Dear Ms. Peirano,

I’m almost embarrassed to write to you, I find my emotions so strange…

I have been with my husband for twelve years, we have been married for nine years and have a one-year-old son. Our relationship is very close, we can talk about anything, laugh a lot, spend our free time together and have the same values. When I see him I have to smile and if I don’t see each other for a day I miss him.

Since we became parents, I have discovered a new side to my husband. He is so loving and patient with our son and we also split parenting time. So everything is really wonderful.

And yet I often have the nagging feeling that something is missing. I often ask myself whether I really love him and what love actually is? Sometimes I’m actually afraid that it will be discovered that I don’t love him. But I don’t understand why? Everything fits so well between us and I don’t know what else I expect? The only real “issue” is that he’s a less physical and passionate person than I am, but again, we’ve gotten along well now.

Is it possible that I don’t really allow myself my happiness and that’s why I’m chasing an Instagram ideal of the perfect soul mate? Even professionally, I’m often afraid that people will notice that I’m actually totally incompetent and don’t deserve my success. Does imposter syndrome also exist in love?

Or could it play a role that our relationship had a difficult start because we both came from difficult, toxic relationships and the falling in love phase was characterized by a lot of coming to terms with it?

Thank you for your opinion!Nicola R.

Dear Nicola R.,

You will probably be surprised when I tell you that I have heard similar thoughts before, both from men and women.

I always think it’s important to take a close look at your life or individual areas of your life and then consider whether what you have still suits you well or whether certain changes are pending. You can do this, for example, with an apartment or a house and ask yourself: Does everything fit in with our current life? Or should we renovate, rearrange furniture or move?

And that’s exactly how it makes sense to look at your own relationship every now and then and ask yourself: What do I really like right now? Where are there development opportunities? And what does my relationship not offer me in the long term and how do I deal with it? This is the only way to ensure that you can identify difficulties early and initiate development processes in a timely manner.

You have already taken a look at your relationship and taken stock. I think you came to a very good result! There’s a lot that’s true about your relationship! At this point I would like to invite you to think about what love actually is and what components it consists of. There are different approaches to this in psychological research.

A well-known approach comes from the psychologist Robert Sternberg, who developed the triangle theory of love.

As you can see, according to Sternberg, perfect love is made up of the three sides of a triangle:

Commitment (or commitment in Sternberg’s sense) means the cognitive decision for the partner, e.g. B. also external things such as getting married or sharing an apartment

Familiarity (or intimacy in Sternberg’s sense) means a spiritual and friendly connection, closeness, respect, warmth, appreciation

Passion is physical and erotic attraction.

Ideally, all three sides of the triangle are the same length, but this is not always the case. On the other hand, if there is only one side, the relationship is “listed” and is missing something. Only passion is a sexual affair without the desire for reliability and without friendly feelings and familiarity. So sex on the rocks.

Only commitment means that you are married or together, but that the physical attraction and emotional closeness have long since passed or were not there from the beginning (e.g. in a forced marriage). You then stay together because of finances, children or fear of a separation, but you don’t feel comfortable with each other.

And just familiarity and intimacy without passion and commitment is like a friendship that isn’t maintained regularly. You get along well, but you don’t do anything to strengthen the relationship and you meet when it’s convenient.

Many relationships can be depicted as a triangle, but this does not always have three sides of equal length (i.e. three equally strong components of love). There are two strong aspects of you and your husband: the bond and the familiarity. This makes your relationship feel warm, safe, intimate and safe. They feel at home together and make a good team. Especially now, with such a small child, this is very important! However, the third page, namely passion, is a little shorter than the other two pages. She falls short.

It’s wonderful to know what’s on your partner’s mind and to talk openly about everything. It feels good when you can be sure that your partner is faithful and isn’t hiding anything from you. At the same time, certain secrets and insecurities also fuel passion and can inspire eroticism, as strange as it sounds. The first thing a jealous woman does is go to the hairdresser and beautician.

It’s great to be able to show your partner your weaknesses and not have to hide your feelings from them. On the other hand, the game of seduction also consists of a pinch of self-expression and showing off your own best side. On the first date, you would rather dress up sexy and say positive things about yourself than come in your baggy pants and immediately reveal the contents of your last therapy sessions and the worst insults from your own childhood.

Another example: A shared fund and fairly balanced finances promote team spirit and support a partnership on equal terms. But isn’t there something special about being able to freely use your money, give each other gifts and even invite the other person over? And if you are perhaps secretly proud that you earn more than your partner?

You see that there are certain contradictions between physical attraction and emotional intimacy. And therapists often observe that couples who are particularly familiar, fair and friendly with each other also report a certain lull in bed. A colleague of mine once said: “If a couple wears the same windbreakers, that’s a cause for concern.”

Maybe you can start here and, on the one hand, simply accept that things are the way they are in your relationship. They have a very strong spiritual connection and the desire to be and stay together. The erotic connection is just not as “hot” as you would like. Would you like to switch places and have a partner who constantly has the most exciting sex with you, but with whom you can’t really have a conversation? Or who has no idea what’s going on inside you? Probably not.

And on the other hand, you could also try to get something going. For example, you could exchange sexual fantasies with your partner. I know couples who have a similar triangle to you and your husband, but who play role-playing games every now and then. Under different names and personalities, the two then “get to know each other” and do things that don’t suit their relationship. For example, you meet “accidentally” at a bar in certain previously hinted outfits, get to know each other in a new way (with new identities) and if things go well, they go to a hotel room together. Or an adventurous neighbor rings the woman’s doorbell and the two spontaneously seduce each other over a glass of wine… Or they chat late in the evening for hours and with ambiguous intentions. That puts you in a better mood than writing to yourself: “Hey darling, are you bringing drain cleaner with you? Do we want to continue watching the series today? Hdl.” Again, there is a significant difference between a passionate and a friendly address…

There are no limits to your imagination and sometimes certain “indecent” or “wild” things can be better lived out if you slip into a different role. If you want to take a new step here, you can watch erotic films or read erotic books together and talk about what you find arousing. There are many ways to develop together.

Herzlich GrüßeJulia Peirano