What I Learned from a Decade of Failed Relationships (part 7)



Over the past few weeks, I shared a few lessons learned from 10 years of failed relationships. I conclude this series with one final thought about each of the posts. All require a certain level of inner strength, maturation and wholeness.

Life batters all of us to varying degrees and the resulting wounds impact our relationships. Life is also a process of growth and maturation. Some people are content to allow the process to unfold with little conscious effort while others, in the spirit of the Celestine Prophecy, choose to consciously evolve.

No one enters relationships whole. The journey of life in many ways is a journey toward wholeness. On a path where perfection is unattainable, there is always more work to do, higher levels of consciousness to attain and grander versions of ourselves to bring into being. Successful parenting does not require the perfect parent, only the good enough parent. Such is the case with successful relationships.

We must be mature enough, whole enough, intact enough, strong enough and secure enough. It requires the capacity to risk heartbreak, betrayal, rejection, abandonment and even annihilation knowing the odds of success may be minimal. This is a risk that can only be taken knowing that, regardless of what happens, I am unbreakable and I will not cease to move forward with my life’s vision.

Success requires an inner strength and resolve capable of the humility required for co-existence. We must accept our limitations as humans and be willing to own them when they manifest. We must possess the capacity to accept the limitations of our partners knowing they will fail us, sometimes in profound ways, and be willing to forgive. And…we must know what we will not tolerate.

Inner strength, maturation and wholeness allow us to lead as well as follow. We need not be the center of attention to the extent there is little room for our partner’s light to illuminate the relationship or exert control to the extent he/she becomes merely an object of gratification. Healthy relationships consist of two empowered individuals, capable of being fully independent and interdependent as well as supported and supportive of each other’s growth.

We must exercise the skills necessary for healthy interpersonal relations – frustration tolerance, emotional regulation, impulse control, communication, compromise and too many others to name. Without them we lose discernment, the balance between head and heart, and the capacity to meet inevitable challenges in ways that produce effective outcomes.

The most significant growth in our lives often comes from the relationships we enter. Inextricably linked to parental and familial experience, no other aspect of our lives recreates the intimacy of co-existence like romantic coupling. Old wounds are stimulated and patterns of relating, reacting and responding are illuminated, offering opportunities for healing and breaking free from unhealthy recurring patterns.

Paulo Coelho states that a mistake repeated more than once is a decision. Many of our recurring patterns are a function of not taking the time to learn from the past or do what is required to bring forth what lies beneath the surface. We must then channel awareness into successful action to avoid the mistakes of the past.

Psychotherapist Julia Hanks reminds us of the importance of empathy in creating a happy marriage. Intimacy, the experience of seeing into and knowing your partner at the deepest levels, requires empathy – the willingness and ability to experience the world through the psychological lens of your partner.

The desire to understand, not judge, compels the act of empathy which allows us to hold space for our partner when the wounds of their past are revealed in the present. The Daily OM communicates to us, “…when we hold space for someone in need, we are offering a gift of the highest nature.” What greater gift to give to your partner and your relationship than your presence; especially during their darkest moments.

The Hidden Lesson

Reflecting on the lessons I learned from a decade of failed relationships, the hidden lesson of humility is revealed. Being the one constant in all of my relationships I am compelled first to look within; to embrace the mirror reflecting parts of myself I wish to deny and disown. Our relationships reveal our weaknesses and vulnerabilities. We either maintain our denials or summon the courage to embrace the limitations of being human and commit to self-improvement.

What is more humbling than knowing that despite our best efforts, and all the love two people may have for each other, in the end, nothing is guaranteed. Life is an endeavor fraught with uncertainty yet few, if any, relationships are sustainable without the shift from a me orientation to a we orientation. A relationship is a shared endeavor where each party bears equal responsibility for its success, and for which consideration of one another is essential.

Sacrificing the need to be right or making our partners wrong simply because their opinions or functioning differs from ours underlies the principle of making your connection more important than your conflict. Again, a manifestation of humility only possible if we are secure and grounded in our own being.

Finally, fewer more humbling experiences exist than being entrusted with another’s vulnerability. This is not just about holding space but creating sacred space. Brene’ Brown cautions us to expose those parts of ourselves only to those who have earned the right to bear witness. Having earned that right is a sacred trust for which the ego knows it is unworthy.

Final Thoughts

It is important to view each blog in this series from the perspective of what you are giving and receiving in your relationships. Perhaps you are the one blaming your partner or not taking responsibility for your part in the relationship. Perhaps your partner is unable to hold space when life has come crashing down on you. What I have learned is a function of what I brought and failed to bring to my relationships, as well as what I received and failed to receive from my partners. No blame, ill feelings or condemnation are implied, only awareness of what was.

Despite the title of this series of blog posts, I do not believe in failure. We make decisions and choices based on the available inner resources and capacities we possess at any given time. In the end, there are only outcomes, lessons and the attainment of wisdom for the journey ahead.

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1 Response to What I Learned from a Decade of Failed Relationships (part 7)

  1. Lenny Hoffman MD says:

    Russell. Great reading.

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