We live in a world that values the transactional. Never forget the romance of the relational.

Photo by Jasmine Carter on


We do transactions better than ever. Inputs flow into output. Anywhere on the globe. We dispatch to you at a click of button. Immediate execution. Global marketplaces whizz products to meet needs. Once and done. Efficient, seamless, smooth and ultimately forgettable.

Our homes are full of the products. Our fridges are full of the food. Our phones are full of the opinions. Our feeds are full of the acquaintances. Yet our hearts are a little empty. What we gain too easily we can lose just as easily.

In our focus on transactional efficiency, our embrace of the market and our love of the machine metaphor, we might just have forgotten that there’s magic in inefficiency.


Relationships deliver more than transactions. The barriers are lower. The trust is higher. The value is far greater. More importantly the experience is underpinned by the faintly frustrating ever-inefficient frisson of romance.

Romance is inherently inefficient to our transactional world. If you fit, be together, says the transactional view of the market. If not, don’t. Except that’s not how we see relationships, relationships are seen through the hope, the meet, the exploration, the struggle and all the work to sustain a relationship through the ups and downs of life. Much of this work is uncertain, costly and ongoing. The work of relationships isn’t over until you stop working to make them work.

Love at first sight is extraordinary but the romance comes from the difficulty of bringing together the star struck lovers. The meet-cute might appeal but the romance arrives after a lot more work and a lot more investment by all concerned. Relationships take work and that work is where the romance lies.

Most importantly, our transactional world makes things more efficient by fitting everything into standards, categories and averages. Nobody has a satisfying relationship with an Everyman. We want to be seen and loved for who we are, even with our own peculiar bundle of challenges, difficulties and outright flaws. The first romance of a relationship is seeing another distinct from the crowd and the hope that they might too see you. The grand romance is that a relationship continues despite its imperfections.

Customers are great. Fans are better. Acquaintances are pleasant. Friends are better. Advice is useful. An advisor is better. We place our trust, our hopes and the messy work of growth in the relationship choice.

As efficiently as modern digital platforms execute the transactions of our lives, they also highlight that transactions are not enough. We hunger for relationships because in their inefficiencies we are seen as unique and we find romance. That recognition and discovery is the human heart of our lives. No machine is recreating and sustaining that experience.

What relationships do you need to foster?

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