Failing at Forever Isn’t Failing; A Revisit

Walk it OffThere was more to be said on the topic that an ended relationship isn’t necessarily a failed relationship, and I think I’m ready to say it.

People go into a relationship expecting that it will last forever. They visualize that, over time, the relationship will move through “levels,” ultimately ending in marriage (or some kind of life-long commitment) – the epitome of relationship “success.” If for some reason, the relationship gets stuck on a level and isn’t moving forward, it is seen as something worth ditching and giving up on, rather than being enjoyed for what it is at the moment.

“The percentage of the [American] population ever married has declined some in the past decades, but it is still 80%. That’s just about everyone. . . .In surveys, teens and young adults consistently say they view marriage as a very important life goal,” according to Kay Hymowitz at Forbes.

We equate marriage with success. We think that someone who is capable of having a “successful” marriage must be capable of being successful in other things. We think good spouses make good people. When we are told that someone is “successful” in life, we often imagine them as married, and if not, then they are successful in their professional life at the cost of being “unfulfilled” in their personal life.

Success makes us happy, and because success = marriage in our minds, we all assume that marriage makes us happy. However, “quite a few investigations have persuasively shown that it is happiness that leads to marriage, as opposed to the reverse.” (Psychology Today) That’s right, folks. Expecting marriage to make you happy is putting the cart before the horse. Get happy first, be happy with who you are and what relationship status you are in, and then you are more likely to get married. (That means you have to figure out how to be happy while unmarried. Unthinkable!)

neweyes.atlblogs.comI keep writing about marriage, even though the original topic was about relationships in general. Why? We model our relationships after the “ideal” romantic relationship (marriage) as much as possible. Where do you think promise rings came from? Even if a person doesn’t think “marriage is for them,” they often are interested in some sort of life partnership, co-habitating indefinitely, or some kind of promise along the lines of “til death do us part.”

I worry that some of this is laziness, a thought process of, “if I can find just the right person/people to make me feel fulfilled, I can enter a life-long contract with him/her/them and be fulfilled forever, and never have to search for fulfillment ever again.” That’s a really scary mindset, and also a really sad one because, seriously, do you know what it feels like to fall in love? Not the landing part, not the being in love, but that part where you feel that you are falling? What a great feeling! Why are people so determined to cut off the possibility of feeling that in favor of laboring over a life-long commitment? There’s value in that hard work, but there’s also value in letting love flourish where, when, and how it wants.

If your love for someone leads to you committing your life to them, that’s wonderful, but if not, that’s wonderful as well. Let the relationship be what it is meant to be. If you can be a part of a relationship, however short or long, that allows love to flourish, you, my friend, have been a part of a successful relationship. Be respectful, be honest, be happy, be you, and if/when it ends, know that it hasn’t failed.

The ending of a successful project is not seen as a failure, so why should the ending of a great relationship be seen as one? Like a finished project, you can admire the finished relationship, smile at the memories, be grateful for the lessons learned, and, if you are lucky, cherish the friendships that evolved while it was being built.

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  1. Well done Shannon. All of this should be absorbed and applied by all readers. If I may, I once fell prey to the Great American Love Fairy-Tale, that we/I had one soul mate out there and that one day we’d meet, fall hopelessly in love for all our days, and breed lots of little love-children then know, what promotes. HAH! Then about 12-13 years ago (as my now ex-wife was divorcing me) as I was in deep reflection, introspection, and recovery I had a life-changing epiphany: On a planet of some 7 billion people, all doing the love-making thing and learning from it now and throughout all of history, how naive and foolish of me, AND hugely egotistically…to think that I alone can bring all possible love, passion, joy, and happiness to a woman every day of her/our life/lives! Am I the only Love-God on this planet? No, there are many, many ways and people out there who can teach me to become better. Get brutally realistic man! Your significant-other/spouse DESERVES to be loved in a multitude of ways, including intimately by others who have “other gifts” I don’t possess OR may need to refine. In a safe, supportive, honorable, patient, forgiving, and acutely articulated learning environment, love-relationships can be, as you put it, infinitly more proportionate. But….that’s just me. LOL

    • I’ve been learning an awful, awful lot over the past six years since opening up a long-term relationship I was in. One of the things that I think should be stressed is that while sexual and romantic monogamy is doable (generally with friends of each partner helping out with their other non-sexual, non-romantic needs), it is just one way of doing things among literally infinite possibilities.

      I read a great paper yesterday that also opened my eyes to a thing we tend to do: when a new relationship develops, we tend to downplay all former relationships as “not right” or “empty” in some way. That person wasn’t “the one” or “one of the ones”. It “wasn’t meant to be.” Whatever. It was “meant to be” in the sense that it happened, and it mattered, and still matters, because it shapes who you are. Whatever relationship configuration you are in right now is meant to be “right now,” and may not be meant to be in a month or a year or ten years, but that doesn’t make it any less important or valuable.

      The paper is at

      • Superbly put Shannon! Couldn’t agree more. I’m definitely checking out that paper; thanks for the link! And yes, our past simply morphs us into who we are (and becoming?) now. I made the honest but unintentionally stinging comment to my last partner regarding my last love relationship before her saying, “I’ve already had great.” She misunderstood my meaning: that given we’ve only been seriously dating for 3 months, who knows if you/we will become even greater! It was perhaps my warped way of saying “if things continue as well as they have been, then…”. She didn’t respond very well to that honesty. LOL



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