Often, patients speak to me about the fact that they feel like a failure, because a relationship failed. They take the fact that a relationship, or even a series of relationships, not working out, is a direct indication that there is something deeply wrong with them. They feel flawed, unlovable, and that there is not hope for future success for them in relationships. Long term relationships, and especially a marriage, can feel like an unsurmountable failure, as you have invested so much of yourself, your time, and your identity into this relationship, and being part of a couple. Many times, people have tried to work things out, gone to counseling, adjusted issues their partner was not pleased with, but inevitably, the relationship still fails. What we need to learn, is that the failure of a relationship, does not make US a failure.
No one is perfect, and hopefully no one is claiming to be. We all have things that we could work on. However, if you genuinely tried to make the relationship work, if you did the hard work and things still did not work out, you should give yourself credit for your efforts instead of focusing on the inevitable outcome. The truth is that no matter what we do, sometimes relationships are just not meant to work out, or the issues have become too great to overcome. Many times, couples go to couple’s therapy, if this means that things will be fixed, and they will move forward together. This is the ideal outcome, but is also not a given, by any means. The national average of first time marriages ending in divorce is 50%+, and is even higher for second time marriages. Now consider that a couple that enters couples therapy is already largely teetering towards the negative 50%, or they would not be in couple’s therapy. They do show strength and willingness to try by simply going, but about 50% of those couples will divorce as well. The benefit is that the couple is with a supportive and unbiased third party who can help them navigate an amicable break up. This is especially important If children are involved.
Other times, relationships come to an end due to infidelity, falling out of love, years of poor communication and stress, or any number of issues. While the relationship may not work, how you choose to navigate going forward can be your success. Good or bad, there are lessons to be learned from each relationship we have, and the lesson is not that you are a failure. The lessons revolve around identifying many things more clearly, which will allow you to be more successful in your future relationships. A relationship not working out allows us the opportunity to reevaluate what we do and do not want in a relationship. How we have grown and changed, and therefore so have our needs. What is most important to us, and what does not really matter. Often, and especially after a long relationship, we will discover that what we thought we once wanted, has changed a great deal over the years. To find our more ideal match, and to have greater success, we need to adjust what we are looking for and our knowledge of what we have learned is most important to us.
This is also an exceptional opportunity for self-growth. Many people are serial monogamists, who never really take the time to get to know themselves as a strong and self-confident individual. They have always viewed themselves and their identity as part of a couple. To these individuals, I express the importance, and the essential exercise of being single for a while and really getting to know yourself, as an individual. Also, as none of us are perfect, this is an ideal time to take stock in your half of a relationship, and what you need to work on to be a more ideal partner. When we have a more secure and more confident sense of self, we attract more quality partners. People truly pick up on how we feel about ourselves, whether it be from a place of strength, or a place of weakness. Coming from a place of strength sets us off on strong footing from the start. When we feel good about ourselves, we are more willing to speak our mind, ask for what we want, as well as have healthy and open communication with our new partner. Break-ups hurt, and they are painful, but if we view them for the learning and growth opportunity they can be, we can become a better individual and a better partner because of it. In that way, we have far from failed, we have shown great strength and success.