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A graphic with a pastel blue background shows silhouettes of three standing people on the left. To the right, bold text reads, 'THREE RELATIONSHIP ROLES,' highlighting key love dynamics. In the bottom right, there is a logo with '10' followed by an image of almonds.

Are You Stuck Playing These Three Roles in Love?

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The psychology of Transactional Analysis holds that our interpersonal dynamics can be modelled in the following fashion:

The roles

  • Child: vulnerable, trusting, weak, and support-seeking
  • Parent: strong, dominant, responsible—but also often exhausted and critical
  • Adult: balanced, thoughtful, creative, and kind

Ideally we’d be able to spend most of our time in “Adult” mode, and occasionally go into “Child” or “Parent” mode when required, e.g. child when circumstances have rendered us vulnerable and we need help; parent when we need to go “above and beyond” in the pursuit of looking after others. That’s all well and good and healthy.

However, in relationships, often it happens that partners polarize themselves and/or each other, with one shouldering all of the responsibility, and the other willfully losing their own agency.

The problem lies in that either role can be seductive—on the one hand, it’s nice to be admired and powerful and it’s a good feeling to look after one’s partner; on the other hand, it’s nice to have someone who will meet your every need. What love and trust!

Only, it becomes toxic when these roles stagnate, and each forgets how to step out of them. Each can become resentful of the other (for not pulling their weight, on one side, and for not being able to effortlessly solve all life problems unilaterally and provide endlessly in both time and substance, on the other), digging in to their own side and exacerbating the less healthy qualities.

As to the way out? It’s about self-exploration and mutual honesty—and mutual support:

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Further reading

While we haven’t (before today) written about TA per se, we have previously written about AT (Attachment Theory), and on this matter, the two can overlap, where certain attachment styles can result in recreating parent/child/adult dynamics:

How To Leverage Attachment Theory In Your Relationship ← this is about understanding and recognizing attachment styles, and then making sure that both you and your partner(s) are armed with the necessary knowledge and understanding to meet each other’s needs.

Take care!

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