While all humans wrestle with failure to some degree, not all of us are felled by it. We don’t all take things not going according to what we saw as The Plan so personally. In fact, some of us have worked out through various experiences that we are distinct from the failure itself. We know that us having failed at something doesn’t mean that we are a failure as a human being.
But plenty of us do take failure very much to heart.
One particular area of failure distortion is relationships. People tend to see breakups and the accumulation of dating and relationship experiences as signs of failure. It’s as if people are more ‘worthy’/’successful’ if they found ‘The One’ immediately, very quickly or without getting hurt.
Repeatedly marking romantic involvements as ‘failures’ has a knock-on effect on our wellbeing and future relationships.
‘Failure’ implies that we’ve failed to be and do ‘enough’. Applying this flawed mentality to romantic involvements leads us to choose partners for dubious reasons. We also tend to stay in relationships long past their sell-by-date due to self-doubt and people-pleasing.
Think about it. If we believe worthiness and how much we’re prepared to be/do can make a relationship possible, even one that’s not actually right for us, we already fear that we’re inadequate. As humans, we operate from belief and do what reflects these. So if we think we’re ‘not good enough’, we look for partners to prove this. Enter emotionally unavailable or shady partners. Why? Well, there are more hoops to jump through. Sure, we might get involved with someone we deem as ‘nice’, ‘lovely’ or ‘perfect’. However, we’re also likely to feel uneasy at the lack of hoop-jumping or feel increased insecurity about ‘blowing our chance’. We put this person on a pedestal and miss signs of incompatibility and/or we self-sabotage. So either way, we wind up with the self-fulfilling prophecy that ‘confirms’ that we’re not enough. And lather, rinse, repeat.
When we see breakups as the outcome, the expression of failure, we believe that we were 100% responsible for the success of the relationship.
And it’s not as if we regard the other person as having failed just as much as us. No, we only take the breakup this personally and regard it and us as a failure because of mistakenly believing that if we had done everything ‘correctly’, then the relationship would have been ‘successful’. That guarantees that we overcompensated in some way. It’s the if I do X, they should do Y and Z should happen mentality that often leads to obsessing and ruminating. It’s believing that any romantic situation we enter into ‘should’ work out if we’ve been and done ‘enough’. Screw compatibility or even whether we truly know, like and trust the person!
But what if what we believe it takes to make a relationship work is in direct opposition to the happiness we seek?
For instance, believing we’ve failed because we couldn’t convince them that we are ‘worthy enough’ or to become emotionally available is a flawed outlook. How we see the problem is the problem. People don’t decide to become who we want to be based on who they deem worthy; they operate based on habit. Emotional availability isn’t the prize we get for proving ourselves ‘enough’. Emotional unavailability reflects a person’s habit of not recognising, acknowledging and expressing their emotions and seeking to limit vulnerability.
No matter the events that led to dates not becoming a relationship or a relationship not lasting, the reason is always the same: incompatibility. This is a combination of both parties, not the sole responsibility of one.