Failure and Success in Relationships

The opposite of abject failure is not necessarily stunning success. It might be, of course, but more often than not, it ends in middling mediocrity.

~Some rambling Roe

Source: me ;D

I came across an interesting post on Reddit yesterday, which will be reproduced for those lazy to click on it below:

Divorce is always good news. I know that sounds weird, but it’s true because no good marriage has ever ended in divorce.

—Louis C.K.

I don’t know whether the quote’s correctly attributed, but I didn’t bother to verify its authenticity. I just felt that it’s a pretty interesting way to look at it, and thought a bit more. Which is how I ended up with the first quote after a bit of thinking.

One may say, yes, a relationship can be beneficial for both parties if it works out. But no, it goes deeper than that. This other quote on Reddit is pretty good in illustrating it:

That the both of you can be perfectly good people, but that doesn’t always mean you’re good for each other. And that’s okay.

pistachiomuffin

I interpreted that as ‘It’s possible for two people to work out as a couple, but that doesn’t always mean that you are what the other person really needs at this point in time.’


The absence of quarrels is not an automatic indicator of success in a relationship. Using this idea that there’s a good spectrum between failure and success, is it then not possible to conceive a situation that is agreeable with the second quote about ‘good marriages not ending in divorce?’

It turns out, yes, it does seem possible. Picture a marriage that lacks love, but the couple choose to remain together for practical reasons. No passion, no affection. Psychologists may call that ‘Empty Love’ based on the Triangular theory of love, and it’s pretty easy to see why they term it as such. In such a situation, one would be hard pressed to call that…well, love in the sense of what most people imagine it to be.

‘The opposite of abject failure is not necessarily stunning success.’ Of course it can be, there are quite a few miraculous stories of ‘rags to riches’ cases as there are ‘relationships that were going to implode but were saved from the brink and later grew much stronger.’

But more often than not (especially in the case of one’s first relationship), growing into the relationship happens without (significant) growing in the relationship. One gets comfortable having someone else around, but without the maturity or desire to commit, it remains simply as that. Why put all your eggs in one basket, or why limit yourself to one dish when there’s the whole buffet?

In terms of middling mediocrity, I suspect most people would have heard of someone, or may have been in a relationship like that themselves. One where the relationship is held together, not out of love, care and compassion for each other, but a fear of loneliness if separated. That is not to say loneliness doesn’t exist within strong relationships, but it seems like confident couples are better suited towards facing a world by themselves alone because they have the mental advantage of knowing they have a strong relationship with their partner. Someone that feels a heavy sense of dread in being single is apt to continue clinging on to the relationship for as long as they can, setting the stage for a fundamental change in the relationship.

Of course, if one party starts detecting this and takes advantage of the other person (through abusive behaviour or manipulation), things usually end much quicker. But take two passive individuals that don’t care much for each other, yet want to remain together because they fear being alone, and you have a pretty good recipe for a mediocre relationship.

Which is, funnily enough, not something that most people want. They are fine to moderate their expectations for what they want in a relationship partner (“oh, I’m fine if (s)he’s not of a certain height or looks like that, I don’t expect them to be sculpted/drop dead gorgeous models, I just want the guy/girl next door, etc..”), but not what they want in a relationship. I’ve certainly came across many that don’t have very high expectations for what they want in a partner, but I’ve yet to come across someone that says ‘Hey, y’know what, I’m fine with being in a relationship where my partner doesn’t love me a lot. Like, a bit is okay, I don’t need them a lot and they shouldn’t need me a lot either.’

Individuals such as these who actually do end up in romantic (not just fwb) relationships are few and far between, probably because there’s little difference (to an external observer) whether they were single or attached, given that they expect so little out of a relationship.

More commonly, one can say something like ‘yes, you don’t need to be extremely rich/smart/handsome/pretty/witty to have a strong relationship!’ That’s true, but the end goal is still a good relationship, not a mediocre one.

Different strokes for different folks, so they say. And some may certainly be okay with limited affection in a relationship, or can argue that a relationship they’re in is not as ‘mediocre’ as others may assume it to be. Certainly there are grounds, for every relationship’s different to all parties involved and to external observers.

Sometimes though, one simply needs to recognize that they need not have failed in order to have missed out on the success they wanted. That can be a first step to realizing what the third quote said: You two may work out as a couple, but you may not be what they other person needs right now, and vice-versa.

And that’s fine. Because, well, if a relationship was really what both parties needed, it’s difficult to imagine it ending in a break up. And maybe one will find what they need (not just what they want) in the future.

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