Couple therapist clarifies: Is there eternal love?

couple relationship
Oskar Holzberg: Love lasts forever

© heather linn photo / Adobe Stock

In the column of our couples therapist Oskar Holzberg, everything revolves around typical love wisdom and its truth content, he dissects proverbs, song lyrics and famous quotes. This time: “Love is eternal as long as it lasts” (Gabriel García Márquez, Colombian Nobel Prize winner for literature)

In short: Which we tend to confuse with the fact that love should last forever, but frustratingly, it rarely does.

Now in detail: Intense feelings can completely overwhelm and captivate us. Then we forget the future, the past, ourselves. We are only feelings, completely in the here, completely in the now. We know it from children. When they hurt themselves, they become beside themselves with fear. Because they don’t yet understand that the pain will also go away. For them it is endless. Eternal.

As we get older, we learn that feelings change again. Until the greatest of all feelings really strikes for the first time. No sooner have we fallen madly in love for the first time than the feeling of eternity catches up with us again. We hear “I will always love you” in an endless loop and firmly believe that it is so. And we want with every fiber of our hearts that it stays that way forever, because it feels so incomparably great. But at some point most of them will separate from their first love. The lovesickness sets in. Now we are convinced that if fulfilled love doesn’t last forever, now this hellish pain of separation will never end. As if he were the continuation of eternal love with the opposite sign. Without him, without her, we’re finished. We’ll never, ever be able to love like that again. But to our amazement, that pain ends too. We gain insight and experience.

For this moment forever

Even if it feels different, “forever” always seems to be an illusion. We become realists. Somewhere someone may really experience great, eternal love. But we usually don’t hit the jackpot of eternal love. For us, it crumbles into measly phase-in partnerships. But Gabriel García Márquez tells us that we are not fooling ourselves. We experience eternal love. Just not forever. The contradiction is resolved by the fact that the intense feeling of love allows us to experience every moment timelessly and thus eternally.

The American psychologist Prof. Barbara Fredrickson has proposed a very similar understanding of love. Scientifically, what we call love are micro-moments of positive resonance. They arise when my positive feelings towards another person receive a positive reaction. A friendly eye contact, a smile returned, a warm hug, a warm conversation. Love, according to Fredrickson, is the resulting feeling of connectedness. In fact, we would only love if we were in the physically perceptible positive resonance. What we commonly understand as love is just the deep bond of loyalty and trust that has developed between love partners through many such moments.

Be willing to invest in love

For the scientist, love is not an eternal bond, but a flow of loving moments. It lasts forever if we manage to preserve it. But despite the gradually trivial-sounding realization that everything but the “now” is an illusion, the romantic notion of eternal love, even if we painfully lose it again and again, still dominates us. And makes us losers. It is infinitely liberating to think that we are experiencing eternal love. If only for as long as it lasts.

Oskar Holzberg has been treating couples and writing about them for almost 30 years. He says: “Love is not an illusion, but we have too many illusions about love.”

Falling in love with your partner: Oskar Holzberg

Oskar Holzberg, 67, has been advising couples in his Hamburg practice for over 20 years and has been married for over 30 years. His current book is called “New Key Phrases in Love” (240 pages, 11 euros, DuMont).

© Ilona Habben


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