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Here is a an article written by our lead-therapist Millie Tanner:

The term transactional relationship is often used in business.  In a Forbes Magazine article entitled “The New Relationship Marketing” Dan Schawbel writes this:

“Traditional Marketing is transactional with the focus on making the sale, often a one-time sale.  Relationship marketing is focused on building and sustaining a mutually beneficial connection between the business and customer.”

Relational marketing sound eerily similar to what married couples deeply desire to experience in their relationship.  Words like building, sustaining, connecting often come up when we talk about marriage.  Yet what we do doesn’t match what we want.  In other words… My actions are never going to get me to my intended destination.  One reason for this is the transactional nature of many relationships.

Here is a quick comparison of transactional thinking vs. relational thinking:


  • Self-focused
  • What do I get?
  • If I win you must lose
  • You must understand my views
  • Results oriented
  • About evaluation
  • Expectations
  • Solve problem
  • Often punishing
  • Quid Pro Quo
  • Filled with Judgement
  • Full of Blame
  • Living by the law of scarcity


  • Spouse focused
  • What can I give?
  • We both win or we both lose together
  • I must understand your views
  • Person oriented
  • About validation
  • Gift giving
  • Understands process
  • About forgiveness
  • Accepting
  • Full of giving rewards
  • Where both spouses take responsibility for their actions
  • Living by the law of abundance

In a transactional relationship the highest priority is receiving (getting what I want).  This type of thinking tends to focus a great deal of attention on “needs” in marriage.  When we begin to talk about a want or desire as a NEED we set ourselves up for disappointment.  We focus on what our spouse SHOULD be doing for us and begin to resent them because they are not “meeting our needs”.   I try to move couples away from this way of thinking and replace it with a gift giving mentality.  We give good gifts from a place of love and freedom not a place of fear and punishment of not meeting expectations and needs.

With the heavy expectation of meeting “needs” weighing down the relationship, couples tend to go from one fight to the next working hard to protect themselves and come out the winner.  “If you won’t meet my needs then I certainly will not meet yours” becomes a kind of battle cry.  In transactional marketing the single objective is making the sale.  Winning.  Winning at any cost.  When your goal is winning you do things and say words that create a clear loser.  Unfortunately, your spouse has to be the loser for you to be the winner.  This is the heart of transactional relationships.

The more we engage in relational thinking the more peace and contentment we reap from our marriage.  Relational thinking sees marriage as a deep well with an abundant reservoir of love, attention, trust, and security.  These are not limited resources that must be taken based on the law of scarcity.  Because of abundance I don’t have to calculate whether you are going to reciprocate and whether it will be an equal “gift” to what I have given.  This environment breeds record keeping which will extinguish any joy that exists in a marriage.  Relational thinking promotes reckless generosity in our marriages!

Generosity – Giving more without the fear of having less

Long term customers, broader goals, retention, and meaningful relationships are just some of the terms seen in businesses that adopt the relational model of marketing.  Forbes did another article recently entitled “5 Tips to Move from Transactional to Meaningful Customer Relations” written by Blake Morgan.  Here are the tips:

  1. Don’t forget what it FEELS like to be in the customer’s shoes
  2. Allow the customer to define the terms of their relationship with you
  3. Personalization whenever possible
  4. Never automate social support – When customers can’t reach a real person on the phone they overwhelmingly hang up!
  5. It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it

So let’s look at 5 tips to move from Transactional to Meaningful Marriage Relations!

  1. Enter into your spouse’s world.  What is this conversation like for him/her?  What is he/or she feeling?  (Back to EMPATHY 101)
  2. Don’t just bulldoze over your spouse. What is my spouse asking for right now?  What is important to him/her?
  3. Study your spouse so you will know what they like and prefer. Men – Listen to feedback from your wife so that you gain insight and really know her.
  4. Be available. You don’t automate social support because customers then begin to feel isolated and unheard. Sound familiar?  Work on being emotionally and physically present with your spouse.
  5. Yes, it is about TONE! In an argument tone of voice can communicate value and respect or shame and dishonor.  Marriage is for grown-ups.  Managing tone and intensity of emotions is a hallmark of maturity.  Children engage in temper tantrums.  Emotional escalations prevent true understanding which is the ultimate goal in conflict.

Look for opportunities to engage in more relational thinking rather than transactional thinking in your marriage.  Identify obstacles you face personally that keep you from interacting in a “spouse first” way.  As always, ask for help if you are struggling.  There is healing for those who seek wise counsel and trust in the Lord.