Why couple relationships often do not work and how we can change that …

By Natalie Viaux
(Translated from the original German article in the November 2017 issue of Sein Magazine)


Life is relationships. To be means to be in a relationship, because without relationships there is no existence. Heaven and hell are not places, but states in our relationships. You have probably broken hearts at some point, and your heart was not whole. It probably all began so beautifully: Romantic experiences of unconditional devotion, acceptance and sensual passion that accompanied us through the period of falling in love. The principle is mutual and works brilliantly as long as our hormone balance contributes. However, as soon as the body’s miracle drugs oxytocin, serotonin and adrenaline fall back to the normal level, often what only remains are unfulfilled desires.

We discover our partner’s strange qualities and our own frustrating reactive behavior. Does love suddenly take its toll? With regard to our self and love, we are often ignorant laymen. True love is a scotoma for us, a blind spot. We often talk about different “character traits” and accept that love hurts. We know little about our partners and much less about ourselves. An unconscious love relationship is therefore an open-ended process: if you’re lucky, you’ll lift off to heaven – or you’ll blow it all up. After a mostly short high, it often comes to the latter.

In addition, unconscious intimate relationships are also subject to a kind of recurring fate – recurrently linked to torment, self-doubt, separation and broken hearts. Because this kind of love is characterized by subtle and manipulative patterns and concepts, which we unfortunately are not aware of. The reason why we are constantly staging these dramas is because we choose a sparring partner in our relationships, a mirror that is so “friendly” to show us our own shadows and thus our own growth potential. We should be grateful, but instead, it begins to be very complicated.


The decision for growth

The principle of developing from unconscious to conscious is quite simple: a decision. A courageous decision of self-reflection. A decision for differentiated consideration and the withdrawal of perhaps even very convenient projections from one another to oneself. A decision to go into one’s own power and take an active part instead of hoping passively and waiting. A decision to break the cycle of indictment and whining, justifying and defending. A decision for mindful communication and action. A decision for growth outside the comfort zone. Love is an offer to grow together.

Our relationships, like everything else in life, are subject to constant change: the period of infatuation is naturally followed by the phase of “power struggle”. The infatuation shows only the potential that is in the relationship. We choose the partner who will NOT fulfill their own needs after a certain time has passed. Not out of ignorance or malice, but because he cannot (yet), but because there is something against that. We are then stuck in an unfortunate process of longing for closeness, attempted rapprochement, rejection, withdrawal, and frustration. We feel misunderstood, unloved, neglected …

You know all this. But you did not choose the wrong partner. On the contrary. Unconsciously, you have chosen the perfect partner. Because your partner’s needs are mutually connected. One’s own needs are personal growth potential, that which wants to develop and heal. Our partner is the general partner in this constellation. What we find attractive about others is what we ourselves want to develop or regain. That which we reject is also deep within ourselves and longing to heal. If we succeed in recognizing the deeper level of emotional need below the level of conflict, and we are not frustrated, resigned, dodged, or thrown out, we can meet true love together.


Relationship work or letting go

But how can we transform the unconscious process into a conscious process and, for example, productively realize that there is a spark of truth in each partner’s critique? How can we act before it is too late and the mutual hurt and frustration are so great that only separation remains as Ultima Ratio? First of all, we have to be clear about what we really want. For if we come to the realization that growth together is no longer possible, the frustration on the one hand and the resignation on the other hand is too large, initiating a change by ending the relationship, an alternative worth considering.

The art lies in differentiation: when the relationship is still alive, and the work for the relationship and the effort involved is a meaningful challenge. And when is it better to end and release a conscious and respectful end? If we come to the realization that the relationship is worth it, then it we make the decision to fully embark on this path. Ultimately, it means creating a space in which patterns of protection are no longer needed, reflecting one’s unconscious behavior and transforming it step by step to enable genuine and fulfilling encounters. We can creatively and completely redesign our relationships as we engage in this process. Then intimacy and true encounter can take place.


Create a sustainable structure

The knowledge of how to create a sustainable structure and reorientation of the relationship with your own partner can be learned. You can train it like a muscle. And: As in driving or in yoga, it is best to learn with a reliable and experienced guide. Two very experienced Relationship Guides, couple therapists Hedy and Yumi Schleifer from the USA, come to Berlin this November and present their method, the Encounter-centered Couples Therapy (EcCT), an integrative relationship model on the Areas of Couples Therapy, Philosophy, Clinical Trials, Organizational Methodology and Relational Neurobiology.

In their workshop “Adventure in Intimacy”, seven principles and rituals initiate a creative process that inspires couples not only to be a good team, but to develop an intimate and fulfilling base together. It is based on three invisible links that decide on the success and failure of a relationship: First, the relationship space – the chemistry between the two partners. Secondly, the bridge to the world of the other – what the connection between two people can do. And third, the encounter itself – the way we meet. Ultimately, it is about leaving all the ideas about us and the others behind us and to meet them almost “naked.” Because fulfilling intimacy can only take place in the space beyond all notions of right and wrong.

There, where we can be with ourselves and not lose ourselves, where we can show ourselves, naked and in our imperfection, and that’s why we are perfect for each other. Where we no longer wear a mask and we have discarded all protection patterns, we can open ourselves and indulge unconditionally. There our wounds will heal. When we create that space and make love a choice, we use the full potential of a relationship.

Click here to read the original article in German. 



Natalie Viaux works as an Imago therapist with couples, generations and teams.