Is there a magic formula for THE love relationship that withstands everyday life?
Most people idealise the subject of love relationships. They believe the goal is to find the right person with whom everything will work out – like in a fairy tale. But the reality is that a relationship is more of a joint project that is never really finished. The players change. This means that the players are constantly having to adapt certain rules of the game. Love is much more rational than we want to believe. Many hours of practice need to be invested until we have mastered an instrument. So why do we expect love to just fall into place?
In the book What makes couples strong you talk about the relationship house. How should we imagine this?
Each partner is equal and acts as a supporting pillar. The WE is the protective roof holding everything together. But not all people have the same dream house: for one person, a mobile home is the definition of happiness. For another, it’s an alpine hut or a twelve-room mansion. However, these relationship dreams can change over time, which is why communication is so important. You have to accept the development of the other person and feel connected to each other. For a relationship to work, both partners need to be prepared to constantly work on it.
Closeness and distance, how much is good?
As with all relationship topics, this is individual. Some people need a lot of closeness, others less. This has to be negotiated until a balance is found.
How did the pandemic affect relationships?
Lockdown acted like a magnifying glass for many couples: good relationships got better and these people enjoyed the slower pace of life together. However, if a relationship was rocky, it got worse. It was impossible to get out of each other’s way, there was no space to withdraw. The feeling of togetherness dropped as both experienced a growing distance and no longer talked to each other.
How can this be counteracted?
By being open and willing to the idea of actively shaping the relationship and eliminating monotony. A relationship is not a sprint, but a marathon. Frequent little kindnesses are more effective than a one-off candlelight dinner.
What topics should a couple discuss?
There are important issues, such as fidelity and boundaries, that every couple should be clear about. Equally important is regular dialogue in everyday life. The partners should ask themselves and each other the following questions: where do I stand? Where do you stand, and in which direction are you heading? Where do we stand as a couple? You don't have to agree on everything all the time, but if couples tell each other what's on their minds at that moment, they prevent the risk of alienation.
A checklist for couples
Every couple should have talked about these topics in detail at least once.
Communication: as a couple, do we have a tone and form of communication for a constructive dialogue?
Fidelity and boundaries: definition? What role do they play in our everyday life?
Cultivating the sense of we: what connects us as a couple? What makes us a team?
Similarities and differences: what do we both like? How do we deal with differences?
Arguments and conflicts: what is it like when we argue? Can we understand the other person’s reaction?