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Pure love is very simple. You love the person for who they are – right now, whatever they are doing or not doing. In its simplest terms, you love them and give your love unconditionally.

Many of us believe that is what we do, yet, the reality is, we love them, but we want something in return, this is called horse trading. A classic example of this is how we give our attention to others.

Horse trading comes in many forms. Horse traders only give their attention or affection if they are getting what they want from the other person. Horse traders use their mood as a weapon and a reward. When they like what their partners are doing, they are loving and kind, there is a gentleness and openness. It is this energy which others seek. When their needs are not being met, the quality of energy changes dramatically – it can range from being cold and distant, sulky or downright hostile.

Perhaps the most pernicious type of horse-trade of all is that of sex. At its best sex is the most wonderful sharing of intimate passionate love where two people come together to share their vulnerability and their strength. At its worst, it is a trading transaction. I’ll let you have sex with me if you do what I want. It becomes far more about power and far less about love.

How does this have relevance to the partner of a workaholic? Well, dealing with clients over the years, has given me the opportunity to recognise patterns of behaviour across many people. Horse-trading is very common.

Both partners do engage in horse trading but I am going to focus on times when workaholics partners use it.

Commonly both people are hurting. The workaholic escapes into their work. Sometimes the hurt precedes the relationship but the partner believes it is about the relationship and feels rejected and hurt as a result.

The partner wants their workaholic other half to love them enough to leave work in its place and spend time with them. Even though what they really want is unconditional love, their hurt has led them to create a relationship where they respond lovingly when their workaholic partner gives them the attention they are dying inside for. You can almost hear the unspoken words – I’ll give love to you if you give love to me – but you have to give it to me first!

I can understand it – we all want to be loved and made to feel special, but here is the problem – Workaholics are workaholics because of a need within them. It is actually very little about you.

Remember the basic needs.

The four psychological needs are:-

  • Certainty
  • Uncertainty or variety
  • Significance
  • Love and connection

The two spiritual needs are:-.

  • Growth
  • Contribution

We all need all the psychological needs but will tend to have two top needs. We can satisfy those needs in many different ways. There is nothing better or worse about any of these needs but if any activity satisfies three or more of our needs at a high level it is likely to become an addiction.

Workaholics commonly get their needs met at a high level from work.

  • Certainty and a sense of control
  • Lots of uncertainty or variety
  • A sense of significance from their statues and the feeling that they make a real difference
  • Connection from colleagues and clients often at a really satisfying level
  • They are constantly learning new things so feel a sense of growth
  • And finally the feeling that they are contributing to something bigger than themselves.

If when they come home they feel they are failing as a partner, a husband, wife or parent, if they have no sense of certainty or their driving needs are met less strongly they will find it difficult to give up the addiction to work.

Significance is quite commonly one of workaholics most driving needs. If they get it best at work – that’s where they will spend the majority of their time and attention rather than come home and have to face a sense of being a failure. If they crave certainty or variety they’ll get it from work if you don’t give them a powerful alternative at home.

Deep down what most people really want is true love.

Now bearing in mind that if you always do what you have always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got, maybe it is time for a fundamental change!

Love them – unconditionally. Do things because you love them and you want to, not because of what you might get in return.

Remember that they are probably doing the best they can. Being driven is never comfortable. The results won’t be instant. But time and time again once partners stop horse trading and start loving – from their heart, without expectation of anything in return things begin to change. Partners find they feel better about themselves too.

Working with a coach can be incredibly helpful when working on developing a healthy sense of self worth but there are things you can do to help yourself. Try the ideas above. We would love to hear how you get on and if you have other ideas which have worked for you.

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