Are you in an unhappy marriage

Marriage of convenience - why many stay who no longer love

When the children grow up, parents are thrown back on themselves and on themselves as a couple. Often there is not much left in common. Still, many couples stay together. Why? "Because many couples felt that their own construct was threatened by this late separation," says couple therapist Eric Hegmann in an interview.

BARBARA: Mr. Hegmann, why did the Gottschalk separation move so many people?

Eric Hegmann: "I think there was a certain nostalgia involved, after all, the Gottschalks were somehow role models for many. You had respect for the performance of the two of them, to stick together for so many years and then under the pressure of public life. That each other Such a couple then still separates beyond the age of 70, has certainly scared many people. Because many couples feel threatened by this late separation in their own, possibly loveless construct for years. "

But isn't it crazy to hold on to marriage when there is no more love?

"I don't think that's that crazy. You have to keep in mind that love marriage is a comparatively newfangled invention. Up until 200 years ago there was no love as a reason for marriage. On the contrary: you avoided it as much as possible, a love affair because love was a security risk. Reasonable marriages were the more stable alternative and women in particular were dependent on stability. After all, life and limb depended on the marriage being preserved. "

But our grandparents and parents were a bit more romantic, weren't they?

"There is no general answer to that, some definitely. And there are also many couples who definitely have a fulfilling love relationship into old age. But the fact is that women’s independence is and still is a very new asset In development. The rights of unmarried couples are also relatively new. It wasn't that long ago that hoteliers were liable to prosecution if they rented a room to couples without a marriage license. At that time the pressure was of course higher, and quickly acted. Nowadays the search for a partner has become much more complicated, a marriage is not concluded as quickly as it used to be, because the dream of having a lifelong loving relationship means that one always fears that maybe with another partner To become even happier, which is why relationships nowadays often fail in the first six months t is often not an option for younger couples. "

Completely different from the generation of 50 to 80 year olds?

"Yes, I think there are many couples in this age range where the marriage is at some point a community of convenience."

Isn't that somehow unfair to your partner? Isn't it better to break up then?

"That depends on how happy or unhappy both of you are with this arrangement. To be honest, the alternatives are not that easy either. Going back to looking for a partner in old age is not impossible, but very exhausting. And couples therapy is also Really difficult from a certain age, because the dynamic of a couple becomes more and more stuck with time. Alone is not for everyone either. The bottom line is that some couples get on comparatively well with separate lives in separate bedrooms under one and the same roof the advantages for both outweigh the advantages. Often the divergence is not so clearly named or problematized. The post-war generation in particular communicates very little about such things. And when the topic is tackled, it is more rational and sensible.

That sounds really unromantic.

Yes, it is, and I would take the rating out of it. As I said, romantic love as a single reason for marriage is a completely new model. We're still in a test phase there. I'm curious myself whether the concept of "everything for one forever" will really work out in the long term, despite increasing life expectancy. So far it looks pretty good. Divorce rates have been falling in recent years. We'll see where that takes us.

But wouldn't it be appropriate to pour the adult children at least pure wine and say: Listen, we still live together, but this is no longer a relationship that you should use as a guide?

I am skeptical about children's claims regarding their parents' relationship. How should it be for them to judge whether or not this type of relationship is exemplary? It's actually quite amusing how wishful thinking tips over at some point. First of all, many parents have a precise idea of ​​what their children should be like. Later children have an idea of ​​what their parents should be like. I don't think that's right either. As a son or daughter, you should always make it clear to yourself that you can only understand certain things once you have experienced them yourself. So how should a thirty-year-old know what a marriage should look like after forty years and how should there be adequate communication about it?

Well, somehow you orientate yourself to the life of your parents, right?

"Definitely, but that doesn't happen on the cognitive level anyway, so a clarifying conversation with the parents couldn't influence it. We unconsciously take on a certain dynamic that we experienced as children with our parents and grandparents and look for a partner with whom such a dynamic works. We feel secure in these relationship patterns we learned as a child. "

Can we even have a fulfilling relationship if our parents couldn't?

"I'm quite sure of that. I don't see the biggest problem with the still young relationships in the old patterns, but rather in an over-romanticization. The claim to have good sex with one person for decades, leisure time, everyday life and To share one's own monogamous life concept is enormous. Our ancestors would ask us if we are still completely clean. Nevertheless, our guilty conscience eats us up immediately if life doesn't feel like Disney at times. I think it's important to be able to say in a quarrel or crisis: Yes, I love you, just not right now. And that's okay. "

What can we do to keep our relationship romantic despite the not-quite-so-Disney phases?

Romance is such a thing. I think gratitude is a particularly wise form of romance. Saying three things to each other each evening that you valued the next day is a good practice for getting closer or closer. Very important: These must not be the same three things every day, you have to discover something new in your partner every day that fills you with gratitude. When the partner's obvious strengths have all been identified at some point, finding the less obvious little gestures and joys requires great mindfulness. You have to keep your eyes open, consciously focus on the positive of the other. And if things still don't go that way, it helps to look the truth in the face: there is no such thing as perfection. And you can get excited about each other well-groomed.

Not sure if you have a future together? The online course “Go or stay?” By Eric Hegmann works like professional coaching and uses proven methods from relationship coaching and couples therapy.