Human beings are by nature social beings. Our need for relationship is far beyond that of animals. We grow in our relationship with others. However, relationship is toxic where no growth is taking place. Here are three stages in relationship.
The Infant-toddler Stage: what’s the relationship of an infant with his mother and others? The relationship is somewhat narcissistic. That is, he sees everything and everyone in relationship to him. Others are seen and defined in relationship to his own need. Mummy is seen as a provider. All what an infant needs do when he needs food is cry, and there it goes, breast in his mouth. The world is an extension of his own body. He can’t differentiate himself from his environment. All an infant want is have his need met. Naturally, this isn’t bad. However, such a relationship is toxic when coming from someone believed to be an adult. To him or her, others are means to his own end. He defines and sees others according to his own need. The world is good when his desires and needs are met,but evil when his needs cannot be met by others. In courtship, a narcissist wants to suck in everything to his or herself. He easily threatened when love isn’t coming from the mother-figure. This mother-figure can be his or mother, father, spouse, friend, etc. However, even a toddler grow. A toddler soon realises that the world doesn’t revolve around him. The world wants something from him, too. This leads us to the second stage
The Adolescent Stage: this stage is transactional, a tit-for-tat. I will give A, you give me B. I won’t make noise in class to avoid being beaten. I date him, he gives me money. Love is seen as transactional: give and take. To say I love you is to say I want you as my wife, not as human meaningful in yourself. Rob my back, and I will rob yours. Gifts are bought because I have interest in you being the person I want to marry. I don’t cheat on my partner so that he or she won’t cheat on me. I do good in order to reap good. I should dress this way in order to gain love. I should talk this way in order to win people over. Different titles of books are being written based on this stage: Ways to Love, How to Win her Heart, How to Make it in Life, How to Receive God’s Blessings, etc. Naturally, transactional stage isn’t bad. As a matter of fact, our sense of Justice rests on it. However, sooner in life, we realise that things important can’t be transacted. We love people, but they don’t love us back. As a matter of fact, paradoxically, we want to avoid being reduced to mere things by reducing others to mere things. We are hurt in relationship, we cheat, we lie, and the likes, just to to keep others, and make them love us;but this doesn’t work.
I often hear people say money can buy love. Perhaps. But your money can only manipulate people who are needy; it can’t make them love you. Your gift is appreciated, but others want us to see them not as means to our own end, but as ends in themselves. Nobody wants to be reduced to a mere thing or a machine. People don’t want us to see them as helpers even if they help us, but as humans. By this we appreciate them even if even they aren’t helping us.
The last stage is The Adult Stage: at this stage, I don’t cheat, not because I don’t want my partner to cheat on me, but because cheating is wrong in itself. I do good, not so that good will come to me, but because such an act is good in itself. Honestly, truth, love, beauty, and the likes, are pursued for their own sake rather than making them transactional. I don’t believe in God in order to avoid hell, but because God in himself is supremely good, worthy of praise and adoration. At this stage, I don’t see others as partners, but as humans, who have values in themselves. I love her, not so that she can love me back, but because she’s good in herself, worthy of love.
Paradoxically, we’re in a transactional relationship, but rooted in us is the longing for the relationship where we are being treated as a person, not just there to meet others’ desires and needs, but to be loved for who we are. We share our hearts with the person in whom we see honesty, truth, love, and the likes. We may transact our ways through, but we don’t want others to reduce us to mere things. In life, things which matter aren’t transactional. Let’s all grow!