Believe that people can be faithful
Couples therapist: "Monogamy can destroy a relationship"
BARBARA Editor: You have written a book with the title "Loyalty is not a solution either". Doesn't love need fidelity?
Lisa Fischbach: That depends on what you mean by the word loyalty. Many think it means that you don't cheat. The word comes from the Middle High German from the word "triuwe", which means something like "strong" and "firm". This is where the word trust originated. I am of the opinion that loyalty is something very precious and beautiful. But I believe that everyone defines this word differently.
And in a relationship should one agree on the definition?
Absolutely. Love, or rather a partnership, needs a loyalty model that both can rely on. Because basically the ideas can be very different. You have to talk about it specifically, it's one thing within the relationship. It's all about honesty and mutual agreement. I know couples who sleep after consultation with others - and I am very happy with it. Above all, love needs reliability.
So you can sleep with others and still love each other very much?
Clear. Monogamy is not to be equated with love. There are also couples who are lifelong true to each other in the traditional sense, but still do not love each other. For many, however, physical exclusivity is a prerequisite for a relationship.
As a couples therapist, do you believe in monogamy?
For some couples, this will certainly work. But I don't believe in a monogamy model for everyone. Too many people simply cheat for that. Numbers fluctuate. An ElitePartner study found that every fourth man and every fifth woman in Germany had cheated on them. A colleague, the couples therapist Arnold Retzer, even speaks in his specialist book “Systemic Couple Therapy” that 90 percent of men have cheated on at some point in their lives. For women it is 75 percent. So this is not just a marginal phenomenon. Most of the infidelities, however, remain secret.
Why is that so?
Dissatisfaction often arises because too little is invested in building relationships, and as a couple you move away. Overall, today's partnerships are exposed to enormous demands. The partner should meet all of the needs one has - intellectual, sexual and emotional. That can overwhelm relationships. Others are flexible and open. For example, you can go to the opera with your music teacher friend if the man prefers to watch football.
Are there actually notorious cheaters?
There are men and women who sit here with me and complain about not having enough sex in their relationship. People with high libido who live in a monogamous relationship naturally have a harder time staying true to themselves and not cheating. If you have a lot of lust and promise monogamy, you have to do without. This is hypocritical and harmful to yourself and your partner. In such cases, fidelity in the sense of monogamy can actually endanger a relationship. Because someone denies their needs and is not happy with what they have.
What do I actually do best when I've cheated on me? Is it a good solution to deny the fling?
Many couples stay together after an affair because they don't talk about it. Infidelity that happens spontaneously and is directly regretted does not necessarily have to be carried into the relationship. Sometimes such a moment even stabilizes the partnership because someone has let off steam and then comes to terms with himself, but above all realizes that he does not want to lose the partner. But many simply cannot stand what they have done and therefore report their infidelity, primarily to ease their guilty conscience - this is a form of egoism and not exactly helpful for the partner. Anyone to whom something like this has happened should first of all reflect on why they did what they neglected - and only then talk about it with their partner. The most important thing is to take responsibility for what has been done and, in the best case, to derive from it how to create and shape what is supposedly missing in the relationship.
And how should the betrayed behave?
His position is inviolable at first, he feels morally superior, and in the end a great injustice has been done to him. In the event of a possible clarification, also in the context of couples therapy, it does not help to lose oneself in accusations and to spread guilt. Even if it is extremely difficult and uncomfortable for those affected - the cheater and the cheated - the most important process is to take responsibility for one's behavior and the emergence of the couple crisis. A fraud usually has a long history. If you find that you still love the other person and want to solve the problem, cheating doesn't have to be the end of a relationship. It takes strength to work through the breach of trust and to save a relationship, but it can be done. In the end, it is often stronger than before because you have learned a lot about the feelings and inner life of your partner.
Lisa Fischbach is a qualified psychologist and couples therapist in Hamburg. She has written various guides on the subject of partnership, including "Loyalty is not a solution either: A plea for more freedom in love", which was published by Piper Verlag and costs 11 euros.
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