a look back at two years of relationship DNA

One morning in March, I was talking to Olaf (76) in an apartment upstairs somewhere in North Holland. I listened to his story from an armchair. About his parents’ lack of education, the book about sex he had found in a closet as a boy, and how that book had determined his life. “It said that you should sleep with your hands over the duvets. Otherwise, you got a disease that would kill you. From my first wet dreams, I knew for sure: I have that disease. ”

Sexuality took on a strong, negative charge for him, which worked through in love: fear of intimacy. Until he fell in love with a young woman at the age of 69. His voice broke the moment he started talking about it: “We had sex in a way I had never experienced; I dared to look her in the eye.” were tears. Restrained tears. “She was the first person I really exposed myself to.”

Tears of sorrow and relief

During the dozens of interviews I did over the past two years for the Relationship DNA section – alternating with colleague Catrien Spijkerman over the past year – there were several tears. Tears of sorrow, but also of relief. Because the story was finally told.

I often thought on the way home: if only people would talk more about that kind of thing. But love is simply not a topic that is quickly discussed with others. Or just superficially. Why with someone from the newspaper? Maybe because it’s easier: a stranger in front of you, to be able to tell your story anonymously.

I’m a journalist, not a psychologist: I listen and ask questions. Because? Why? How? So I can see the story, the details that give color to a love story. Personal stories that are relevant to others because they touch on something universal and (can) evoke a sense of recognition.

Most conversations I had at people’s homes, in the living room, at the table, or in the sitting area. Occasionally I met at a cafe or at someone else’s office. When I arrived, it was often immediately clear that many thoughts had already passed in my arrival. A paper filled with notes lay ready, photo albums had been consulted. Expression of the urge to get a clear overview of the past, while there were still many question marks. ‘You must send me’, the sound sounded regular as soon as the coffee was on the table. No point.

What are you doing with me?

Sometimes I was also surprised during a conversation. As with Aafke (70), who had been married for a long time to a man who was the total opposite of her family. “He had a biodynamic kitchen garden and had even cultivated his farm,” she said, “some of the walls were made of cow dung and straw.” His way of life attracted her. But by choosing this man, she had subconsciously also wanted to attract extra attention from her father, who never made her feel seen. She suddenly realized this, whereupon she shouted, “What are you doing to me Rick, what are you doing to me?” Surprised by her own words. Me through her.

But after all these conversations, what can we say about the influence of parents on relationships? There is influence, of course, but it cannot be described with a stroke of the pen. Sometimes the connections were clear, sometimes they remained vague. And every story, every circumstance was different.

Time and time again, it became clear how much parenting affects a love life. Not surprisingly, as a child you get to know the world through the eyes of your parents. You grow up with their standards, values ​​and beliefs. They affect how you communicate, connect and what you think you can feel (or not). And it can be felt throughout life.

For example, Ank (75) got into her father’s anger when it turned out that as a teenager she had secretly had contact with a neighbor boy in the apartment’s basement. The violent disapproval of this first, innocent sexual exploration turned into a lifelong shame. “My interest in boys did not disappear, but from that moment on I put a brake on my sexuality.” Thanks to her husband, she later lost that shame a little.

laugh things off

Thomas (47) told how much he had previously missed attention for his emotional life at home – and he was certainly not the only man who struggled with this. “Anger and irritation were very directly expressed in our family, in a violent way. Or jokes were made. We were masters at that: laughing at things. “He had never learned to express his own feelings. Nor had he been able to do so in his marriage.

What was striking was also how much parental relationships can be an example for children. As with Lotte (46), who saw the marriage with her great love fail and lost herself in Tinderdates. She told me melancholy about the time her parents were still together. “I saw how loving they could be. Then my mom crouched down on my dad’s couch and they cuddled a little. And sometimes they danced in the living room to Bruce Springsteen’s music. So sweet, so sweet.” To conclude later: “I now also know myself: no love will be as deep as the first love”.

I am not only a journalist but also a father. The conversations I have had in recent years have also made me more aware of the impact I have on my children as an educator. At the same time, I realize: No matter how much I try, as a parent, you never do it right. And that might be just part of it. Sometimes I joke with my boyfriend: “Let us not only save for their studies, but also for the psychologist”.

Wanted: stories of new love

Tijdgeest is looking for interview candidates for the New Love section, which starts in September. It deals with stories where people tell about a meaningful change in their relationship or love life.

New love can (for example) refer to:

– a change in the relationship with your partner after which the love felt like new

– a new love in your life (eg during a relationship or afterwards)

new insights about love, affection and sexuality that have led to change

– new forms of relationship, new forms of attachment to each other and developments in the sexual field

The focus is on questions like: what does this new (kind of) love bring you? And what led to the change?

Do you have a story and would like to be interviewed (anonymously)? Send an email with a short description of your story to: nieuweliefde@trouw.nl

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