Secret of happy relationships: How to succeed

Geheimnis glücklicher Beziehungen: Ein Pärchen sich anlächelnd an eine Mauer gelehnt

Two people who love each other and still have constant stress with each other ... What's wrong with that? A conversation with relationship expert Elena-Katharina Sohn. 

ELENA-KATHARINA SOHN: No, no expectations are wrong (laughs). But you shouldn't shift all the responsibility for everything that should make you happy and satisfied onto your partner. And unfortunately, that is exactly what happens in many relationships.

When do expectations make sense? 

Whenever they are a desirable option rather than an obligatory claim. For example, I can express the wish that my partner should accompany me on a trip abroad, even though he is afraid of flying. But I can't be angry with him if he doesn't comply with the wish, but flies alone.

But what if travelling together is part of a happy relationship for me? 

Then I should find another solution. My partner is not responsible for my happiness. So I don't have the right to say: You have to be like this and like that for me. Or to reproach my partner, maybe even to blame him, if my life at his side does not turn out the way I imagine it. Many couples work madly on that. The only right I have is to talk to him about my wishes and if necessary end the relationship if I don't feel well. Partnership is based on voluntariness, from both sides. We often forget that.

Where do these excessive expectations of the partner come from? 

Even if it sounds dull: The image of romantic love and the one person who makes us happy is more present than we think. Almost everyone absorbs this with their mother's milk, and it is permanently fired in the course of life. Unfortunately, it is not at all suitable for creating sustainable relationships.

And what makes relationships sustainable? 

First of all, that everyone preserves his or her ego, i.e. fulfills and pursues his or her needs independently. Because if I do that, then I don't need to be afraid that the person next to me will not meet my needs. This reduces the potential for conflicts and disappointments immensely. In this context I speak in my book about the "ego level" in relationships.

But the stress is on the we-level .... 

But it reduces drastically when I am clear on the ego level. Because then I can fulfill the things that are important for a successful partnership on the we level.

Such as? 

Very important is what I call the "loving look at each other". Seeing and accepting the other person as he or she is - and not through the glasses of one's own expectations and needs, which are directed at them. An example: A client was constantly annoyed by her partner because he was sitting in front of the game console in the sunshine while she wanted to go out with him. He, on the other hand, didn't like nature as much as she did and needed the daddeling to relax after a busy week in his law office. They argued about it all the time. Until the woman acknowledged that she couldn't expect him to always follow her wishes and to find friends to walk with. After she had relieved her partner of this task for her own life, she could suddenly realize how lovable she actually found his playfulness. The loving look at the partner becomes possible when I make sure on the ego level that I am doing well and that I do not take responsibility for it.

Sounds great in theory. But what if I am just angry and disappointed? 

It doesn't matter. If I can keep my loving eye on myself even in crises, I will be able to deal with conflicts in a relaxed manner - a very important criterion for happy couples - because then I won't be able to relate everything to myself.

In your book you call this "being connected in conflict". Sounds very esoteric. 

It doesn't mean that you shouldn't argue. But with many couples, the other suddenly becomes the enemy as soon as there is a conflict. Being connected in a fight means never losing sight of the fact that it's about a common cause. You don't have to see the other person as a brutal opponent or question the relationship. Conflicts are part of partnerships. Humor, for example, also helps here.

You demand a lot ... 

Yes, that's true. I certainly demand a high degree of reflection and personal responsibility from my readers. But that is precisely what is very important and central: that you take responsibility for your own life and don't always try to blame others.

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