Tuesday, December 4, 2018

There Are No Failed Relationships

There are certainly unhealthy ones.  Those that end in flames, so to speak.  There are all manner of dysfunctional, toxic, and generally crappy relationships.  (While of course, there are transcendent, incredible, life changing ones too).  However, there is a differentiation between bad relationships and a failed one.    

Every relationship we encounter has the potential to offer us a wealth of lessons, opportunity for personal growth, and newly acquired life and self-awareness.  Though only if we so desire to notice such and then choose to learn from it.  And yes, even the terrible relationships offer such.  (In fact, I would argue that some of our worst relationships offer glimpses of greatest learning potential).  

First though, let’s examine this language and means of measuring a relationships supposed success that’s become so commonplace in our culture.  What seems to have become one of our go-to measuring sticks for whether a relationship is admire-worthy or not: does the relationship last.  
Are relationships and marriages really a failure simply by means of their not enduring until death do them part?  And conversely, just because a relationship endures, is it then a given of being truly healthy, good, and successful?  Dont you and I both know of relationships of acquaintances, friends, loved ones, that have endured and are yet, miserable, unhealthy, or wildly mismatched?  Why is longevity then touted as the utmost, golden star, top most standard for what makes a relationship successful? 

All of the above begging the question that might it be our standards for what makes a relationship successful (or not), good (or not), worthwhile (or not), might be wildly off-kilter?
Does the activity of the hike, and even the jaw dropping view, lose its value upon the hike concluding?
A relationships longevity has become a central part of our cultural script with regards to its perceived success or “failure.”  I want to push back on this and argue, even potentially vehnometly, against this line of thinking.  This is ludacris.  Its akin to defining a great meal as one that doesnt result in puking it up.

Of course, longevity coupled with genuine happiness, now thats another story, and a great thing.  A healthy, positive, and perpetually growing as well as inspiring relationship is something to be proud of.  Having navigated challenges as a couple, though remained together because it’s a truly wonderful, fulfilling, and great relationship overall, this is significant and positive.  Too many people though make this the main crux of why their relationship should be applauded.  Simply because they have remained together for x and x amount of years.  This as a standalone is a terrible and misplaced indicator of the merits of a relationship.  Most importantly, it’s a false one.

That aside though, there isnt such a thing as a failed relationships and here is why.  
On one side of the coin, it’s within unhealthy, dysfunctional, and crappy relationships that we learn with whom we do not want to be.  We also observe the type of person we do not wish to become.  Within these toxic relations, we can come to realize their lack of serving us.  That in fact, these relations hinder and harm us.  

The hardest part is when this is someone with whom you are deeply connected and love, such as a parent, sibling, supposed very close friend, or longstanding romantic partner.  However, sad as it is, this happens all the time  We cannot choose our blood relations, and even when we can chose (such as friends and romances), we often choose wrong.  Frequently at least several times before finally getting it right.

It takes immense bravery, strength, and insight to identify damaging and harmful relationships, as well as to actually garner the courage to act accordingly.  Many of us remain for years steeped in awful relationships, whether parental, other familial, or romantic ones, because it’s too terrifying to let go, too painful to confront.  Instead, we cling to the familiar, to what is easier, to what is less immediately painful in order to avoid the gaping unknown and searing hurt of letting go.

Finally letting go of such a relationship though?  (Or, putting up significant barriers and boundaries within said relationship, if unable to let it go fully).  This is no failure.  Instead it’s incredibly brave, a signifier of immense growth and utmost self love, and will open a sizeable space in your life for something far healthier, happier, and ultimately more fulfilling.

And on the other side of the coin, how about wonderful relationships that end?  There can be endless reasons for such.  People like to draw the automatic conclusion that if a relationship ends, ultimately there must have been something wrong with it.  That it couldnt possibly have been great after all.  That a relationships ending is an automatic signifier of such. 

This is silliness.  A one track and narrow conclusion, and frequently flat out wrong.  Sometimes when a great relationship concludes, there was something amiss after all.  Just as often though, great relationships end and they were truly great.

An ending can signify a divergence in life paths and desires.  Not a given or necessarily a sign that the relationship wasn’t a marvelous and beautiful one.  An ending might occur because one person grows beyond the other.  Again, not a signifier that the relationship wasn’t a poignant and positive one.  A relationship can conclude because of a sudden significant sexual incompatibility.  This is not necessarily automatic equaling of the relationship and connection between these two being anything less than deeply loving and positive otherwise, even if it results in an ending.  
Relationships can drift apart because of a newly induced gap in proximity.  More often than not, nothing is wrong with these relationship.  It being likely that they were wonderful, meaningful, and worthwhile for their duration.  However, proximity is a significant determinant of whether two people can maintain their staying close or not.  Its certainly not a deciding factor.  Many people remain close for years and years who live far apart.  However, it does make for a not insignificant challenge.

Maybe one person changes in a way that it alters the relationship to such a degree that it cannot sustain.  This need not be a negative shift in that particular person.  Though it might be one that’s significant enough that a natural distance sets in and thus, the relationship comes to a conclusion.  
A flaw or reason that results in a romantic conclusion (or even platonic ending) does not automatically invalidate, and mean "bad" or "wrong" for the whole of the relationship.

Thats like saying a meal sucked simply because one course out of say, five dishes, wasnt especially tasty- but that the entire meal was awful as a result.  Its like concluding that because in the end, we die, that the whole of our life before its ending is pointless, awful, and no good.  Simply because there is an ending, as though the entirety of what came before it is bad or of no worth.

Throughout each person’s life, our needs, goals, desires, values, and interests will alter, evolve, change, and grow.  
At varying times, we might both attract and need different types of people.  
This is no indication that any of these relationships are better than previous connections or the connections yet to come.  It simply means that both life and people are not static.  We are ever evolving.  Sometimes, what was healthy, inspiring, and necessary for us at one point, now looks different.

Each relationship and person that makes entrance into our life offers an abundance of lessons and insights along with them.  
In watching treacherous, unhappy, or toxic others, we learn both whom we do not want to be, as well as with who we wish to surround ourselves.  In the partaking of unhealthy or mis-matched relationships, we learn what doesn’t work for us, as well as what detracts from and harms both our life and ourselves.
Within our healthiest, most healing, joyous, and positively challenging relationships, this is where we may stretch and grow the most.  Assuming one is aware of and open to such when these connections present themselves in our lives.  Plenty of times, we cross paths with people of this very potential, though we ourselves aren’t ready.  Thus, the opportunity is lost.  However, assuming one is watching closely, brave, and emotionally available, these relationships present some of the most life enriching and character evolving potential.

Therefore, regardless of the specifics of any given relationship, there are no failed ones.  Really, the only conceivable relational failure is choosing to stay halted within something that, for years and years, makes you miserable, is unhealthy, diminishes your spirit, and is a glaring mismatch.  Remaining within a relationship that has reached its conclusion simply by means of laziness or fear, this is a mistake and a grave waste.  That is a failure of sorts in terms of utilizing ones limited time here on earth to the utmost, as well as living with bravery, imperative, and a sense of growth. 

Still, ultimately no relationship is a failure.  All of the connections that come into our life (as well as those that conclude or even crumble) serve us in multiple ways.  
Some of these will be painful lessons, with regards to whom and what we do not want.  Others will serve as the prompting of healthful changes and shifts to our own character and hearts.  And then a small handful of relationship are truly life altering in poignant, powerful, awesome ways.  
Every relationship though serves a purpose to both who we currently are, as well as whom we have the potential to become.  There are no failed relationships.  

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