A good friend of mine supported me through my breakup this winter and then two months later she had her own. We both found ourselves in very similar situations. We compared situations about our breakups and couldn’t believe how similar they were. And how similar our reactions were. We both knew the breakup was ultimately for the best, but we were still mourning it deeply and we were frustrated we weren’t moving on faster.
I would say I am 90% healed. She is probably 70%. I saw her for 4th of July weekend and we had a number of heart to heart talks. She kept referring to the relationship as a failure and as something bad. It wasn’t sitting right with me.
I had a mental shift and it really made a lot of sense to both of us, and it helped us embrace the sadness that we felt when the relationship ended instead of resenting that we felt sad over something that we should be glad about.
I realized that the relationship is not a failure because it ended. Let me say that again because I need to take it in, and I bet you probably do too. The relationship is not a failure because it ended.
A relationship can still be a success even though it is over. Successful relationships do not have to be defined by whether or not it ended in marriage. There is still a lot that can be learned from relationships that don’t last forever. And often there is still a lot of love in those relationships.
The way I said it to my friend was “Some relationships are just short stories.” And that shifted both of our thinking. Not every story has to be an epic “War and Peace”-like tome. We can still love and appreciate the short novellas or the essays just as much. They are still valid contributions and can move us deep in our souls. So can poems. It doesn’t make them lesser than only because their length is shorter and there are fewer words on the page.
I think we need to redefine failure in relationships. Failure in relationships is staying in something long after it is over rather than leaving when you stopped growing. It is not serving either of you to stay if you have grown all you can from the relationship and there is nothing else to gain. I’ve been there many times. Thinking that if you try hard you can force it to be what it’s not. Accept it, let it go. That’s life.
A failed relationship is one where you deceive yourself or the other person intentionally. That’s not a relationship. That’s just not being honest and that feels gross all around. You can’t even have a relationship if you’re not being honest.
A relationship is a failure if you manipulate or make the other person (or yourself feel small). We have relationships so that we can grown and expand as human beings. So we can become better versions of ourselves. We are able to grow in a different way with another person by our side, it’s why we are wired for all kinds of relationships. But if you are in a romantic relationship with someone and you are intentionally causing pain, if you are trying to manipulate the other person, or if you are putting yourself or the other person in a box then it is failing to allow you to grow.
I’m writing a little off the cuff on this topic to really fully explore this idea of changing the idea of a failed relationship. Removing that label feels so good, it feels like I can expand a little. It removes the self-pity of having another failed relationship. I don’t have a failed relationship. I have a relationship that came to its completion. It ran its course.