Man and Woman

by Bert Hellinger (March 2006)

1. How can our couple relationship be realised? 
To realise a couple relationship, three things are needed. Each of them is important and not one may take the place of the other.

2. The sexual relationship
The first thing is the sexual relationship. It’s achievement is an essential condition for the couple relationship to be ordered towards the sexual relationship. Everything actually depends on it, for life cannot continue but through the sexual relationship.

In the sexual relationship, love and life come to their most. It is the ultimate stage of our development. In the sexual relationship, the love that is expressed is instinctual by nature and has the most powerful strength we know.

Life is oriented toward this transmission and it is consummated when it is realised.

For this reason, this strength that is behind the authentic life force is, of course, the most spiritual force, the most elevated -I say it to you like this, like an image-, it is the most like God.

In it is revealed, in the most perceptible manner, the greatest there is in the world: the Divine.

Precisely, the fact that we give ourselves to this force through instinct, shows it expressed as if coming from outside of us, surpassing us.

Therefore it is necessary in a couple relationship that sexual love is realised first of all.

3. The love of the heart

Then another element is added.

It is the love of the heart.

Sexual love is better realised if it comes from the love of the heart, if the sexual love means also the realisation of the love of the heart.

The love of the heart implies personal work.

Sexuality may exist without love, and this form of love may exist without sexuality.

Both, sexual love and the love of the heart, are personal realisations.

4. Life in common.

Now one other element is added: life in common. Life in common may exist without sexuality. Sometimes, it may exist without love. We see, for instance, couples that remain together when in truth they do not love each other anymore in the depth of their hearts. But life together is precious. It is also necessary to learn how is this life in common accomplished.

When these three elements, sexual love, the love of the heart, and life in common, come together, with all they entail (give-and-take, mutual help and support), the couple relationship succeeds, and we can grow with this relationship.

5. Love that lasts

The love that can be achieved is a human love, close to the ordinary. This love acknowledges that we need other people, that without others, we wither. When we acknowledge this mutually, we give something to the other and we take something from him. We are happy to receive and we are happy to be able to give, continuing this exchange of “giving” and “taking” in mutual respect, with a benevolence that wishes that the other, like ourselves, is well. It is then when we have understood what it means to love humanly.

This love starts with the Man-Woman relationship.

The rest of relationships will be born out of this love. It is the base of all human relationships and we are pushed toward it irresistibly. Because the man, to be whole, needs the woman, and the woman, to be whole, needs the man. This strong desire is what brings them together. This strong desire, that some call “instinct” with despise, is the most powerful movement of life. It is the one that prolongs life.

For this reason, this attraction and this longing are deeply linked to the Source of Life. When we acknowledge this and when we are in this love, we become One with this Source of Life.

This love and this attraction bring us together with the fullness of life. The person who lets this love guide her, feels exhilarated. From this longing, from this love, emerges the greatest happiness, and also the deepest pain. With it, we grow. He who abandons himself to this love, overflows with it after a while. This love goes beyond the couple relationship, for instance, when children are born out of it.

This love is an extension of the love parents have for their children. And this love children receive turns back to the parents. It is in this way how children grow, until they themselves look for a man or a woman, and the stream of life continues flowing through them. Where love starts, it increasingly encompasses more. It also reaches others, but only if we have experimented it in ourselves in a human manner and we have acknowledged it.

In this sense, the great love is ordinary. This love is strong and lasts.

6. Perfection

When a man and a woman meet for the first time, they often feel attracted to each other irresistibly. They see each other as individuals: you and me.

But behind the man there is also his mother, his father, his grandparents and his brothers and sisters, and everything that has taken place in his family -all a system.

I have an image: the whole system that is behind the man waits for the woman, not only him. The same is true for the woman. When he looks at the woman he must know that, behind her, there is her father, her mother, her grandparents and brothers and sisters, a complete system.This system waits for the man.

Both systems expect to be able perhaps to conclude something that was left unresolved in the past. For this reason, the man’s system does not only look at the woman. It looks also at her family system.

Both systems enter a community of fate and want to solve perhaps something specific in this community, to solve it at last.

Therefore, there is no relationship between two people as we often imagine it. A relationship between two is a dream. We are all attached to a field, to a greater family. If someone in the family of the man or the woman has been excluded, such as former partners or a disabled child, or there is someone the family has felt ashamed of, the excluded member of the family is present in the new relationship and in the new family. Because of this, both the man and the woman shall include again the excluded member of the family in the new family. Only then will they feel free in their relationship.

7. Love and order in a couple.

From love and order, which is the most valuable, the most important? Which comes first? Many belief that if they love enough, everything will find its place. Many parents, for example, think that if they love their children enough, the children will develop as they imagine. However, they are often disappointed despite their love. Apparently, love alone is not enough.

Love needs to be integrated in an order. Order precedes love. This is what we see in nature: a tree grows as per an order in it contained. It is not possible to change that. Only within that order can the tree grow. The same happens with love and human relationships: love can only flourish within an order. This order is a precondition, a prerequisite to love. When we know something of the orders of love, our relationships and our love have greater chances of expanding fully.

The first order of love in a couple needs that the man and the woman consider each other equal, even if they are different. When they acknowledge this, their love has greater chances of succeeding.

The second order consists of the balance between give and take. When one of the two has to give more, the relationship is altered. It needs of this balance. When the condition of this harmonization between giving and taking happens with love, one in the couple, when receiving from the other, gives back a little more than the equivalent. This is how exchange grows between them, and happiness for both of them, at the same time.

This need for compensation is also true for the negative. When one in a couple hurts the other, the need to return the hurt also emerges in the other. She feels hurt. From there emerges her belief of having a right to hurt him in return. This need is irresistible. Many of those who have suffered an injustice feel the right to cause the same.

Something more is added to the need for compensation: the feeling that having been hurt gives me special rights. Then one gives himself authority not only to return the hurt, but to increase it. Whoever receives it, in the same way, will return it with some more. This is how an exchange of hurt grows in a relationship. In this kind of relationship, instead of happiness, unhappiness increases. We may know the quality of a relationship by whether the exchange of giving and taking is located in the negative or the positive.

The question is: What would be the solution here? The solution would be to move from exchange in the negative to  exchange in the positive again. But how can this be achieved? There is a secret: one takes revenge on the other with love. This means that one hurts the other, but a little less than what one has received. Then the exchange in the negative stops and a give and take on the good mode may start again.

This is an important element of the orders of love. If we know it, and then we apply it, many things in families may change for the good.

One other order of love needs attention, since forgetting it has far reaching consequences. A woman who feels superior to her mother cannot appreciate men. She cannot understand them either, nor does she need them in the end. Generally, when she feels superior to her mother, this means “I am the best wife for my father”. She already has her man, and does not need any other. How does a little girl come to be a woman, to be able to have esteem for a man and take him? By placing herself beside her mother, as the small one of the two.

Obviously, this is also valid for men: a man who does not have esteem for his father and thinks that he is better for his mother, cannot appreciate a woman. He already has his and does not need another one. How does a male come to be a man, to have esteem for a woman and take her? By placing himself beside his father, as the small one of the two. This is how a man learns with his father to have consideration for the woman, and a woman learns with her mother to have consideration for the man.

What happens when a man, ‘mummy’s boy’*, marries a woman who is a ‘daddy’s girl’? The mummy’s boy is not available for his wife and the daddy’s girl is not available for her husband. They have little esteem for each other. It is for this reason that the order in their family of origin has to be achieved first, until the man is able to take his father and the woman, her mother.


*[Note of the translator (from Spanish): “mummy’s boy” here refers to a son out of place with regards to his mother, as if “best” for her mother than her husband; “daddy’s girl” refers to a daughter who is out of place, as if “best” for her father than his wife.]


Translation by María Escribano from the Spanish version of the article entitled “Hombre y Mujer”, from Revista independiente Hellinger. March 2006. Translation from German into Spanish by Patricia Sánchez, published by Brigitte Champetier de Ribes in http://www.insconsfa.com/bh_revista_marzo2006_hombre_y_mujer.shtmlPublished in www.constellations.ie with Brigitte Champetier’s authorisation.