Parent, adult or child?

parent child

What we can learn from transactional analysis?

Eric Berne’s theory of transactional analysis posits that we all assume the role, or ego state, of either parent, adult or child in relationships. The person we are relating to responds to our behaviour based on their own ego state and this combination determines the outcome of the interaction.

The healthiest combination between lovers is the adult-adult combination, which results in an interdependent transaction based on mutual respect and fair compromise. In some cases, such as when we are sick, it is ok for one partner to assume the role of parent and carer and nurture the other. But, when this combination becomes a fixed state, it can cause tension in relationships.

If one person is always the adult, always the one who takes responsibility, always the one pushing a relationship forward, this can feel like a big burden. That person begins to resent their partner for what they perceive to be petulant, stubborn, selfish and child-like behaviour. So, how does it feel from the other side? Well for the person in the child role, their ‘parent’ partner feels over critical, controlling, and suffocating.

In every relationship we have, it helps to try and identify these patterns of behaviour before they lead to conflict and unhappiness. How can we moderate our own behaviour and learn to be more tolerant, supportive and co-operative with each other?




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