When was the last time that you met your partner as an adult? When did you not do it? We can relate to each other in many ways, which then for the basis for how we express ourselves and communicate with each other. One way to look at relationships is to use something called the Transactional Analysis Model.

When was the last time that you met your partner as an adult? When did you not do it?

We can relate to each other in many ways, which then for the basis for how we express ourselves and communicate with each other. One way to look at relationships is to use something called the Transactional Analysis Model.

Behind this somewhat scientific name we find a model to describe the emotional aspects of an interaction between two people.

Ego-states

The way we function, we assume one of three Ego-states.These are:

Parent Ego State (P)

Adult Ego State (A)

Child Ego State (C)

These three states, can be illustrated as three circles:

transactional-analysis-1

When you are having a conversation with someone you always come, or act, from one of these Ego-states. However, these states can vary depending on the situation and your own feelings and needs.

Let's examine the three Ego-states is a bit closer.

Parent Ego State

It consists of feelings, thoughts and actions that we have learned from our parents or other significant adults in our childhood. There are two types of parent ego states, Nurturing Parent (NP) and Controlling Parent (CP).

When we communicate from our Nurturing Parent, for example, we can express the needs of caring for, protecting or helping. When we come from our Controlling Parent, we express criticism, set borders and ban.

Filippa: Sometimes I get the idea that I know best what Mark needs and do not hesitate a second to tell him. It can be anything from telling him how he should park the car, cook or how he should behave

In those cases, it is obviously more important to me to be right than to be happy. I'm talking rather than listening to what he wants. I focus on a short-term gratification instead of building trust and respect for the long-term.

Adult Ego State

This Ego-state is described as a collection of independent thoughts, feelings and actions targetted at the current reality. In your Adult Ego State you are acting based on the situation as it is here and now. Without being nfluenced by residue from your own past as in the other two Ego-states.

Effective feedback belongs here. Here I am meeting my partner, with total honesty and authenticity. We have a mutual exchange of emotions.

Child Ego State 

This Ego-state consists of thoughts, feelings and actions that are residue from my childhood. As in the Parent Ego State these residues affect our communication in the present. The Transactional Analysis Model distinguishes between two Child Ego States: The Free Child (FC) and the Adapted Child (AC).

The Free Child is characterized by openness, spontaneity and boldness, while the Adapted Child's actions are a reaction to parental figures, either by obedience and submission or stubbornness and defiance. 

Markus: I sometimes slip into the Child Ego State and find the world in general or Filippa in particular to be quite unfair. What I have learned here is that this is not a way that creates a constructive outcomte of the situation and that it has an effect on passion and sex drive that is about as lively as a frozen cod fillet.

I have found that in this situation it helps me to remember to breathe and to do it deeply. It is a great way to get back to myself and instead choose the Adult Ego State which is a much more empowering position with more exciting opportunities!

Different forms of interaction

As we mentioned, according to this model we call the meeting between two people a transaction. There are three types of transactions that occur depending on which of the Ego-states above that we find ourselves in and how we act those out. 

Complementary transaction 

If for example, I am in my Adult Ego State and am sending a message to the other person's Adult Ego State, I expect an answer from his or her Adult Ego State to my Adult Ego State. When this occurs, the transaction is called Reciprocal or Complementary

transactional-analysis-2

The conversation continues unimpeded and without interference. Examples of such a conversation could be: 

A: "I was worried when you came ten minutes later than we had agreed"
B: "I understand that, I'm sorry, I lost track of time when I was working on an important project" 

Crossed transactions 

If the recipient does not respond to our expectations, but responds from a different Ego-state than that we addressed ourselves to, the transaction is called crossed

transactional-analysis-3

An example of a crossed transaction or communication is as follows (B answers from their Parent Ego State aimed at A's Child Ego State): 

A: "I was worried when you came ten minutes later than we had agreed" 
B: "Why did you just stand here waiting without doing anything? You could have called our manager, and she would have told that I was busy with other things" 

Covert transactions 

Covert or Duplex transactions can be described as mixed messages. Several Ego-states are involved - the message contains both an open social level (i.e what is said) and a hidden psychological level (i.e what is not said, but implied).

The illustration below shows the open social level as a solid line and the hidden psychological as a dashed dito. 

transactional-analysis-4transactional-analysis-5

It might go down as follows: 

A (Sender) says: "I was worried when you came ten minutes later than we had agreed" 
A thinks: "You do not care about me, I do not want to be your friend anymore" 

B (Receiver) says: "I'm sorry, there was a lot of work to be done at the office today" 
B thinks: "Yourhelpless weakling, you could have mustered enough energy to pull the phone out of your pocket and give me a call" 

The impact on our relationships 

Do you long for more intimacy in your relationship?

Then it's a good idea for both of you to take an honest look at which of the various Ego-states you act out in your relationship. To create the fundamental building blocks of trust and respect, the only viable option in the long-term it to come from your Adult Ego State.

When one partner constantly acts as a parent toward the other or conversly behaves in a childish manner, it does not create a basis for passion and enduring love.

Awareness and active choices

We all have different Ego-states in us to different degrees, so it is necessary to be aware of when you are pulled into one of the Ego-states like by an invisible force without making a consicous and active choice.

The more often you feel that you can consciously choose to be in the Adult Ego State even when your partner says or does things that previously would have triggered you to go into any of the other Ego-states, the greater the possibility for you to achieve real satisfaction in the relationship.

A heartfelt thank you 

We would like to send our warmest thanks to our friend AndrĂ© Halai for his superb contribution with input for this text on adult relationships. Andre does a fantastic job with human growth and well being. 

Homework Assignment

Consider the most recent conflict you had with your partner or the last time you said something to each other did not leave a totally good feeling afterwards.

Which Ego-state, or Ego-states, can you can see that you used yourself in that situation?

Which one or ones did your partner use? 

If a Parent or Child Ego State was actively involved in your conflict, what could have been another way to express yourselves that would have been more mature?


Couple with laptop studying relationships