Failed relationships are learning processes. Although when the heartbreak happens we feel that it is the end of the world but when we move on after that and get clarity we can harp on the lessons we learned from our failed relationships.
The meaning of a failed relationship could be complicated. This actually depends on how you look at failure. A relationship that becomes controlling, abusive, manipulative, instills a sense of fear and sadness becomes all about mental agony. When a person moves on from such a relationship there is no positive takeaway from it and in that case we can call it a failed relationship.
But all relationships start on a positive note and people want to enjoy their time together and if they decide to tie the knot they want to look at a happily ever after. But that does not always happen. Priorities change, people change and two people do not find happiness with each other anymore, then they want to move on.
In that case it might not be called a failed relationship because when two people were together they found happiness and growth.
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When we end a relationship, no matter what, we put it under the banner of failed relationships and keep asking ourselves, “Is it my fault my relationship failed?”, “Why did my relationship fail?” But the answers come out from these questions only. It’s the lessons learned from failed relationships that matter.
11 Lessons People Learnt From Failed Relationships
Author Carlo Pizzati in his book Bending Over Backwards writes about the journey he took to heal his excruciating back pain and also deal with the trauma of a failed relationship. While travelling through the world trying out spiritual healing techniques and grappling with his own emotional issues, Carlo talks about his journey of self-discovery.
Carlo writes candidly about his failed relationship in the book: The woman who had insisted on having a child with me has suddenly decided that she doesn’t feel loved enough. I present ample evidence to the contrary, but it’s obviously useless. So I suggest we at least try to stay the course a bit longer in the interest of our sweet baby. Perhaps with time we could become friends, which we never were. We started a relationship on feelings of sudden passion, rather than the reliable foundations of true compatibility. But we never truly liked each other. Odd as it seems, it can happen…Eventually it becomes clear that it’s better for us to go our separate ways.
But Carlo, like so many of us, learned valuable lessons from his failed relationship and used those to build stronger bonds in his future relationships. We share 11 lessons people learnt from their failed relationships.
1. “I believed we had to be a couple constantly”
Aria married Ronaldo after dating for two years but after marriage she thought that since they were a couple now they always had to do the couple thing. There was no breathing space left in the relationship for Ronaldo and he started feeling claustrophobic.
“I made the biggest mistake by constantly imposing the couple thing on him. I felt since we were married I should be his priority so he should want to do all his hanging out, bar trips, holidaying, shopping, movies, dining – every single thing with me. If he went out for dinner with his colleagues I would get upset. I would have ugly fights with him.”
When people refuse to give space to each other we end up in failed relationships. Most couples don’t realize the importance of space and suffer from the “couple syndrome” and end up throttling each other.
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2. “Need for control kills a relationship”
You will find some people have a string of failed relationships and if you get into the history of their failed relationships then inevitably it would show a pattern. In case of Jake it was always his need for control.
Jake dated a number of beautiful, accomplished and sensitive women but once he got close to them he felt that if they cared for him they would listen to him. “So I decided what they would wear to work, who they should hang out with and what they should do on weekends. Initially they would accept my interference with grace then they started resenting it and the relationship broke off.”
Jake was engaged twice and both times his fiancées called off the engagement in the last moment citing his controlling ways as the reason for their stepping back from the wedding.
All of us like some kind of control. Like some of us want to stick to a daily routine, some hate dirty kitchen sinks and many of us want complete control on our own money. But when this need for control spills over to our partner’s life and messes with it, it could mess our relationship too.
3. “One should not expect a partner to always sacrifice”
This is one mistake most of us end up making. Too much expectation can lead to failing relationships. Thanks to our socialization and mental conditioning we expect our partners to sacrifice and compromise in the relationship sometimes without appreciating that. But when the expectation becomes too much for a partner to handle we end up in failed relationships.
In a research conducted on sacrifice expectation and partner appreciation in romantic relationships it was found: People encounter conflicts of interests in their romantic relationship. From disagreeing on where to go to dinner to whose family to visit for the holidays, these conflicts can increase stress and reduce relationship satisfaction.
An efficient way to resolve these situations is to sacrifice one’s preference to benefit one’s partner and the relationship. While sacrificing can help solve these daily dilemmas, do people always appreciate their partner for their sacrifice? Given the central role of partner appreciation in cultivating high relationship quality and longevity it is important to unravel under which conditions partners’ sacrifices elicit appreciation—or fail to do so—and ultimately impact romantic relationships.
When one partner expects the other to sacrifice all the time then the relationship is headed for doom.
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4. “Emotional and physical compatibility both are needed in a relationship”
There are stages of a failing relationship like there are stages of developing emotional and physical intimacy. Many couples start experiencing lack of physical intimacy in a long-term relationship. Instead of trying to bring back the spark many fail to communicate their needs to each other and carry on in the relationship.
That’s when one partner starts looking for fulfillment of their needs elsewhere and cheating happens. The same goes for emotional intimacy. If it is missing a partner can get into an emotional affair.
Kia, who is in her successful second marriage said, “After my failed first marriage where we started dealing with a dead bedroom within a year of marriage I realised emotional and physical compatibility are both very important in a relationship. I remained good friends with my ex husband but couldn’t continue in the marriage because there was no physical gratification.”
Instead of feeling like a failure in failed relationships we should carry the lessons learned in that relationship and make sure we don’t make the same mistakes again, emphasized Kia.
5. “You should accept yourself first”
“Is it my fault my relationship failed?” this is something we keep asking ourselves when we are trying to get over a relationship. But this is the time we should prioritise ourselves and indulge in self love.
Relationship guru and author Jim Rogers writes in Petrie magazine: “I was once this person. After two marriages that began at age 25, and stretched on until age 44, both ending in divorce, I entered the realm of single life rather unwillingly. For a time I felt that I’d only be single for a short while, but as the years kept on, I began to wonder if I would ever again be a husband or long term coupled partner.
Your most important first step in this journey to end your singleness is to learn to accept yourself, fully, just as you are now with all of your faults. The challenge for most is that they find some aspects of themselves to be unacceptable and want to make improvements before they’re ready. The point of accepting yourself, warts and all, is that you’re not approving of these aspects of yourself that you don’t like, you’re just accepting them for now.”
Accepting yourself for who you are and putting yourself first is a valuable lesson you learn from failed relationships.
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6. “Don’t carry your emotional baggage into a relationship”
If we look into the history of our failed relationships then we will see that we carry a lot of emotional baggage be it from our childhood or our earlier relationships and we end up self-sabotaging the beautiful relationship we have at present.
Psychologist Annie Tanasugarn in an article in Medium writes: Rebounds have been known to increase negative emotional dependency, are used as unhealthy coping strategies to mask deeper pain and are seen as toxic to personal awareness and growth. For healthy growth post break-up, it’s necessary for people to give themselves enough time to examine their behavior, what the relationship brought them and taught them, and how to improve upon themselves for their next relationship.”
7. “Our sense of entitlement ruins a relationship”
Millennials are an entitled lot, there’s no denying the fact. They rarely see their parents’ struggles since they are being cocooned from it and they grow up with the idea that there is a shortcut to success be it in achieving career or relationship goals.
That’s why the relationship problems faced by millennials mostly stem from their sense of entitlement and that is why they often plunge into quarter-life crisis.
Millennials also end up being in a string of failed relationships because they feel that they are entitled to get love, concern and care from their partner and are not willing to make as much effort to give it back.
8. “Failed relationships are the result of too much insecurity”
Insecurity can be a silent killer of a relationship. A reader wrote to our counselor: “I am in a long-distance relationship, I feel very anxious about his life. A part of me tells me I am simply overthinking and another part of me forces me to keep a tab on him and leads me to a vulnerable state of mind.
“I don’t know how to express insecurity in a relationship and I am sure I am doing it wrong. It’s a terrible situation and I am afraid I am unable to handle my own feelings.”
Many people let their insecurity get the better of them and do not understand how to overcome this insecurity. Serious trust issues and insecurity about their loved ones leads to a breakdown of a relationship.
9. “Be careful who you share your issues with”
This is something many people in failed relationships learned the hard way. Everyone has some kind of issue in the relationship that they often talk about to close friends or even seek professional counselling.
But more often than not seeking help from the wrong people lead to the demise of a relationship. Tiara tells us that her husband was having some erectile issues that she shared with her brother-in-law, who she was very close to.
“He went ahead and told that to my mother-in-law who in turn asked my husband all about it. He felt very embarrassed and betrayed by me and he felt that I was going around telling everyone about his issues. He misbehaved terribly with me and on that night I left home, never to go back.”
Tiara still feels that if she had not told her brother-in-law anything and had approached a counselor instead her marriage would have survived.
10. “Money is not everything”
Many of us look for a settled life and believe that can only be achieved if our partner has plenty of money. In the pursuit of that moneyed life we ignore the red flags in the relationship.
But people who married for money often ended up in divorces faster. They could have got hefty alimonies but getting over the marriage was harder because it meant not only giving up a lifestyle they had become used to, but also grappling with the humiliation and heartbreak.
Serena’s husband was a company VP and had a plush apartment in New York. She wore branded clothes and went on cruising holidays but her husband brought along other women to the holidays with him. “I found that unacceptable. But he said that he was giving me a great life so I had to accept his quirks,” she said.
She couldn’t accept that kind of life. Money is not really everything in a relationship is her takeaway.
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11. “You can be lonely in a marriage”
In her failed relationship quote author Rachel Wolchin says, “Time heals nothing unless you move along with it.” While it is a reality that time is a great healer it is also a reality that you can be lonely in a marriage.
When people are single and lonely they feel that marriage would allow them to have the companionship and love they crave for. But people in failed relationships will tell you that lack of communication, physical and emotional intimacy can also lead to loneliness.
“You could be sleeping on the same bed every night but you could be like two people in two worlds living in your separate spaces having your separate thoughts,” said Serena.
Life is about learning lessons from failed relationships and using those in the future. Some people emerge from repeated failed relationships to build a strong one in the end.
*Names changed to protect identities