We noted yesterday that life gives us endless opportunities to do things over and over again if we miss the lesson we were supposed to learn last time we did x-y-z. Many times, we learn that we’ve made a mistake when conflict takes over our relationship, or when the stress of a relationship breaks down our bodies, or when we seek out some addiction to quell the anxiety and stress that has overcome our relationship.
When that happens, we may have to make the difficult choice to end the relationship. No one can tell anyone else when it’s time to move on or when they’ve done everything they could to salvage a relationship. That decision must be left to the people in the relationship, or life will simply give them a do-over opportunity later on when they get themselves into the same position again.
Let’s face it, though. Sometimes a relationship just can’t be salvaged, which brings us to Dating Wisely Concept #3: Sometimes Failure is Success. The tricky part is how to know we’ve come to that point. Let me offer some suggestions.
Scenario #1: Several years have passed and the stress in the relationship is only increasing. In a normal, healthy, growing relationship, there will be stress. In fact, even in healthy relationships, 69% of issues are unresolvable, because no two people see the world in the same way…in fact, partners often see things in seemingly opposite ways. But when the tension becomes more of the norm than the connection, you may have that difficult choice to make.
Plus, it takes time to see how a relationship will develop…about three years, actually. Relationships go through natural stages (symbiosis, differentiation, practicing, rapprochement, and mutual interdependence–see In Quest of the Mythical Mate, by Bader and Pearson), the first three of which take about three years to unfold. The important thing is to move through these stages consciously, knowing that some of your conflict is normal, natural, and necessary–the result of growing pains. Other conflicts signal bad relational juju–AKA, red flags.
Scenario #2: You’ve become aware that anxiety is keeping you in the relationship, rather than pushing you out, as in the last scenario. Sometimes, we’re just afraid to feel the pain of loss or the loneliness of being alone, so we stay in relationship longer than we know we should.
In this case, keep in mind that the longer you stay, the longer you steal from your future and the future of the other. If you truly want to be in a solid relationship, you’ll have to be emotionally free of a dead-end one before you get into another, and that’ll require time to heal and learn the lessons that relationship had for you. Even if you left the dead one right now, you wouldn’t be emotionally ready for another one until you learn what you need to learn from the one you’re in. Dead things ought to be properly buried before bringing new life into existence.
Scenario #3: You know the person you’re with isn’t the kind of person you want to spend the rest of your life with. No hard feelings…just not a good match. You’ve given the relationship time to unfold, and you realize that you just don’t want to commit the rest of your life to this kind of individual. You’ve been careful to let this person be who they are, and s/he just isn’t a good fit for the person you are. You think you’d make decent friends, maybe, but not intimate partners. Time to move on.
On A Personal Note
My own mid-life dating experiences provided two successful failures: 1) The first guy I dated out of the gate, 2.5 years after my divorce, misrepresented his availability. That 10-month relationship fooled me because of the intoxicating intellectual stimulation it provided. 2) The second guy I dated was my 6th grade boyfriend who found me on Facebook. In the end of that 4-year relationship, I learned that he had been seeing someone else for months, perhaps as long as we’d been together. It didn’t help that the relationship was a long-distance one. That relationship fooled me because I never dreamed that someone so familiar, a childhood connection, would betray me.
My most successful failure was a joint effort. On the second date, I revealed that I was interested in a relationship where personal fulfillment was secondary to personal growth, and a few days after that revelation, my date candidly informed me, “I’m just not feeling it like I was.” I can’t tell you how grateful I was for his honesty. No smoke signals, no trying to figure out why he was backing away…just pure and simply truth. I let him know much I appreciated his courage to simply tell me the truth, even if it hurt–which it didn’t, at least in part because it was so uncomplicated.
There were also a couple handfuls of men who, I was able to determine from the get-go, weren’t the kind of person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. Good guys, just not compatible with the weird mix that is me, so they ended up in my friend zone. When this happened, they’d stick around for about six months–until they realized that I meant what I said about my platonic feelings (and that I don’t do casual sex)–and then move on in their quest to find someone else, as was their prerogative. It was sad to see them go because I enjoyed their company, but it was best that we each continued to move forward with our respective relationship needs and desires.
You Can’t Fail
I consider these, too, successful failures, in that I learned important life lessons from each scenario. You just can’t fail if you learn from your mistakes and your experiences.