Word of the Week: Beziehungskiste

Feb 17, 2012

Every Friday, Germany.info and The Week in Germany highlight a different "Word of the Week" in the German language that may serve to surprise, delight or just plain perplex native English speakers.


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Thinking outside the box may be just what the doctor ordered in any kind of "Beziehungskiste" scenario involving a complicated relationship between two otherwise loving individuals.

A "Beziehungskiste," comprised of the two nouns "Beziehung" (relationship) and "Kiste" (box, or crate), essentially refers to a "problematische Liebesbeziehung," or troubled romantic relationship.

The origins of this expression are shrouded in mystery. According to some online commentators, it may have evolved as a tongue-in-cheek way to reference a mailbox, a confessional chair or simply a bed - anything that is based on a box or frame and could tie into romantic or familial relations.

Retired couple on an Italian beach Enlarge image (© picture-alliance/JOKER)

Still other German speakers suggest it may have evolved from student language on college campuses, given that students have historically tended to store a whole bunch of stuff in boxes or crates, kind of like a grab gab of items they need in their dorm rooms or communal kitchens. This also suggests a multitude of possible connections, including "third parties" that may disrupt a relationship between two people, and so on and so forth.

Going even further back in time, it could also relate to how little kids start interacting with each other in the sandbox, which means the same thing in German - "Sandkasten" (sandbox). There could be some merit to this latter theory given that another expression - often used to describe two people very much in love who marry quite young - is "Sandkastenliebe" (sandbox love), a truly tender term of endearment for a "childhood sweetheart," more commonly referred to in the US as a "high school sweetheart."

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If one party or another is avoiding discussing the details of such a scenario, they might say: "Ich möchte heute wirklich nicht über die Beziehungskiste diskutieren." (I really don't want to talk about the problems in our relationship today.)

One synonym for "Beziehungskiste" is "Zweierkiste" (from zwei, or two), another is "Zweierbeziehung" (also from zwei).

Other expressions used in German to describe romantic relationships, beyond the classic "Verhältnis" (relationship), "Ehe" (marriage), "Familie" (family) and "Partnerschaft" (partnership), are "Lebensgemeinschaft," generally a long-term relationship (or, in biological terms, a symbiosis), and "Lebensabschnittsgemeinschaft" (life segment relationship), which usually refers to two single (unmarried) people living together.

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One thing you don't want to hear, to be sure, if you - for instance - ask a German-speaking person you are romantically involved with if they love you or are committed to you is something such as: "Na ja, im Moment schon, aber weißt du, es gibt solche 'Lebensabschittspartner.'" (Well, at the moment, yes, but you know there are also such things as 'life segment partners.')

This kind of clinical talk regarding your own romantic life might lead you to reassess your situation and suggests that - if you're in search of something more durable, in the long run - you may be better off moving on and looking for a new "Beziehungskiste" to embroil yourself in.

© Germany.info

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