The company you keep reveals a lot about your values and who you are. You are compelled towards different relationships for different reasons. You may love spending time with family and long time friends because you have a shared past. Or with people who have similar interests and like the same activities. You may have one friend who makes you laugh like no one else (very compelling!) or a new partner you adore and can’t wait to learn more about. And then there are the people that you spend time with simply because they have something you want. Perhaps you believe they have the power to further your cause or elevate your status.

These people are like shiny pennies. Their sparkle can dazzle you into believing they may hold the key to an easy path or a secret shortcut to your desired destination, and for this reason you want them to be a part of your life. These are the people that you feel are ‘good to know.’ Yet…

Your ulterior motives can lead to disappointment. When you Want it BAD, You Get it BAD.  @Terri_Cole  {CLICK TO TWEET}

Hopefully, you just want it good. Getting really honest about what is driving you in a relationship is the quickest way to uncover your motives. If you discover that the relationship serves as a means to an end, as I mention in the video above, then it is time to reevaluate.

People can feel when you want something from them. If you’ve ever experienced this yourself then you know what I’m talking about. When someone is being inauthentic in their desire to know you, it feels gross.

When you Give to Get, you always LOSE @Terri_Cole   {CLICK TO TWEET}

I learned this lesson the hard way when I was a talent agent. Early on I was blinded by the sparkle from some ‘shiny pennies’, and ended up in a few pretty unhealthy, imbalanced relationships, as a result. Eventually, I learned and made a rule for my personal life; No befriending anyone highly visible and loaded if you would never befriend them if they were unknown and poor. This cut out many relationships and spared me the inevitable break up conversation or disappearing act explanation.

Still feeling unclear around your motives for being in a relationship, or about someone else’s? An effective tool that you can use to avoid the challenges and pain that often come from a relationship based on getting rather than giving, is to become the observer. Watch yourself and others, when you feel unsure about the motives in a relationship. When words and actions don’t align it is one of the quickest ways to tell that someone may not be trustworthy, and therefore may not have your best interest at heart (or vice versa).

You may decide to keep the relationships that you have despite feeling that there may be ulterior motives. The point of these tips and tools is to give you a better understanding of what you are driven by and why. From this understanding you can make more conscious choices that will lead to healthy relationships. Hopefully, ones that make you feel good, safe and bring joy to your life.

This is an interesting topic so if you have any questions or comments please share them below. I always love hearing from you. Taking some time to evaluate the relationships in your life is an effective way to keep it real. Have a wonderful week and as always, take care of you.

Love Love Love


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  1. This absolutely moved me! Exactly what was on my mind and in my face but i never pieced sh!t together until reading this.

  2. Thank you for sharing.
    I’ve been accused of having an ulterior motive myself, by a man I loved dearly. This is one of the reasons why I can’t be with him, which I’m OK with. I mean…I am in a place where I am content with not continuing anything with him.
    He said he can’t be sure what my ulterior motive is….just says it is a feeling. I was looking this up on line as I didn’t know what it meant and found this video. Very helpful.
    Sadly for him…there was never any ulterior motive…I didn’t want him for money (I work hard/career girl and have my own money)….I didn’t want him for children (I don’t want them)…I didn’t want him for his connections (I’m an introvert, I want as least connections as possible)….I didn’t want him for sex (people can get that anywhere if they wanted it). I just loved him and he has difficulties understanding this (his ex partners have been horrid to him).
    Reached a stage where I’ve fallen out of love and I feel better without him in my life, because everything has been so painful of late. At least I can walk away guilt free…there was never an ulterior motive….I simply loved him.

    1. Hi Dolly,
      Thank you for sharing your experience ❤️ It sounds like you learned a lot about him and about yourself. I’m glad you’re here ?

      1. Been talking to this guy for 4 years now. When I talk about relationships, he immediately thinks about romance and commitment, although I did not specify it to him. So, when I was also wondering why he found me funny, he made a comment about guys having a motive. And this confused me, I’m just observing him for the moment, although I do admire him in many ways. Clearly, he already told me then that he had commitmen issues, and would rather be friends. So, I have been laying low in his opinions and comments about dating and love. I just don’t understand why he talks about romance so much, consciously and unconsciously to me.

        I do think he has feelings for me, because he seems to be excited and happy with my presence, thinking, and missing me.

        I was thinking, is this opinion some kind of freudian slip or a projection of his opinion about me.

        Thanks 🙂
        – mikah

        1. Hi Mikah,
          It’s tough to say, but I think a more important question is how you feel about him. What do you hope for from this relationship? Is he able to consciously show up for you and meet your needs? I would spend time reflecting on this aspect and question your own hopes for your relationship! I hope this helps ❤️ Thank you for sharing and for being here.

    2. This is only one side of the story.
      All you said is what you did NOT want from him, not why you loved him in the first place. Perhaps if you communicated that to him, it would be much different. But of course, once again you are the victim – but now you’re all alone with your cats. Big win.

    3. Your comment is a year old, but it’s exactly the situation I find myself in. How can love be viewed as an ulterior motive? Is it a bad thing to want love returned to you? Isn’t that what a relationship should be. I am happy you were able to move. I’m talking the first steps towards moving on as well. Thanks for posting your comment!

  3. 4+ years first the promises he’s faithful and he would never cause me physical harm not long after that follows the L word im not big on saying it but ill show it then the switcheroo now I’ve become “clingy” so i let up then another switcheroo…. An im feeling the L for him now we have 2 kids together an its a non stop harassment lies and rumors he spreads private photos and more all while he has me made out to be the villain and he plays victim but all this is just to make it short as possible i allowed him to do these horrible things to me but even separated he stole carries on why?

    1. Karie,
      I am so sorry to hear about your painful experience. He is mentally sick for sure. Forget about asking, Why? because you will never get a satisfactory answer. Your job is to do everything in your power to protect yourself and your kids from him and his toxic way of having relationships. Sending you strength and protection.

  4. I like this. Biologically, humans have to interact with each other to survive and flourish. Ulterior motives are usually negative and I hate that. I go completely offline for a while to deal with the “real problems” I see. If people were straightforward about interactions, there would never be a reason for hidden motives as these are quite damaging esp when “conditions” get bad. The worst and impatience in the “actor” in the relationship starts to show. We should try and improve our motives and be direct with our words and actions to each other as much as we can. The world needs more growth than human complexities caused by a greedy ass mindset.

  5. Thank you for your post. I feel that every time I talk to my long time friend lately, she is trying to get something from me. She has had several high paying positions but keeps losing her jobs and I’m not sure why. Is it because she doesn’t get along with others, it may be a culture clash, or is there something criminal going on, I wonder. Anyway, I feel like when she loses a job, she makes it my job to help her get the next one through my coaching and moral support. I like to help encourage people and don’t want to turn my back on someone who is down, but it’s just too often. Now she is saying she’s getting more and more behind in payments and I just know what’s coming next. I’m trying to figure out ways to hedge against this as it’s stressing me out. Any words of advice?

  6. I know that this article is from last year, but I was googling topics on trust and friendship, ulterior motives and I happened upon your website. I’ve been reevaluating why I’ve been in a friendship with a certain friend for SO many years. We met in grade school and we are now in our Fifties. (Very young 50’s might I add.) We’ve had our challenges over the years and I was not always a saint. I’m a communicator when things go south and she only knows the silent treatment, (which I feel is very abusive behavior.) The longest we went without speaking was for a year and that was about 3 years ago. In that time, I became extremely liberated and almost felt free of a very heavy burden. When we reconnected, there were some people in my life that I had reconnected with from high school, of whom she had not seen since then. Back then, they were crushes of ours. I ended up becoming engaged through this process of reconnecting and I felt a lot of jealousy on her part. I would actually go out of my way to make her feel involved and loved in hopes that she would try to share in our happiness. This is such a long story, but I truly feel that the only reason she wants to be in my life now is to see my husband and his best friend. Our friendship endured only due to its longevity and now it’s being put to the test…or I should say, I’m being put to the test. She constantly asks about my husband and makes sure I know that she “met him first” and that she never realized how handsome he was, he’s the perfect guy for her, etc. I could go on, but it makes my blood boil. His best friend is not attracted to her (as we tried setting them up last year and it was a terrible mistake.) Nepotism never fails to let me down. Now I know this sounds childish, but I tested her by asking her up for the weekend. We live 7 hours from each other and so when we do see each other, we make a full weekend out of it. A few days before she was to visit, I told her that my husband would be out of town and that it would be just a girly-girly weekend. She sounded disappointed (as I suspected,) and then the day before she was to come over, she cancelled. I’ve prayed over this. I’ve tried to put my “fears” aside and each time, something like this happens to prove me “right” or “wrong,” however you look at it. I’m finally going to make the break from this long-winded friendship that has clearly run its course. Thank you for allowing me a forum to vent.

    1. Thank you Jemma for sharing your story. I recommended to another reader a different blog of mine that may be helpful for you as well
      Remember that in any situation all you can do is take care of you. Whether you decide to remain friends or not make sure to check out my forgiveness and compassion meditations here on the site, they will help ease your mind of any hurtful thoughts that may actually be causing you pain. Forgiveness if for you –>

  7. Inherently all relationships have ulterior motives whether consciously or subconsciously, do not believe there is any human relationship that doesn’t have this undertone of ulterior motives in its makeup. If you really strip away the actual connections between individuals it is like an onion. The more you dig the more it “hurts” to look. Animals such as dogs also have motives, but much simple, genetically they are dependent on humans for food, water, survival. However, they are utterly faithful land transcend this ulterior or material barrier we humans fancy to call “relations, alliances, society, etc” humans are not capable of connections without ulterior motives. We can only approach the concept at birth or near death. Want to experience real and true unconditional love-get a dog. Take care if it and it will reciprocate real love. Or, wait until the moments of near death or the threshold thereof- then and only then can we see or touch the hand of God. Why-cause we can’t let go of our precious EGOs. It’s a real bitch, but it’s the honest truth.

    1. Thank you for the post. It is true that the Ego gets in the way of unconditional love. Yet the more people can begin to see where there are ulterior motives within themselves and others, the more consciously they can navigate relationships to others and themselves.

  8. Yes…it’s so hard to come across someone with “pure” intentions. Even if it’s not to elevate one’s status, maybe it is for pleasure, for “fun”…and that is no better in my opinion.

    I myself and struggling with this a great deal these days because his motives were tangled in self-involvement.

  9. Hi Terri,

    This is so interesting. I was just talking to my co-workers two minutes ago about a friend I have who consistently makes me THINK I’m a push-over, because she always seems to be “getting something from me,” and never the reverse.

    In reality, I’m no push-over, I just hadn’t realized that the little things that she does may be part of her plan (whether she even realizes it or not) to get what she wants. Constantly probing for information, pretending to be completely oblivious to things that end up giving me more work and hassle…her habits tend to result in me losing either time, money, or sanity. But all quietly! As frustrated as I sometimes get with her, I continue to carry the weight because I do value the relationship. We’ve known each other for over 15 years.

    I moved to NYC from Texas just a year and a half ago, am in my early twenties, and also experienced being intrigued and drawn to the sparkly people of the city when I was desperate for work/money. I did cling to people (not literally, but mentally) who I thought would be able to get me what I needed but most of those people didn’t end up delivering. There were a lot of “Dang, I thought he/she was really going to help me out” moments. It wasn’t really them, it was me. It took some time for me to realize that I had a lot of work to do on my own before I could get what I wanted.

    Lesson learned: it IS possible to always think positively of people whether you know them well or not, but you can simultaneously gauge their genuineness and may sometimes realize that they may just be in-it-to-win-it. I wouldn’t ever say that I always “have my guard up,” but these days I’m learning how not to be tricked, and how never TO trick. Most often, you can do anything (for yourself) if you put your mind to it. And asking for help from those who you know are honest and trustworthy is never a bad idea.

    Thanks, Terri! I’m loving your advice/thoughts here and on Positively Positive.

    1. Lesley, thank you so much for your honest and insightful comment. I love when there is information/situation synchronicity! I hope you found insights in this blog and thanks you for the Positively Positive shout out. Keep up the good work around your self awareness and remember to keep taking care of you!

  10. Great Post Terri, and a good tip about observing. It’s helpful to pause before reacting when I feel like people want too much from me. Thanks so much.

  11. This is a real doozy! I think you do have to foster some relationships that you would normally not choose because of work, family or other associations. Sometimes I don’t want a relationship with certain people, but feel it is more healthy to keep it, and KEEP IT LIGHT. I am in a situation like this now at work and have to fake it sometimes. On the bright side, I have learned more about certain people and actually like them and get on better with them than before. But, I just know that they are not “forever” friends.

    i have worked on being positive with people and creating better communication so that I could enjoy my day more!

    Unique situation – but for right now it works

  12. Terri
    You have hit the nail on the head. I have been noticing that alot of the people that ive been associating with are not really interested in a friendship with me but have been using me to better their positions in life.I have always tried to please everyone else and always through myself to the back of the line but not anymore! I realized that i am an important person as well and that I deserve to have friends that are there for me through the good and the bad. I need to re – evaluted my relationships with people and sort through the relationsships to find which ones are healthy for me. Thank you so so much for posting this…hugs…

    1. Kennith I am so glad this blog resonated with you and that from it you have had insights into some of your relationships. You deserve healthy and supportive relationships.

  13. Hi Terri,
    I have to say we are totally on the same page today! After a quick inventory on my motives in a certain relationship, I discovered that it is based on Fear! The fear of rejection has created strategies to keep this person in my life! Originally my ego wanted to save her as I was programmed in the many fairy tales taught in school. The means to an end is always “They lived happily ever after”, and I wish it were true but that is too high of an expectation!
    Today our relationship has evolved into a brother, sister relationship with a good connection. Yet the fairy tale programming still comes up at times when she needs my help. This creates a false hope and causes pain when I realize she is still looking for someone other than me!
    I have been told that this borders on obsession. I also realize that any other woman that I date has not connected with me very well at all as long as I have reservations of false hope of my original Ulterior Motive.
    At this point, our relationship evolves again. I am staying open to our connection, but I pass on the fairy tale recue and witness the growth in both of us as we learn to just let go!
    I appreciate any observations and always seem to learn from you!
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Mark, I appreciate the honesty and self awareness in your comment. Ulterior motives can be highly charged when they are connected to romantic relationships. As you know the only person you can control is yourself and your expectations. Having the awareness that you now do, you can choose to think and behave differently. In letting go I hope that you do experience growth in whatever way is best for you both.

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