A really good friend of mine told me today that he considers himself a “failure” in the realm of relationships. This statement actually made me really sad, because what I think of this friend, I think of amazing times I’ve shared with both him and his partners, a warm home, hilarious get-togethers, birthdays, dinners, etc. Sure, he’s single right now, and maybe some (okay, all) of said relationships ended in a sorta messy break up, but it made me think about what makes us “failures” in the game of love.
Anyone who has ever gone through a separation or divorce will (I’m guessing) call themselves a failure. Honestly, to this day, it’s one of the only words I’ve associated with myself since my marriage didn’t work out.
I think the reason people enjoyed American Idol for so long was because Simon Cowell ripped everyone to shreds. Throughout the reality show’s success, you rarely heard anyone talk about Paula Abdul’s kind comments even when someone didn’t show up on the stage with their best work. It’s a lot harder to come up with a kind comment than a shitty one, and that tendency doubles when it comes to talking about ourselves.
Where do we draw the line at when a relationship is best for our wellbeing versus what looks better- AKA what we “should do”. History, our grandparents, social media…they all tell us to “work on things”, to “see the best” in others. Still, after all this time, we’re all still secretly searching for that perfect person to complete us, but more often than not, the people we meet along the way just don’t help us shine to our fullest potential.
As my move to a new state draws closer and closer, I can’t help but think about how much seemingly easier this transition would be if I still had a husband (or at least a boyfriend). The world becomes a lot less scarier when you have someone facing it with you. But the truth is, there are no guarantees, whether you have a boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, slam piece, what have you. Things change, and people do change too. I don’t think I’d be at the stage I’m at right now if I would have stayed in my comfort zone. I could have rolled around like a pig in its own shit for years in my relationship, never changing, never growing, never struggling or trying. This isn’t a diss to my former partner, or really myself, because I do think I would have been supported in any choice I made. But I think I got to a stage where I was like…why rock the boat? And I was only married for a year!
As humans, we seek to evolve and grow and expand our world, but we still yearn for the simplest of comforts: a home to live in, food to eat, a place to rest our heads. As time goes by, these basic wants turn into needs, ones we’re not sure how to function without. The thought of giving them up becomes scarier than opening a brand new door and beginning again, even if our biggest dreams are within reach.
I don’t know what it’s like to be in someone else’s relationship. I can’t speak for a person who has been in a 7 year relationship with someone who didn’t treat them the way they deserved, but they stayed because they just had that a special connection. I haven’t the slightest idea what it’s like to stay with someone for 20 years and create a family, then go in a different direction. I don’t know what it’s like to be my grandmother- someone who never really had the same opportunities as myself to work, get an education, etc. What would she do without a husband at this point, realistically? Start adding kids or a mortgage into the picture, and the chains of comfort grow tighter and tighter.
What I can say, with confidence, is that the end of a relationship is not a failure. The fallout of 6 more relationships afterwards isn’t a failure either. Quite the opposite, I think that putting yourself out there and being open to love again is really brave. Being vulnerable is no easy feat. Sitting down across from a new lover after your heart has been ripped to pieces is heroic. Packing up your shit from a home you’ve built for so long and trusting that maybe, one day, things will be okay again…is epic.
If you think a wedding, or a cute couple-y Instagram picture is a sign of success, try watching your bank account reach zero as you work your ass off to pursue the only career goal you’ve had for 10 years. See what it feels like to tell your friends about your broken heart, and watch how they rally around you. The love you create for yourself when the chips are down is much grander and award worthy than anything any significant other can give you.
I like Disney movies and romantic endings as much as the next person, but I want to create this one for myself. And for my friend, who may not feel like a “winner” right now- you are. You’re so much brighter and worthy than you think you are. I have a trophy waiting for you.