When relationships end, we usually consider that a failure because things didn’t turn out the way we were expecting them to, but that’s not always true. Every relationship I’ve been in has ended for one reason or another, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t successful. If you ask me, the fact that it didn’t work out does nothing to diminish how great those relationships were. Love is love, and it’s wonderful no matter how short it lasts.
- Marriage is not the only acceptable marker of a successful relationship. Our culture has led us to believe that there is no point in dating if it’s not going to lead to marriage, and that “’til death do us part” is the only successful end for a relationship. The real point of relationships to learn how to exist as part of a unit, how to be with other people, so even if it ends, it would be wrong to label it a waste.
- They taught me a lot about myself. Every single one of my past relationships helped me learn something important about myself. One of my exes helped me realize that I struggled with commitment, another taught me to stop being so hard on myself because I was doing much better than I imagined. The more I learn about myself, the more I’m able to love and be loved in a more fulfilling way.
- They brought me happiness and joy. For me, the benchmark of a successful relationship is whether it was healthy and made me happy. Did I feel supported? Did I feel like my partner was looking out for my best interests? If yes, then nothing can take away the things that relationship gave me. The fact that I drifted apart from someone who once filled my whole life with joy doesn’t mean that I have to write the whole thing off like it never happened.
- They served a function in my life while they lasted. It’s true that some relationships are an utter waste of time, but it doesn’t apply to all of them. While I didn’t get the relationships that last for a lifetime, each one of them was what I needed at that point in my life. They made me aware of important information that guided me through new phases of my life. I like to think that even though the relationships didn’t survive, it’s possible that I wouldn’t have made it through those points in my life without them.
- Even though we didn’t make it, I still respect my exes. All healthy relationships are a stepping stone to something better. It’s okay that I ended up hurt as long as pain is not the main thing I took away from it. My lovers were incredible people, and I believed they really loved me as much as I loved them. I don’t think badly of them because we broke up. I don’t hate them. I have actually managed to remain friends with most of them, and we are still trying to help each other grow in some way.
- All my former lovers made me a better person. I’m constantly evolving as a person. I’m a much better person than I was a few years ago and I have my exes to thank for the improvement. They were gentle about pointing out my flaws and toxic traits and tried to help me work through them, even if they weren’t always around to appreciate the results. I’ll always remember how a boyfriend helped me plot a career trajectory that I’m still using as a guide today, another made me realize the importance of allowing myself to be vulnerable in relationships, yet another helped me become more expressive. Now, I’m more whole than ever, and the next relationship I have will greatly benefit from that.
- My exes still think the world of me. Even in relationships where I was the one who wanted out, those exes still gush about me. It’s important to me that I am remembered fondly. I don’t want to be ex that my lovers think of as a mistake or their worst nightmare. Even if it only lasts a short while, I want to make a difference in my partner’s life. This is how I measure a successful relationship, and so far all my relationships have made the cut.
- There is no future without the past. It’s important to understand why my previous relationships ended, so I can apply that information to future ones and avoid making the same mistakes again. Without figuring out my mistakes, what blame I hold in the breakup, and what I could have done better, it’d be difficult for my new relationships to flourish and not face the same problems.
- Breakups are better than no relationships. There are only two possible outcomes to dating: either it leads to something more or it comes to an end. The alternative is to just stay alone and avoid the whole thing, but how doable is that? I like the feeling of being loved. I enjoy the process of learning about someone and trying to build my life around them. As long as I get to do those things if only for a brief moment, I count that as a success.