What Is A Transactional Relationship And Is It Healthy?

Most of us want to settle down with someone we love and have amazing chemistry with, but that’s not the case for everyone. Some people view relationships as business arrangements and prefer to find partners with whom they can share a reciprocal give and take. Here’s everything you need to know about this kind of transactional relationship and whether it might be right for you.

What is a transactional relationship?

As the name implies, a transactional relationship is one in which both parties are together because they each stand something to gain from the other or from being part of a couple. It’s not just one person taking advantage of another — both people are on equal footing in this type of arrangement. And while it’s possible to care about and even love one another, that’s not a prerequisite for those in transactional relationships.

“When entering a type of relationship like this, the person may not think so much about their feelings and what they feel for the other person, but rather what they can get in return,” clinical psychologist Aura De Los Santos tells Bolde. “Economic security? Social status? Basic needs covered? A couple to save face? They can be some of the reasons why people can have a relationship of this type. Some are in a transactional relationship and feel something for the other person, but the benefit they will get from the agreement is greater.”

How common is this type of relationship?

While the terminology may be new, the idea of transactional relationships is old as time. Even into the early 21st century, many couples got together not for love but for other reasons: to raise children, to embody traditional values, or to gain or maintain financial security. Even those with more modern ideals are drawn to these connections even if they’re not entirely open about it to others. After all, no one wants to admit to their family and friends that they’re coupled up with or even married to someone simply for their own gain.

De Los Santos tells Bolde that she often sees clients who are in these types of relationships without one or both partners realizing at first. However, when it’s pointed out, many are happy to maintain the status quo.

“From my experience as a psychologist, I have spoken with clients who express that they remain in their relationships due to the benefit they obtain from their partner,” she explains. “In many cases, their partner is not aware of what the other person is thinking, but both can reach a point where they know that they are only together for the benefit and not for love and to establish an emotional bond.”

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Benefits and drawbacks of a transactional relationship

While transactional relationships aren’t for everyone, they can work for many people who know what to expect and are happy with the realities of such an arrangement. Here are some pros and cons to consider.


  1. Both people get their needs and desires met. This is perhaps the biggest draw. Because both people have something to offer that the other person wants, this is a reciprocal relationship that should satisfy both parties. The things they offer one another can be financial, material, or even social, depending on the circumstance.
  2. Transactional relationships can provide security and stability. Because both partners know what they want and what they will get from the relationship, they are dependable and reliable. There’s very little anxiety or stress involved as you both know what you’re giving and getting. This is advantageous for many who choose it.
  3. Both people know what to expect from the relationship. More conventional relationships come with expectations, needs, and desires that change over time. The other partner is then expected to adjust to those changes and continue to ensure they’re satisfied. That’s not the case with a transactional relationship. The terms are outlined from the beginning, making it easier to navigate.


  1. They lack emotional intimacy and depth. While it’s possible for transactional relationships to be genuinely affectionate and for a bond to form. However, in many cases, there’s no deep connection. This could leave some people feeling lonely, isolated, and unloved. The benefits in this case may be outweighed by what the relationship lacks.
  2. One person may feel exploited or taken for granted. There may come a time when one person can’t offer as much as they could previously, whether on a temporary basis or permanently. When that happens, the other person may feel like they’re getting the short end of the stick. The arrangement may begin to feel unfair and even undesirable.
  3. They’re likely to end if and when the balance shifts. When this resentment begins to brew, it’s likely that the relationship will face serious difficulties or will end completely. After all, no one wants to stay in a situation or with a person who no longer serves them. If you live together or share financial responsibilities, splitting these assets and making separate arrangements can prove frustrating. The same goes for if you have children together.
Jennifer Still is a writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience. The managing editor of Bolde, she has bylines in Vanity Fair, Business Insider, The New York Times, Glamour, Bon Appetit, and many more. You can follow her on Twitter @jenniferlstill