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.