Love at first sight? Head-over-heels in love? It exists – at least in the beginning of a relationship. After a while, however, the real world starts to get in the way and deflate that bubble of love.

An example: One half of the couple wants to surprise the other. Theatre tickets have been bought for Saturday evening and a table in their favourite restaurant has been reserved.

But the reaction is not as expected. She wants to go on a weekend getaway with her friends. He is terribly disappointed. And then come the accusations: “You’ve changed so much. You’ve become so negative. You don’t even have time for a nice evening together.”

Reacting this way is, of course, over the top. But perhaps it’s also understandable. He or she feels neglected and no longer number one in their partner’s life. It’s not a nice feeling, but it’s not uncommon.

“After about a year, the infatuation phase is over. Then begins the adult relationship phase,” says psychological consultant Maxim Tenenbaum.

In the adult phase, both partners must be prepared to negotiate. “It is important to talk to each other, again and again,” explains psychotherapist Moritz Ischebeck.

Each person should clearly express his or her needs and desires.

This can include certain arrangements, for example, one half of the couple always telling the other when they are going to be late. Or the couple put up a calendar where they can write down their plans.

But problems can also arise when people only see their own needs – and not those of their partner. Or if one half of the couple expects their partner to fulfil their needs – without telling them what those needs are. As psychologist Klaus Seifried points out, “in a relationship, it’s important to create a balance between one’s own needs and those of the partner.”

This only works if you communicate.

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“Don’t just accuse the other person all the time,” explains Tenenbaum. There is a desire behind every accusation. In concrete terms, this means saying “I would like you to take the rubbish out” instead of “You haven’t taken the rubbish out again.”

There may be other reasons why one person in a relationship is unhappy. For example, one of them does the financial planning but doesn’t include the other, or both parties go to work but only one of them does the housework and goes to pick up the children.

This leads to disappointment, grievances and frustration.

It is possible to discuss such crucial points and to find a solution for them with the help of relationship therapy. Many patterns of behaviour occur unconsciously. “A therapist takes a neutral position and looks at the couple from the outside,” explains Seifried.

However, both people in the relationship – not just one of them – need to be willing to take part in the session. With or without therapy, partners cannot expect the other to change very much.

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“Perhaps one has to learn to develop more acceptance for the behaviour of the other,” says Tenenbaum.

In general, conflicts can be classified into those that can be solved and those that can’t be solved.

It’s basically impossible for an introverted partner to be transformed into someone who’s the life of a party. However, both partners can come up with strategies for getting over this hurdle.

Talking, finding solutions, negotiating: All of this can get exhausting. When the couple is no longer willing to go take these steps and the feelings are lost, it’s hard to avoid splitting up.

Nevertheless, it’s worth it to not give up on a relationship too hastily. A separation causes mental stress and high costs – and is
very hard for children to deal with. And one thing is certain: Conflicts will arise again in a new relationship. – dpa/Sabine Meuter