Relationships Are Not Accomplishments And Breaking Up Isn’t A Failure!

Relationships are not accomplishments and breaking up isn’t a failure!

I was wasting time at work today falling down an internet rabbit hole and came across an article titled “Questions you need to ask before you get married”. For the most part, I agreed with what was being put forward – it basically boiled down to ensuring that you really know who this person is, who you are, and whether the two of you are the right fit to grow together over the course of a lifetime. Good stuff. One thing that rubbed me the wrong way, though, was when it listed the question “why have our past relationships failed?”

I understand and acknowledge the idea that they were getting at – that it is important to learn from your past – but I didn’t like the wording of it as those relationships having “failed”. When you are with the wrong person, and you decide to no longer be with that person, that is NOT a failure. That is a normal part of life, and it is an important step to take. Too many people linger in relationships that are not right for them because of this idea that breaking up is a failure on their part. Not every relationship is supposed to work out. Can you imagine how unhappy we’d all be if we all married the first person we ever dated? It’s like how some people have the same job from straight out of high school, while most of us go through a few, and some go through a lot, throughout the course of our working lives. We’ve got to try different things and figure out what it is that we want and what works for us. Leaving a job that you’re not happy in to pursue a different career is not a failure, it’s an important part of growing up and discovering what you want. So why do we look at leaving romantic relationships differently? We’re all much better off if we live our lives with a partner who is well suited to our personalities, our needs and our wants, but if you’re lingering in a relationship with someone who isn’t right for you, you’re not available to meet a person who might be.

Instead of asking why past relationships “failed”, we should ask ourselves “what can I learn from my past relationships?” There’s a good chance you have learned something of value from each person you’ve dated, whether it’s how to compromise, what your deal-breakers are, how to communicate your feelings more effectively, or what values are most important to you in another person. You might have learned there are certain things you have no patience for, or that there are certain habits you have that you didn’t realize before were hurtful or frustrating for others. It’s important to apply those lessons to your new or future relationship. But a better question than “what have I learned from my past relationships?” is “what does a healthy relationship mean to me and what do I need to have one?” This accounts for things you’ve learned from past relationships, but also what you have learned from other peoples’ relationships around you and introspection. Knowing yourself is very important when it comes to forming a life-long bond with another person and there are many different ways to learn about yourself than just looking at old relationships that are equally, or even more, important. And while it is important to learn from your past relationships, it’s also important to be wary of bringing too much baggage from those relationships into your new one. You were a different person then, and the person you were with then is different from the person you’re with now. Don’t let past relationships taint your perspective in your new one.

When you care about someone and you want them to be part of your life, it is important that you put your best efforts into developing and maintaining a healthy relationship with them. You shouldn’t walk away from someone you love just because things get a little hard, but when the hard times come, if you discover that this is not the right person to have by your side, it is in no way a failure on your part or theirs to walk away. Don’t linger in a relationship that isn’t right for you because you feel like walking away is a failure, or that you’re giving up on something. You’re not. You’re simply making the decision to free yourself and the other person up to pursue something better.


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Sara413 is a GirlsAskGuys Editor
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Most Helpful Guy

  • Bravo, really spot on and insightful... It is a shame that today long term relationships are like big foot you hear about them but they are seldom seen. I've been married for 27 years, experienced all the ups and downs, questioned my intentions and speculated about how things might be different. I found that I am very lucky to have met the woman I did, I also found that love is an action and when those actions diminish so does the love. Also you are so right when you said that you aren't the person you were so, how helpful would evaluating the choices you made then be now, unless between then and now there are so many relationships you have to create a spreadsheet to track them. I also know that expecting one person to meet all of your needs and desires is not realistic. You are responsible for your own happiness when I hear " if he/she would only do this I would be happy " or " if only I had this I would be happy " the truth is being happy and content is achieved through being honest yourself and living in the moment. You know when you have found love when your partners needs, well being and happiness are what you consider before your own... ;-)

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Most Helpful Girl

  • Thank you so much for this MyTake! I have so many friends who follow this ideology that breaking up with someone means you failed. Some of my friends have been with their partners since high school and I don't think they realize how lucky and how rare that really is. Not all of us have the luck to meet our perfect match in high school. Some of us have to go through heartbreak several times before finding a good partner.

    I hate it when people treat me like I've done something wrong when I've left someone who made me unhappy. My last boyfriend cheated on me, and I couldn't imagine staying with him. He obviously didn't care about how I felt and there were other things that made it clear he wasn't the one for me.

    I believe people should be willing to work on their relationships, but there definitely comes a time to call it quits and walk away if the other person isn't willing to put in any effort. It's not fair to the person who cares more to continue putting themselves through an unhappy situation.

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    • Sometimes it's not even a matter of needing to walk away because the other person doesn't treat you well - sometimes it's just a matter of it not being the right person. I've known people who have stayed in relationships for years for no other reason than "I don't have any real reason to break up with him/her." That's a terrible reason to be with someone. If you're not actively choosing that person every single day, they're not the right person for you.

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What Guys Said 9

  • I agree with the take but not the title. When a relationship fails, that does not mean that either of the participants failed. But when a relationship succeeds, that means that both partners have not only found a good match, but they have devoted time and attention to their relationship, they have treated it with appreciation and respect, and they have secured for themselves a source of happiness and satisfaction. That is an accomplishment!

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    • I get what you mean. Perhaps I could have been more clear about the meaning, but I was also trying to be succinct and intriguing with the title. What I mean by "not an accomplishment" is that simply being in a relationship is NOT an accomplishment. Building and maintaining a healthy and happy relationship absolutely does take work and commitment and that is certainly something to be proud of. However, the idea that having a boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse is an accomplishment in and of itself is ridiculous. Finding a partner, whether it's the right one or the wrong one, is more dumb luck than anything else and upholding it as some kind of accomplishment serves only to tell people who are alone that they are failing, and to put pressure on people who are in unfulfilling relationships to stay there.

    • Agree 100%. There is nothing as stupid and pitiable as a high school queen strutting around like the biggest hen in the roost because SHE has a boyfriend.

  • I agree with the take about 90% but it is possible for a breakup to be a "Failure" due to one of the partner's behaviour. I feel it is getting lost in terminology when some say "learn from" I think of a class or a course of action you undertook to improve yourself, others might say "Learn from your past mistakes but others might counter that aren't "past mistakes" really "Failures".
    I think it is safe to say we are all aiming for same thing, a good relationship just using different phrases. Though I do agree casting the word "failure" on all relationship breakups as being a bit strong but also feel sometimes blame can be fairly attached to a partner in certain circumstances (Really I am just splitting semantic hairs here) - Overall I agree with the premise of the take.

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  • "You’re not. You’re simply making the decision to free yourself and the other person up to pursue something better."
    But it does still feel like a failure though, I was happy for once in my life, now I'm just back to being depressed

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  • I would say that a loving relationship with an attractive member of the opposite sex is not just an accomplishment, but its one of the best accomplishments most people will ever have

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    • It's a wonderful experience, and certainly maintaining a lasting relationship over years and years is something to be proud of, but simply finding a relationship to be in is not an accomplishment.

  • It's a double edged sword. Some people stay in unhappy relationships and remain miserable, while other people will end relationships for stupid reasons. Some people think that if they're not extremely happy then they should find someone else, or be single. There's a complete lack of commitment in today's society. That's why the family unit has crumbled.

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  • 29 years married plus 5 years of dating prior to that, yes, that is an accomplishment as it wasn't always easy but it was best.

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    • I get what you mean. Perhaps I could have been more clear about the meaning, but I was also trying to be succinct and intriguing with the title. What I mean by "not an accomplishment" is that simply being in a relationship is NOT an accomplishment. Building and maintaining a healthy and happy relationship absolutely does take work and commitment and that is certainly something to be proud of. However, the idea that having a boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse is an accomplishment in and of itself is ridiculous. Finding a partner, whether it's the right one or the wrong one, is more dumb luck than anything else and upholding it as some kind of accomplishment serves only to tell people who are alone that they are failing, and to put pressure on people who are in unfulfilling relationships to stay there.

    • Fair enough

  • Great article, but this came out of a misinterpretation of a single line (wow).
    Breakups aren't necessarily failures, but they do result FROM failed relationships.

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  • The only true failure is when you stop trying.

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    • It's not a failure to stop trying with something that's no longer worth it tho

  • I consider a relationship successful if it was pretty long lasting and you learned and grew from the experience. If you were in an 8 year relationship and you break up, is that really a failure? Your mom proved you could be in a exclusive 8 year relationship. That's impressive. You just haven't proven you can be in a relationship that leads to marriage yet. You are learning.

    Being in a loving, happy, committed marriage where both people are supporting eachother dreams is the pinnacle in my mind. Just because you haven't reached that yet doesn't mean you failed. Failure means you've forfeited learning and gave up.

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What Girls Said 4

  • Very nicely written takes and solid points. I agree. Just because things didn't work out between two people it doesn't mean they failed, they just weren't right for each other.

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  • This is an amazing take. Thank you for posting. For all of those, like myaelf who view losing someone or not having a long lasting relationship as a failure...

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  • You and I don't always see eye to eye but this take was excellent. I'm dealing with this right now and it's hard not to let those feelings of failure take over. This was a great reminder for me. Thanks

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  • I agree with this take. I was with a guy who was not a good match for me. It wasn't just him, it was me too. I just didn't understand him and he just didn't understand me. We liked different things and he tried to be what he wasn't. He had just gotten out of a relationship 3 months prior to dating me and he maybe needed more time to cope with that. I ended up breaking it off with him after I was threatened. He begged and pleaded for weeks and even harassed me. I didn't know what to do, but I handled it well. I'm glad that I did.

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