Mental Floss: Keeping the line open

Karina was born in Copenhagen but raised on Belgian waffles. She has lived in six different countries, and speaks just as many languages. She is a psychologist, couples therapist and university lecturer. As an academic she has worked with expat issues for more than ten years. Find her at

The summer is the high season for divorces. This was the title of an article in a Danish newspaper about how more couples break up during and after the summer holiday. Apparently it is a time to gear down, and people can take better stock of the situation. While for some, the summer holidays can also be a ‘last chance’.
Whatever the reason, it is a fact that one in two couples in Copenhagen divorce (as in many of the urban areas of the Western world).

“Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Actually, we beg to differ  (Colourbox)

Reared on Disney

I believe one of the main reasons is the fact that we have extremely high expectations of our partners; they are supposed to understand us perfectly and fulfil all our wishes. Although we may rationally know not to expect all of this from one person, emotionally many feel their partner should intuitively do this.
Marriages have gone from being an economic and political contract to a romantic endeavour. Women have gained independence and don’t need the social status of marriage anymore.
A large generation has been brought up on Walt Disney movies that end in a perfect match and happy ever-after. Many carry these romantic images into adulthood, as opposed to, for example, the rather sad ending of HC Andersen’s fairy-tale ‘The Little Mermaid’ (who doesn’t get her prince and in fact dies, while another woman has whisked the prince away).
We marry for love. But over time, many people feel their partner doesn’t live up to their expectations anymore, and they become disillusioned.

Love is saying please

Like so many things in life, it is a balancing act. Granted, there will be things s/he does that don’t suit you. But do you see all the positives s/he brings to the relationship? And have you looked at your own behaviour recently?
During my training as a couples therapist, I worked with one of the leading experts in Belgium. We did couples counselling together, and during our discussions afterwards, he revealed one of the secrets to making marriage last: ‘Never forget to say please and thank you to your partner.’

I don’t know about you, but I was a bit disappointed. So this is the way to make relationships last?
But while the tip from my colleague is not going to save a relationship that is fraught with problems, I do see how such a small act can mean a lot. You acknowledge the other person, you show that you don’t take them for granted, and you keep the communication line open.

Because you mean it

Of course, it is not only intimate relationships that benefit from this. For example, in Denmark there is a tradition to say thank you when someone has invited you. You are supposed to call or write to the host/ess the next day and thank them for the pleasant event. But this has now become more relaxed; nowadays people tend to simply say thanks for the other day (tak for sidst) when they talk to each other again.
Saying these words, not just for the sake of being polite, but because you mean it, can go a long way in a relationship. Perhaps even longer than to the end of summer