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Why Exchange Relationships Fail: 6 Common Reasons and How to Avoid Them

exchange relationships
Why Exchange Relationships Fail: 6 Common Reasons and How to Avoid Them 1

Have you ever been in a relationship that started off great, but eventually fell apart? Maybe you thought you found your perfect match, but over time, things just didn’t work out. One possibility is that you were in an exchange relationship, where both parties were only interested in what they could get out of the relationship. These types of relationships often fail because they lack trust, communication, and genuine care for the other person’s well-being.

While communal relationships are based on each others needs, exchange relationships are based on the idea of give and take, where each person expects something in return for their efforts. This can lead to a transactional mindset, where you only do something for your partner if you think you’ll get something in return. This is a type of toxic relationship that should be avoided at all costs. Not to worry, we are here to show you warning signs of a exchange relationship.

In order to truly understand exchange relationships, you must first understand the psychology behind it.

Social Exchange Theory

Social exchange theory is a sociological concept that explains how people make decisions in relationships based on the costs and benefits they perceive. According to this theory, individuals engage in relationships because they believe that they will receive more benefits than costs. The benefits can include emotional support, companionship, and material goods, while the costs can include time, effort, and emotional stress.

Social exchange theory suggests that individuals are rational actors who weigh the pros and cons of a relationship before deciding to continue or end it. Verywellmind voices that “Most relationships are made up of a certain amount of give-and-take, but this does not mean that they are always equal. Social exchange suggests that it is the valuing of the ​benefits and costs of each relationship that determine whether or not we choose to continue a social association.”

Basically, if the pros out weigh the cons, you are more likely to say yes to the relationship or whatever it may be. Now that you have a basic understanding of this concept, lets jump into why these relationships are doomed to fail.

Unmet Expectations

One of the reasons why exchange relationships fail is due to unmet expectations. When you enter into an exchange relationship, you have certain expectations of what you will receive in return for what you are giving. These expectations can be explicit or implicit, but they are always present. In relationships, you should do things for your partner without expecting anything in return. This is called love and respect.

When someone’s expectations are not met, it can lead to frustration, disappointment, and even resentment. This can be particularly true in business relationships, where there may be a clear agreement on what each party is expected to provide. A romantic relationship is not supposed to resemble a business relationship, just fyi.

One common cause of unmet expectations is a lack of communication. If you don’t clearly communicate your expectations to the other party, they may not know what you are expecting from them. Similarly, if they don’t communicate their expectations to you, you may not know what they are expecting from you.

Another cause of unmet expectations is unrealistic expectations. If you expect too much from the other party, they may not be able to deliver, which can lead to disappointment. It’s important to have realistic expectations and to communicate them clearly to the other party or better yet, don’t expect anything from your partner.

In summary, unmet expectations can be a major cause of exchange relationship failure. To avoid this, go into a relationship being ok with the idea that you aren’t gonna receive anything for doing nice things. However, if your partner isn’t doing anything for you in return ever, then it’s important to discuss your feelings with them. Try to find a common ground where you don’t expect something all the time.

Trust Issues

Trust is a crucial component of any successful relationship, including exchange relationships. When trust is lacking, it can lead to the failure of the relationship. Here are a few reasons why trust issues can cause exchange relationships to fail:

  • Lack of transparency: If you are not transparent with the other party, it can lead to mistrust. When one party feels like the other is hiding something, it can cause tension and ultimately lead to the breakdown of the relationship.
  • Broken promises: If you make promises that you cannot keep, it can cause the other party to lose faith in you. It is important to only make promises that you can deliver on, and to be honest if you cannot fulfill a promise.
  • Inconsistent behavior: If your behavior is inconsistent, it can cause the other party to question your motives. For example, if you are friendly and helpful one day, but distant and uncooperative the next, it can cause confusion and mistrust.
  • Lack of accountability: If you do not take responsibility for your actions, it can cause the other party to lose faith in you. It is important to be accountable for your mistakes and to take steps to rectify them.

In conclusion, trust issues can be a major factor in the failure of exchange relationships. It is important to be transparent, keep your promises, be consistent, and take responsibility for your actions to build and maintain trust in the relationship.

Mismatched Priorities

When it comes to any relationship, priorities play a significant role in determining its success or failure. In an exchange relationship, when the priorities of both parties do not align, it can lead to dissatisfaction and ultimately, the failure of the relationship.

One of the most common reasons for mismatched priorities is the difference in goals. For instance, if one party is solely interested in financial gain, while the other party is more interested in building a long-term relationship, it can lead to a breakdown in communication and trust.

Another issue that can arise is when one party places a higher value on time than the other. This can lead to frustration and resentment, especially when one party feels like they are not being respected or their time is being wasted.

To avoid mismatched priorities, it is crucial to have open and honest communication from the beginning. Both parties should discuss their goals and priorities, and work towards finding common ground. It is also essential to be flexible and willing to compromise to ensure that both parties are satisfied with the relationship.

Financial Disagreements

When it comes to exchange relationships, finances can often be a major source of disagreement. Money is a sensitive topic for many people, and it can be difficult to navigate financial issues with someone else. I believe that if you can’t talk about finances in a mature manner, you are to immature to even be in a relationship. Here are a few common financial disagreements that can lead to the failure of an exchange relationship:

Spending Habits

One of the most common financial disagreements is over spending habits. You may have different priorities when it comes to how you spend your money, and this can lead to conflict. For example, you may value experiences over material possessions, while your exchange partner may prioritize buying things. It’s important to communicate openly about your spending habits and find a compromise that works for both of you.

What W and I do is have 3 bank accounts one for him, one for me, and a communal one for both of us. This works well because we have our own money to spend on whatever we want without having to check in with the other person, and we have enough money to pay bills, utilities, and other house related things. It’s important to find a system that works best for you and isn’t one sided.


Another source of financial conflict can be budgeting. You may have different ideas about how to allocate your funds, which can lead to tension. For example, you may want to save more money for the future, while your exchange partner may want to spend more money on entertainment. It’s important to create a budget together and stick to it, while also being flexible and willing to adjust as needed.


Debt can also be a major source of financial stress in an exchange relationship. You may have different levels of debt, or different attitudes towards debt repayment. It’s important to be honest about your financial situation and work together to come up with a plan to pay off any debt and avoid accruing more.

There is a difference between good debt and bad debt however. If you are in debt because of school or anything health related, that is manageable. But if you are in debt because you spent to much money on clothes or material things, you may want to check your spending habits.

Income Disparities

Finally, income disparities can also lead to financial disagreements. If one of you makes significantly more money than the other, it can be difficult to navigate how to split expenses fairly. It’s important to have an open and honest conversation about your financial situation and come up with a plan that works for both of you.

Normally in a relationship, one person makes more than the other. I’m personally fine with him making more than me and still paying for some dates or gifts and what not. Money doesn’t matter to me as much as he does and I think that is something a lot of people nowadays don’t agree with.

Personality Differences

One of the reasons why exchange relationships fail is because of personality differences. When two people have different personalities, it can be difficult to communicate effectively and understand each other’s needs and desires.

Here are some ways personality differences can impact your exchange relationship:

  • Communication Styles: You may have different communication styles that make it hard to understand each other. For example, one person may be very direct and to the point, while the other person may use more indirect language and hints.
  • Conflict Resolution: When conflicts arise, you may have different ways of resolving them. One person may prefer to confront the issue head-on, while the other person may avoid conflict altogether.
  • Values and Beliefs: Your values and beliefs may differ, which can lead to disagreements and misunderstandings. For example, one person may value honesty above all else, while the other person may prioritize loyalty.
  • Interests and Hobbies: You may have different interests and hobbies, which can make it hard to find common ground and spend quality time together.

It’s important to recognize that personality differences are a natural part of any relationship. However, it’s also important to communicate openly and work together to find solutions that work for both of you.

External Factors

Influence of Friends and Family

Your friends and family can have a significant impact on the success or failure of your exchange relationship. They may not approve of your partner or may have concerns about the cultural differences between you and your partner. This can lead to pressure on you to end the relationship or to make changes that are not in your best interest.

It’s important to remember that while your loved ones may have your best interests at heart, they may not always know what is best for you. It’s important to communicate openly with them about your feelings and the reasons why you are in the relationship. You may need to set boundaries or limit the amount of influence they have on your decisions.

Work and Career Demands

The demands of your work or career can also impact the success of your exchange relationship. If you are working long hours or have a demanding job, it can be challenging to make time for your partner. This can lead to feelings of neglect and frustration, which can strain the relationship.

It’s important to prioritize your relationship and make time for your partner. This may mean adjusting your work schedule or finding ways to balance your work and personal life. It’s also important to communicate with your partner about your work demands and to make sure they understand the challenges you are facing.

In addition, if your partner is also working or has career aspirations, it’s important to support them in their goals. This may mean making sacrifices or compromises, but it can ultimately strengthen your relationship and help you both achieve your goals.

Nevertheless, external factors such as the influence of friends and family and work and career demands can have a significant impact on the success of your exchange relationship. It’s important to be aware of these factors and to take steps to address them when necessary.

Your pen pal,


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