain means this type of transactional relationship ends badly. 

3. Less love and more results

Transactional relationships are only driven by personal gains. It becomes less about love and more about the result of whatever each partner is putting into the relationship. Think back; when was the last time you experienced true romance from your spouse? Did he just do something sweet to get you in bed with him or because of genuine care for you? 

An honest answer to these questions would point you in the right direction. Another sign is when the attitude towards a bad result on a partner's end is not encouraging with hopes of improvement but demeaning. Every good relationship thrives when selfless romance comes from both partners, to be too result driven is unhealthy. 

4. Judgemental nature

This is probably the most irritable sign of transactional relationships. Nobody should be seen as better than the other in a partnership or marriage. The moment both parties feel superior to each other, they become very judgemental of their actions. Arguments like ‘I know you did this because I didn't do that’ begin to fill your day. 

It's unhealthy to keep a relationship with a man who judges your actions especially when he does not gain from them. One of the strongest qualities of love is that it does not judge. You can tell where this is going if your significant other does the opposite. Watch closely for this sign, it's the one we’re likely to keep excusing. 

5. Fickle behavior

fickle behavior

Of course, romantic relationships like this do not last long. Sooner or later, someone is bound to default as a result of our human nature, then everything comes crashing down. Some do stay on for a while, especially in the case of arranged marriages. However, are the couples truly happy or are they just staying on to fulfill all righteousness

Although some young girls end up marrying their sugar daddies along the line, are they truly in love or did the stakes just get higher? In the end, adults can do whatever they want with their love lives but a relationship driven by selfish gains is empty and fickle, also open to others. 

6. Unromantic characters

Has the romance in your marriage died out a little? Is he less emotional? Do you suspect this is a result of something your partner wants that you are not doing? If yes, that’s a sign to get back on track. However, when romantic acts happen only as a result of other romantic acts, there’s a problem. 

Showing love to your significant other should not be equated by how much they give or how often they show you love, it should be your personal decision. If you find it hard to navigate through this then maybe you are the one seeing this as a dealership rather than a partnership.

If as long as each gain is met, the romance thrives, you are both doing it wrong. Transactional relationships often have this nature.

7. A record-keeping nature

One of the strongest signs of this type of relationship is a record-keeping nature. The only way to know if the other party is keeping their side of the bargain is to keep a record of wrongs. I bet your boss takes notes of times you did a great job and remembers exactly when you messed up a job. 

If it starts to feel like you are at work in your marriage, you may want to either discuss this with your partner or take a walk. Love does not keep a record of wrong. This does not mean love ignores wrongdoings, it means love allows you to move on from it. Love gives your significant other the ability to act fairly to you whether you are doing the same to them at the time or not.

8. Transactional personality

It's important to know who your partner is before marrying them or starting an intimate relationship. This personality is a huge indication of the type of relationship you would have and a terrible sign to ignore or to hope you can work on quickly. 

Learn to visualize your love life with a person before making commitments. Sit and have a conversation about each other's wants and needs and the ability to fulfill them. If you see this man treat everything in his life on a transactional basis, what makes you think he would see a relationship with you (or relationships with others) differently?

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9. Partners are separate entities

In a marriage, couples are expected to operate as one entity, not two separate ones. The moment you both act as individuals in the relationship, it is a sign that it's becoming transactional. When there’s more of ‘you’ failed than ‘we’ failed, it shows a clear lack of partnership and evidence of sticking around for personal gains. 

Many transactional relationships fail because they lack a unifying attitude towards themselves. There’s no separate entity in marriage; if not, it would be chaotic. The moment you are taking up responsibilities individually, the relationship changes nature from pure love to a big transactional one.

10. Selfish personalities in marriage

selfish personalities in marriage

It's obvious that this type of relationship is run by selfishness of both parties. Although I learned recently that marriage, itself, is selfish. Let me explain. When you decide to marry a person you love they must first fit your criteria, not anyone else’s, you marry them for yourself and you do not choose a person based on availability.

That’s a selfish act because you look out for what’s best for you first before what’s best for your partner. In the type of romance in focus, selfishness is a sign you should not pay deaf ears to. Love isn’t selfish and if your significant other begins to think only of the things that he gains from, that’s not right.

11. Too much competition between couples

There’s so much competition in a transactional relationship that it blinds the entire essence of love. Competition is a strong sign to look for in any unhealthy relationship. As couples, you are for each other not against each other. 


How do you know if your relationship is transactional?

When either you or your romantic partner begin to act as separate entities instead of a partnership the relationship becomes transactional. Think back; do you share wrongs or does one person point at the other over failed expectations? 

If yes, then the responsibilities are based on an exchange. Is your happiness or emotions dependent on whether your partner performs a side of the bargain? If yes, that’s another sign. Oftentimes, you can tell when things become a give-and-take affair but because you’re the one taking advantage it’s difficult to admit. 

What does it mean if someone is transactional?

A transactional person cannot do anything whether positive or negative for nothing in return. Whatever that partner does is for an expectation from the other partner. Humans have a transactional nature but that's where true love comes in. 

Love gives regardless of what it can get or emotions. Someone is transactional when they run their lives with others like a business. True partnership cannot survive based on transactional thinking. In simple terms a transactional person always wants an exchange of value or service to occur at every act.

What are the dangers of a transactional relationship? 

This type of relationship is very fickle and unhealthy. A typical example is the kind between a sugar daddy and a sugar baby who are only involved with each other for financial favors. True happiness can hardly be found in this type of relationship and if found would be difficult to maintain with a romantic partner. It's hard to feel protected in a relationship with an entirely selfish aim. This relationship has a bleak future that ends as soon as one party fails to hold up their end of the bargain.

How do you avoid a transactional relationship? 

To avoid such a relationship as this, you must first work on yourself, learn to be more selfless, and original in your acts of love. Couples should look out for transactional thinking in their partners, don't date based on emotions. When you’re out on the first few dates, pick his brains to find out how he feels about giving and taking in a partnership. 

Transactional acts in marriages are not linear at all, and therefore, cannot be avoided completely. Some transactional relationships need to happen for the couple to keep going but the entire relationship should not be based on that. 

Why do relationships feel transactional?

Relationships feel this way when there’s a strain on expectations and delivery measured by what a partner is giving. For example, you are giving him time so that he would give you time in return not because you just want to be with him that period. 

The relationship would feel transactional the moment one partner gets less and stops giving as a result or starts giving just because the other person is. When responsibilities become a competition amongst a couple, existing love dies out. It will feel like this when the weight to do something for something gets heavier. 

In Conclusion 

Did you enjoy this article? I did, and whilst writing I found that a transactional marriage or relationship is not so linear. It's okay if a few times you’ve done something for someone as a transaction. That's human nature. However, don't neglect your responsibilities. Not everything in life is a transaction.

I hope the tips above help figure out what type of relationship you have. Please do not hesitate to share with me in the comment section, I would love to read your thoughts on this topic, don’t forget to share this article with your friends as well. 

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April Maccario
I'm a huge nerd when it comes to understanding how relationships between men and women work, and what drives a certain behavior. I spend much of my time getting into the nitty-gritty and try to share my findings on this site with the hope of making life a little easier for women that are struggling in their relationships or love life.

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