Many women stick to the romantic idea that their relationships – particularly those of love ones – have to be happy and harmonious forever and ever. They simply forget or suppress the fact that the ups and downs of life are an essential part of their relationships. They might even see it as some sort of punishment, or unjust fate, when the relationship seems to go downhill after a high. In theory, they get support from their innate female instinct which helps them integrate positive and negative experiences, and withstand difficult situations.


Let’s think of the different periods of growth in nature. A seed falls on fertile ground, begins to sprout, grows, forms stems, leaves, and blossoms, then retreats again in autumn and winter, to emerge from the earth again in spring, and develop powerfully during the oncoming cycle of vegetation.

Similar to nature, there are phases of arising, growing, decaying and reviving in love. We find it hard to bear when love fades away, as we don’t know whether this is the end of a partnership or not. Or, if it still makes sense to hold on to the partnership. Or if we should believe in the partnership and therefore, work on it. But what happens if the relationship is really dead, or we have been hurt so badly that we do not want to go on any longer?

Clarissa Pinkola-Estés wrote down a story in her world-bestseller ‘Women Who Run with the Wolves’ which is one of my favourites. At first sight it might seem a bit creepy, as it tells of an unconditional love between a young fisherman and a skeleton woman who he brings back to life with his love. The story is as follows:

A father throws his daughter down the cliffs into the icy cold water, after she had done something wrong. She drowns, and the fish eat her flesh, until there is just the skeleton left. One day a young fisherman comes to the bay fishing. But he does not pull a big fish out of the water, but the skeleton of the girl. He runs away, but the skeleton remains hooked on his line, no matter how hard he tries to shake it off. Back in his igloo he falls into a deep sleep. When he wakes up, he discovers a heap of bones next to him. After some hesitation, he tries to order the bones of the woman, which takes him half the night. Then he wraps the bones into warm fur and falls asleep again. While he is laying there, dreaming, a tear runs down his cheek. When the skeleton woman sees this, she quietly crawls over to the sleeping man, and puts her mouth to his tear and drinks it. The skeleton woman starts banging with her cold bony hands on the man’s chest, just above his heart, and sings. Suddenly her body fills out with flesh. And she sang for hair, eyes, nose, ears, wide hips, big breasts, and strong hands. She sings his clothes off his body and creeps under his blanket. From that day on they are forever together, and are always nourished by her friends, the creatures under the water.


The key message of this fairy tale is the ups and downs in love, where you need a great deal of wisdom, and acceptance of the life-death-life nature of a relationship. This does not mean someone has to die but partnerships are subject to different cycles. We should become aware that lasting relationships may contain a number of small inevitable ‘deaths’ and surprising ‘resurrections’.

The untangling of the bones is the work involved in a partnership. Only when partners recognize that passion is nothing to be ‘collected’ but something that comes in cycles, do they understand that it is worth working on a relationship. And the skeleton woman sleeping with the fisherman, symbolizes love and devotion in the lives of two people, even after a difficult situation.


Read my questions and see what feelings come up.

Maybe you would like to write your thoughts down:

_ What point are you at in your partnership at the moment?

_ How realistic is your expectation of a partnership?

_ Are you still dreaming of your Prince Charming, or have you recognized that he is already there, although it is not at first sight obvious?

_ How do you see your role as a fairytale Princess at your partner’s side? Do you fulfil it?

_ Have you ended a relationship because you thought after the ‘death’ of the partnership there would be no rebirth?

_ Have you terminated a relationship too early, regretting it afterwards?

_ Are you in a relationship which is dead, with no sign of rebirth?

_ Are you ready to collect the bones, sort them out and revive them for your partnership?


The condition for abiding love is the acceptance of an invisible third. The skeleton woman or ‘Mrs Death’ is the symbolic personification of our life-death-life nature. She accompanies us through our whole life in different areas, not only our partnership. Whenever we reach a dead spot, or we lose trust in the relationship, we need the skeleton woman. She has to be invited, welcomed and embraced that love can return and remain. Then it is about spreading out the bones of our partnership, sorting them out and providing them with skin, flesh, muscles, hair and eyes. We cannot always manage on our own, but there are people who can accompany and support us.

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