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A failed relationship does not mean you failed

By Sarah Robinson on January 20, 2018

I went to the wedding of a gorgeous friend recently. While filling the chasm between ‘I do’ and getting blind at the reception, someone congratulated someone else on being married for a shit load of time.

What followed was an exchange of congratulations between people in long term relationships (LTRs).

It went something like: ‘wow, you’ve been with Derek for a billion years, that’s amazing’. Followed by, ‘yes, but you’ve been with insert man name here for ten billion years, well fucking done.’

Okay, I know that being in a relationship for a long time is not a bad thing. When two legends feel acknowledged and grow together, they should celebrate with copious whiskey and sex.

But that’s not what this blog is about. 

Shame is lame

In the midst of the LTR love-fest, a bad feeling rose from the pit of my stomach. It felt like failure. But there was something shittier lurking underneath. It was shame.

Perhaps the feelings were more noticeable because I had started my relationship around the same time my friends had started theirs. Except of course, mine had ended.

Once the wave of shitty emotions subsided, the urge to say something took its place. I felt I owed it to the scared woman who had walked away from an 8-and-a-half-year relationship in the hope of a better life.

I wanted to honour her, and I wanted to honour her courage. But I also wanted to remind the world that relationship or not, life can be pretty great. (Once the fucking heart wrenching grief subsides.)

So, I spoke my truth.

‘Well,’ I said. ‘My marriage ended two years ago, and now, I’m happier than I have ever been, so I guess it all works out either way?’

No jerks here

Before I continue, I want to point out that my friends aren’t jerks for saying what they said. They’re not insensitive; just commenting on a topic highly relevant to the occasion. And, I suppose, our culture.

At that moment, I felt the strong need to share that being in a relationship for a long time did not equal success. And, by default, the end of a relationship did not mean failure.

I am happier and more fulfilled than I have been in my entire life, and I have been a serial relationship person since the age of 15. I’m not telling anyone to dump their beloved partner. If it’s working and you’re happy, keep going.

I know for a fact that my inability to feel fulfilled in a relationship was not the fault of my partner – it was me. I had a choice every step of the way, but my fear of being alone made it harder for me to honour my needs and take the perceived risk of being on my own.

Perhaps part of this fear stems from a culture that values relationships above being single.

I read a study that said people in relationships get higher pay and other benefits too, so I’m pretty sure I’m not imagining it. (Read it here.)

You are not a failure

Whatever the motivators, I certainly felt that at the time, the end of my relationship was a failure. Even worse, I felt the end of my relationship meant I was a failure. I now know that is absolute crap.

I am writing this blog, because lately, I’ve noticed a bunch of my awesome friends tell me they’re failures at dating and relationships. This frustrates me to no end. But, I get it, because I feel it too sometimes.

Side bar

Okay, if you’re noticing patterns of behaviour that indicate you need to address a psychological issue relating to your role in relationships, find a good psych and work it out.

Even then, this doesn’t mean you’re a failure. On the contrary, a person who works on their issues is a downright legend.

You are not what happens to you

Your relationship ended, it didn’t fail. That doesn’t mean you’re a failure by default. Don’t internalise that shit. You are not what happened to you.

In fact:

  • If your relationship ended, whether it was your choice or not, you are not a failure.
  • If you thought you would be with your ex forever, but they broke up with you, you are not a failure.
  • If you ended the relationship, because it didn’t turn out the way you expected, you are not a failure.
  • If your life looks different to the way you thought it would, you are not a failure.

Yep, these are fucking facts.

You are not a failure because:

  • A relationship does not have to last forever. Often, we have amazing relationships with people (friends, lovers, partners), and after a period of time, they run their course.
  • This does not make the time we spent with that human a waste. I bet you learned something from your journey with them (good and bad), and learning is never bad.
  • Every time I have a break up, once the initial grief has subsided and my brain clears, I think about what I liked and what I didn’t like about the dynamic we had.
  • Dating is about working out what you want and don’t want in a partner. You’re ‘testing the market’ so to speak. When it doesn’t work out, it’s not a failure, he or she was just not a good fit for you.
  • Trust me when I say, you deserve the fucking best. You deserve a dude or woman that loves you for the amazing human you are. So, when you’re dating, listen to your gut and fuck off when it feels off.
  • People grow apart. People grow together. Life is fluid and messy, just like semen (I definitely don’t regret writing that). We live in a society obsessed with long term relationships, don’t get sucked into thinking it’s the be all and end all.
  • In saying that, you’re more than likely to have another relationship at some point in the future. Maybe even another after that. Just get yourself in working order, so you can attract the right kind of fucker (if that’s what you want).
  • Plenty of people stay in relationships because they are afraid of being alone. You are brave for stepping out and demanding more for yourself. Life is short, spend it with people who are right for you.
  • If a relationship ends because one or both people feel it wasn’t working, that is success. You both get the opportunity to forge a new life, with people more aligned with who you are.
  • Fucking one guy on the reg is fine. Being single is fine too. Either way, you still get to hang out with friends, play Zelda, paint, listen to the Beastie Boys or swim in the salty ocean.

Our value is not defined by whether another person calls us their girlfriend, boyfriend, husband, wife or pimpin’ ho.

You are fucking great

No matter what, breakups are fucking shit. In fact, studies show that to your brain, a break up is just as painful as the death of a loved one. I’m sorry you have to feel this way. It fucking sucks.

I want you to know that whatever you’re feeling, you are still fucking great. Because you took a risk. You gave it a shot. You lived. And, you maybe even got to know yourself better in the process.

There’s beauty in working stuff out along the way, but the unknown is also scary as fuck. Know this, and let yourself be scared, usually that means you’re onto something good.

Take solace in the fact that you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be in the messy ejaculatory fluid of life.

Love Sarah x

Art by Jade Foo.


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