For All

5 Types of Relationships


Kai is a medical doctor and therapist for CBT & REBT running a private-clinic for Integrative Medicine in Berlin. He is an advocate for diversity, collaboration, imperfection, living non-dogmatically and is steadily amazed by life's ability to recover, learn, grow and develop.

Last Updated on February 28, 2024 by It’s Complicated

Connections and types of relationships can easily be called essential pieces of the human experience. Yet, again and again, failure happens, or what we wish for doesn’t come true. A connection breaks, or it never even happens in the first place. We feel disconnected, and the result is inconvenience or pain, especially when things are very dear and important to us. Quickly, we start struggling emotionally—drama and misery. We get upset, feel hurt, anxious, or angry, sometimes all at once.

If we look a little closer, relationships don’t just occur with other people, but also with family, friends, partners, animals, life in general, the environment, or the planet. Likely the most important relationship a single human-being has is the relationship with themselves. It’s your relationship with yourself, my relationship with myself. Our minds are designed this way, with a part that observes and a part that acts.

So naturally, one may ask, “How can we live as our own best company?”

The following communicative model may offer a simple, clear guideline and insight into this topic that is oh-so-dear, important yet equally confusing and irritating to us.


    • One side only takes from the other. It’s draining the other and carries a sense of entitlement. It considers itself the centre of the universe and ignores the other side.
    • “My needs must always be met. I deserve better. I deserve to receive and control, yet I never give back. Me. Me! Me!!!
    • Here, one side only keeps on giving to the other, yet it’s not allowed to receive in return. They may even consider themselves unworthy from the start and try to make up for this unworthiness by demanding perfection from themselves. 
    • “No mistakes allowed, you always need to do your best.”
    • Interestingly, a self-sacrificing partner and an egoistic one can form a bonding relationship. The result is codependency. While this connection can indeed find stability, the likelihood for it to flourish is highly unlikely.
    • This relationship generates connection through past experiences, which is enjoyable, but it misses out on the present moment and with that it misses out on the only time that life is happening. Now.
    • The miserable relationship is mainly focused on preserving something it already has, likely it’s afraid of losing it. Because of this it creates stagnation and lacks motivation to change anything. It’s mostly concerned with maintaining an image to the outside. It’s stuck in the past, whether it’s a memory, illusion, or fantasy. 
    • “Oh, the good old days when things were better if it weren’t so terrible now…”
    • Here, one side is willing to give something back, but only if it receives enough in return. Due to this expectation, there is constant stress and anxiety, a sense of lack, and permanent unhappiness. As a result this leads to rumination and greed. Greed for power, for possession, and for pleasure.
    • Over 4000 years ago, King Hammurabi of Babylon wrote extensively about this injustice and discrimination. Social Psychology has tried with no success to disprove Hammurabi’s thesis of reciprocity, showing that if you connect and share with a calculating, transactional attitude, both sender and receiver will always receive only a lack in return. With this mindset what you get in return will rarely be enough, and even when it is enough, there is no real happiness as only the expectation is fulfilled.
    • On the other hand if resources are limited, likely the trans-actional relationship is the way to go. It’s about making a sacrifice and finding a compromise that both sides can live with.
    • This type of relationship is not always possible, especially when resources are limited. But when it is possible, it is clearly favourable. 
    • The true team spirit. Here, one side acts with the best intentions for the other. When it gives, it gives without calculation nor expectation, yet it doesn’t forget to set boundaries. It’s constructive and establishes a mutual responsibility. It flourishes.
    • In the cooperative relationship, needs and expectations are considered detrimental to the connection. Instead of lowering expectations or needs, they are changed and expressed as flexible preferences and wishes on one side, or as boundaries on the other.
    • This kind of relationship works best when it pursues a mutual goal, while practising unconditional acceptance. As human-beings are fallible, naturally, failure will happen, yet if we maintain a cooperative  attitude, we can overcome obstacles and create miraculous things.

If you find yourself stuck in one of the first four relationships, ask yourself, “How can you shift your perspective and attitudes to become cooperative?”

However, if the cooperative relationship becomes constant, there is no need to be dogmatic about it. A controlled frenzy may offer variety, playfulness, and a thrill in one of the other four types of relationship.

Shifting your own relationship into a cooperative one will make it easier to establish it with others, with life, and the planet, as well.

Credit where credit is due

Milenko Vlajkov, a Serbian Psychology Professor and International Supervisor for Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) shared this concept in a lecture about Personal Development and Meditation in 2022. It’s derived from Taoist philosophy and its concept of the 5 elements, as well as Western psychology.

If you like what you read, yet struggle to put this concept into action, feel welcome to reach out and get in touch.

I offer help so you can help yourself.

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