What is not worth changing in life

SZ: Is that the key to happiness: accepting that the relationship will change while giving up hope that the partner will change?

Retzer: An example: a woman marries her boyfriend. Nice guy. At the wedding she says: I can fix the two or three flaws that he has. She says: I can do it too. Then, if you're lucky, ten years go by and your partner, I almost said: the opponent, has at least the same quirks as on the wedding day. Because the man refers to these changes as an attack on his lifestyle, on his values. People react to attack with defense. The result is a paradoxical situation: the more you try to change your partner, the less they change. You can go so far as to say: if you no longer try to change the other, then he will change.

SZ: And the experienced sculptor simply knocks away the fatal desire for change.

Retzer: Exactly. I call this resigned maturity.

SZ: I call this a free pass.

Retzer: The objection is entirely justified. My reasoning is indeed risky. But that's life, there is no certainty whether fighting your own interests will lead to victory or giving up on them. All that remains is to look at which strategy one has had which experience, with which result.

SZ: But it is always said that you have to take a step back in a relationship and work on it constantly. A fallacy?

Retzer: At least in the uniqueness that the word "must" already conveys. That doesn't mean that work shouldn't be. But I would definitely contradict the radicalism of "work must be". When you hear that, you really feel like being lazy.

SZ: To make an effort is also a token of love.

Retzer: If it is initiated by you and not your partner, the effort is fine too.

SZ: So the advice to every single is: Only marry someone whose quirks you can get used to, they will never change.

Retzer: Sounds good, sounds reasonable. But in practice it is impossible. It is just necessary to learn from your own mistakes. The worst thing I could think of would be a zero-defect culture. Because you get stupid.

SZ: Completely different topic: love.

Retzer: I make a radical distinction between partnership and love relationship. As I said, the most important criterion for a love relationship is that it is communicated in an uncensored, unfiltered way. I call this exclusivity: strict demarcation to the outside, freedom to the inside. Something third is not part of it. So it is desired, described in the love poetry, an ideal.

SZ: But?

Retzer: This is not compatible with the organization of everyday life. A couple notices this at the latest after the birth of their first child. Then it can no longer be about uninhibited togetherness and exclusivity, but about somehow getting by - how do we sleep, how do we work. And the partner then falls asleep in the exclusive love discourse. Or even worse: The men get jealous because someone else has confiscated their partner and their body.

SZ: What is your advice in such a case?

Retzer: When such a couple comes to therapy, it would be a mistake to emphasize love. Instead, the couple should put that on hold and move on to a partnership. By that I mean a cooled down organizational system. It is about contractual loyalty, fairness, negotiations about rights and obligations.

SZ: Extremely unromantic.

Retzer: That's right, this partnership does not work in the long run either. There come couples who have taken care of everything. Capital has accumulated, the children are already running, the house is ready. We work great as a team, they say, but you can feel the despair in the room. At some point, the resource of love has to come back into play.

SZ: How do you help with this?

Retzer: By asking how they met. I ask for good memories. The love myth from the beginning of the relationship must be reactivated.

SZ: Does this work?

Retzer: If the loss of face and shame don't make it impossible to reconnect with the good old days, yes.