Global Classroom Certifications

Is There Such Thing as a Failed Relationship?

by Don Polsy

I remember being a little girl of about nine and going to the supermarket one day with my mother. I was wandering around the aisles alone – having abandoned her at the tomatoes – utterly bored by the tedium of shopping (to this day I hate supermarkets.)

I remember having a dirty tissue in my pocket, snot-wrung and worn. I pulled it out and threw it on the tiled floor, walking on.

But the tissue called to me. I had abandoned it. How could I just throw it away, be so insensitive? To my young mind the tissue had a soul and I had wronged it.

Pretty deep thoughts for a nine-year-old but I clearly remember thinking them. They have stayed with me all my life. Such was the intensity of my relationship with that raggy piece of Kleenex.

At the same time I knew that the tissue had served its purpose and it was time to move on. I left it on the ground. I walked away.

Fast forward eleven years and I began the process of having relationships with boys a.k.a. interactive tissues with minds of their own and real live souls.



Ah yes, the boyfriends. A girl’s solid rock, her other half, the strong shoulder, voice of reason, bone of contention, heart, body and mind …. while it lasts of course.

It has only recently dawned on me how many relationships I have had in my life and because of what I perceive as their failure, how much of them and my life I discount and discard as used and useless.

But just because a relationship doesn’t last doesn’t mean that it wasn’t worthy.

Generally when we think of ‘failed relationships,’ anger is the first emotion to surface. I get angry at my exes for not being who I wanted them to be.

‘But you have high standards,’ a fried of mine reminded me when my most recent relationship began to turn sour. So what? I thought. Isn’t it better to have high standards?

The thing with high standards is that it is very hard to accept people for who they are if you always want them to be something else. (Thankfully people are different and one woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure.)

Plus my yearning for standards has a sinister side.

I test my boys early on in the relationship. But I don’t tell them that I am testing them. No, that would be logical and all logic goes out the window when I enter a relationship.

Once they fail the test, I loose respect. I don’t tell them that I have lost respect. I just get more and more annoyed until my annoyance reaches boiling point finally causing me or him to end the relationship.

I have no problem admitting that I was complicit in the demise of the relationship but there is a danger point with this type of thinking too.

It serves no purpose to blame. We can only recognise and try to improve. And I have to accept that it might take me time to improve. That’s just the way it is. I am not a robot.

But I also have the right to take their behaviour into consideration and assess where it went wrong for me. If I look at this honestly I can usually spot the exact trait that drove me mad.

It’s typical that when a relationship ends, we sit around wondering why that person doesn’t love us anymore. What’s difficult to accept is that we wanted the relationship to end and that’s why it ended.

What we need to remember in these moments is that love doesn’t stop. It never ends.

I will always love all my boys but I wouldn’t have any of them back. If I did, I know that maddening trait would rear its head and before long I’d be furious with him once again.

While contemplating the question of what makes a relationship work, I decided to ask two ladies with more experience than me at long-term unions. One had been married 14 years, the other 40 (both their husbands passed away.)

Without any knowledge of the other’s answer, both responded with the same one word – respect. They both agreed that love is nothing without respect.

Because it is only with respect that we truly care about the feelings of another and would never dream of throwing them away for fear of how it might affect them.

And that has to work both ways.

When it doesn’t, relationships end. And you know what, when someone hurts you repeatedly, it’s ok to loose respect for them because it’s obvious they don’t respect you.

And it’s ok to demand respect from the next person. When you do that, you say to the world that you are worthy of respect.

So just remember that when a relationship ends, what you are saying to the world and more importantly to yourself, is that I respect myself too much to stay with someone who doesn’t respect me enough.

There is no failure in that.