Is the “Failed” Relationship a Myth?

Are we making a mistake by calling every relationship that ends a “failed relationship” these days? Like many things in the natural world, a relationship can run its course. It’s not like anyone is calling a rose that dies after blooming a “failed” flower. It might be time to simply embrace the fact that some relationships are meant to thrive for a season.

Debunking the “Happily Ever After” Myth: Successful Relationships Can Be Short

There’s no denying that some people find genuine happiness and fulfillment in “forever” relationships that last for a lifetime. There are countless examples of marriages and relationships that endure for decades. You may have even seen these relationships in person with parents, grandparents, or extended family. However, assuming that anything that doesn’t meet this standard is a failed relationship can cause us to miss out on the benefits that shorter relationships can provide. Here are some different ways to look at “failed” relationships:

  • Average life expectancy for all Americans is just under 77 years old. For women, life expectancy is actually just shy of 80! Is it really fair to compare our relationships to the “lifetime” marriages people had when life expectancy was much lower? The reality is that it’s easy to become a very different person past 40, 50, 60, and beyond than you were when you first met your partner.
  • Relationships can be learning experiences! Even people with the ultimate goal of finding a “forever partner” can use relationships to help them define what they truly want in life. Experiencing different relationship dynamics with different partners can ultimately help us to discover what we need to feel safe enough to fully commit to someone.
  • For many of us, our early years of dating were spent trying to identify and escape dysfunctional patterns. While some people are lucky enough to have strong relationship role models in their lives, most people struggle with knowing what a “healthy” relationship looks like. We may also carry insecurities into our early relationships because we haven’t yet developed tools for self-acceptance and confidence. That can make it harder to spot red flags. Finally, it’s important to point out that recent studies show that 40% of people have reported experiencing intimate partner violence (IPV) by young adulthood. For me, this statistic really highlights the importance of society making it clear that it’s “okay to leave” a relationship when something doesn’t feel right.
  • The world is a big place! The truth is that we haven’t met everyone we are going to meet yet. As the years go on, the characteristics and qualities that we’re attracted to might change.

Of course, I also want to be clear on what I’m not saying. The key to self-fulfillment isn’t necessarily to run from a relationship at the first sign of difficulty or discomfort. It’s often worth it to commit to working on a relationship with someone you truly want to be committed to for the long haul. However, one of the most important parts of being in a successful relationship is knowing when a relationship is actually worth saving. Are you feeling bewildered by the dating scene? I recently put together a dating survival guide that’s available for free on my website. Download it today to start getting tips for avoiding dating burnout and confusion!