A Model for Relationships

Modell: Paarberatung und Eheberatung - Paartherapie und Sexualberatung - Systemische Familien-Therapie

In our understanding, a relationship is a journey.

As with every journey, despite all of our careful planning, many unexpected things can happen to us. They may be pleasant surprises, or they may be bitter disappointments.

When it is a journey into unknown territory, as it is with nearly every relationship, then one can quickly get lost in the relationship jungle.

It is at that moment that one or both of the partners call out for an experienced guide. You are lost, often no longer can tell in from out, and are thinking about calling off the journey entirely and just going home – preferably alone.

What we forget in moments such as these is the curiosity with which we initially set out to explore the landscape of our relationship, how boldly we used to act. It seems now as though we have lost all of our determination.

With this model in mind, we would like to sketch a rough map of the relationship jungle, because even if you have not yet found a way out, it is still comforting to know at least where you stand.


The Beginning – Being Alone:

You are alone, and then meet someone with whom you want to begin a journey. It seems as though this person has everything your heart desires; they exert a magic hold on you.

Falling in love:

You decide to open yourself up and embark on the first leg of the journey. Or maybe you feel hesitant: Is he / she for real? Do you really want to travel down this path together?

Being a couple:

You are on your journey, each partner with his or her own projects and responsibilities (children, careers, personal development, etc.). Slowly you begin to lose yourself in your everyday routine. You notice that it is more and more difficult to get along with your partner, but yet you cannot go on without them. You have fallen into a strange type of dependency, and sometimes you are consumed with thoughts of how to break out. But where to?

Return to yourself:

You begin to think more about yourself than your relationship, and to create distance. Maybe you travel apart for several days, or travel in different directions and then return to each other. This might be the beginning of a second great journey. However, you may also remain trapped in the relationship jungle, full of fear, watching each other as you slowly starve.

The second spring:

If you give yourself to this second great journey, then it is quite possible to free yourself from the relationship jungle and in the end to look into each other’s eyes with respect and kindness, as adventurers who have triumphed over a dangerous challenge.


Our model is derived from the psychoanalytic Object Relations Theory of Melanie Kleins, which was tested from the 1940s through the 1960s by Margaret Mahler in her empirical investigations of child development.

In the world of relationship counseling, the principles of Object Relations Theory have been applied to psychoanalytic relationship therapy since the 1970s. The first application to relationships of Margaret Mahler’s developmental model for children was delineated in 1988 by the American therapists Ellyn Bader and Peter Pearson in their book In Quest of the Mythical Mate. That same year under the pseudonym A.H. Almaas, the American psycho-therapist and Sufi A. Hameed Ali published his book The Pearl Beyond Price, in which he applied Object Relations Theory to different stages of spiritual growth.