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Relationship Failure

Written by: Nigel Beckles, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


"Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently." ‒ Henry Ford, (1863- 1947) American Industrialist, Founder of the Ford Motor Company\

The natural desire of a normal, healthy human being is to love and be loved, so when a relationship commitment is made, it’s natural to expect the emotional connection to grow and deepen over a period of time. A relationship is like a contractual agreement. Each party expects to give and receive certain things, such as love and respect. Discovering your partner cannot or will not maintain a loving emotional connection based on mutual sharing and respect can cause feelings of profound sadness, emptiness, and despair. When someone feels the ‘contract’ has been breached or not fulfilled in some way, this often signals the beginning of the end.

The reality is that most of us will have several intimate partners during our lifetimes, and even with the very best intentions, relationships do not always succeed. Marriages fail at a rate of 50% on average. A tremendous number of ‘common law’ relationships also fail every day for a variety of reasons. Sometimes couples just grow apart. Perhaps at the beginning, certain warning signs were ignored, or issues that appeared manageable eventually took their toll. Perhaps the decline is a gradual process where the feelings of love and attraction slowly fade away, or it suddenly becomes apparent that the relationship just isn’t working anymore. The way it happens is often not as evident as the lack of intense feelings or attraction that no longer exists for one or both partners. Whatever the reasons, it becomes very clear the relationship is no longer viable and you or your partner have fallen out of love.

Of course, we should try to make a relationship work if this appears to be a feasible option, but we also need to understand that attempting to change or control a partner in a relationship usually sets the stage for a great deal of conflict. If you recognise your feelings have changed, be honest with your partner; do not go into denial or lie to yourself about how you really feel. Healthy relationships encourage each partner to be true to themselves while becoming a better person. When you choose to disconnect from your true feelings, it can be very difficult to know what to do for the best. Successful, healthy relationships require both partners to compromise occasionally, but constantly ignoring your own feelings and need just to keep the peace isn’t compromise; it’s total capitulation. Personal integrity means being honest and saying what needs to be said, not whatever seems to be convenient.

The pain at the end of a relationship can be distressing, but when you’re feeling deeply unhappy, it’s time to reevaluate any feelings of love that may remain and look at the situation objectively. The decision to end a relationship is not a sign of personal failure but a very responsible and courageous choice; it can take a great deal of courage to admit a relationship isn’t working anymore, with fear keeping many men and women trapped in unhealthy or deeply dysfunctional unions. Without a doubt, leaving a relationship can be a difficult decision to make; on one level, you may want to stay connected to your partner but feel the relationship no longer meets your needs and expectations, or you may recognise with great sadness that the love has simply died.

The Seven Stages Of Relationship Bereavement

"Sometimes we must get hurt in order to grow. We must fail in order to know. Sometimes our vision is clear only after our eyes are washed away with tears." ‒ Unknown

When a relationship fails, there can be deep feelings of loss and sadness over someone who was once a very important part of your life. During a relationship, we become emotionally, mentally, and spiritually attached to another human being, so it’s only natural to mourn and enter into a process of grieving. How each person deals with a break-up reflects their levels of maturity and self-awareness. While some people handle relationship failure relatively well, others can struggle with the reality of being single once again. The Seven Stages of Relationship Bereavement helps us identify the various phases in the process. It can help you evaluate how you’re coping with a recent break-up or provide insights into how you have managed previous relationship failures.

The Seven Stages

Stage 1: Shock & Denial The reality of the breakup hits home, and you may feel numb with disbelief. In order to cope with the initial shock, some people may slip into a degree of denial. This is a natural defence mechanism. At this stage, you may be totally unwilling to admit the relationship is actually over, which is a very similar reaction to dealing with the death of a loved one. A jilted lover may refuse to acknowledge the relationship is over and continue to call, text, or arrange to ‘accidentally’ be in the same place as their ex-partner. This type of behaviour is known as stalking and is not acceptable. If someone has made it clear the relationship is over, the ex-partner should respect that and leave them alone.

Stage 2: Pain & Guilt The initial shock begins to subside, but now the emotional pain begins to take hold. This stage may be one of the more difficult to manage, but it is absolutely necessary for proper healing to take place. Although the pain may be unbearable at times, it’s important to accept the situation and deal with it in healthy ways. Immediately seeking out another relationship (being on the ‘rebound’), turning to drugs, alcohol, or other risky behaviour can be very damaging to emotional recovery and personal health. The person may also begin to feel guilt and deep sadness regarding how they may have contributed to the breakdown of the relationship.

Stage 3: Anger & Bargaining It is perfectly natural to want the emotional pain to end quickly, so trying to bargain in various ways to make the negative feelings go away can be quite prominent at this stage. Any underlying frustrations usually begin to surface during this stage, and after a person experiences the sharp pain of his or her loss, they may begin to look for someone to blame. Some people can even lash out at their ex-partners or whoever they consider to be the cause of the breakup. It is important to be careful during this stage as feelings of anger and other strong emotions can cloud sound judgment, so maintaining composure is vital.

The rejected partner may want to ask questions to try to understand why the relationship failed or even find themselves praying for a reconciliation. Alternatively, once the anger has passed, a person may resort to tactics like grovelling or making outrageous claims in order to win back their former partner. Unrealistic promises are usually made out of desperation, and even if the romance is rekindled, the relationship will often fail again, usually quite quickly.

Stage 4: Depression & Loneliness This occurs when it becomes clear that any bargaining that may have been attempted will not be successful. The person may appear to give up all hope of rescuing the relationship and fall into a depression. There may be a lack of interest in eating, sleeping, socializing, or participating in routine daily tasks. Some people lose focus at work, while others neglect their personal appearance or even let their homes become disorganised and untidy. Although friends and family may attempt to console them, this may not be entirely effective. The sadness often leads to periods of quiet reflection and contemplation. This is quite normal and necessary, so this stage should not be rushed. Some people may take longer than others during Stage 4 as they absorb and fully acknowledge the magnitude of their loss. Coping with emotions that may still feel raw can be difficult during this stage, so it’s best to take it easy and seek to maintain calm and objective. Feelings of emptiness, despair, and loneliness can be a major challenge, but with the passage of time, these emotions eventually begin to fade.

Stage 5: The Upward Turn This stage begins the more positive side of the healing process. As the person starts to adjust to life without a significant other, they begin to feel some relief from the sadness and pain. The depression or sadness may still linger, but now they develop a daily mental and emotional routine that doesn’t include their ex-partner, and life begins to return to normal.

Stage 6: Reconstruction As this stage begins, the person has generally begun a more functional existence and begins to focus on rebuilding his or her life. It is critical to work on redefining oneself and coping more effectively in the aftermath of a relationship loss. This may involve setting personal goals such as joining a gym, starting a new hobby or interest, returning to studying or looking for a new job. Stage 6 is also a great opportunity to spend some time looking within and pursuing personal growth while integrating the lessons from the break-up. This can be a very positive phase that provides emotional reconstruction and a new direction in life.

Stage 7: Acceptance & Hope This is the final stage of the process. The reality of the relationship breakdown has been accepted and is now part of his or her personal history. It’s quite normal to still feel sadness over the loss occasionally, but now there is a positive, peaceful perspective. There is optimism for each new day, with the knowledge that single life can be a great adventure and represents freedom. In the final stage of grief, the dumped partner finally comes to terms with the end of the relationship and is ready to begin truly healing and moving forward with life. While being aware that things will not suddenly be perfect and there might still be a few rough days ahead, acceptance that the relationship is over can be fully acknowledged.

It is possible to fluctuate between stages and even revert back to a previous stage, but this is quite normal.

Embrace Your Tears

"Life is full of happiness and tears; be strong and have faith." ‒ Kareena Kapoor Khan, Indian Actress

When a relationship ends, it can feel like a major part of your life has just suddenly disappeared. You can find yourself feeling empty, lonely, and sad and, depending on your age and circumstances, the prospect of carrying on alone may seem quite daunting. Regardless of what you may have been told or believe, research strongly suggests that crying is healthy and aids in the release of sadness and stress. Studies indicate crying stimulates the production of certain endorphins, which are natural painkillers and work to improve moods and provide human beings with positive feelings. So, generally, it appears that after crying, people actually feel better both physically and psychologically, but feel worse when the urge to cry is suppressed. Crying can help us cope with loss and has the potential psychological benefit of lifting our mood. However, frequent or prolonged episodes of crying can be a sign of depression or even Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder {PTSD}.

Mental health professionals consider various states of depression following a relationship failure to be natural and a normal part of the grieving process. While psychologists have identified the different stages of grief, it’s important to remember that the progression from one stage to another is totally dependent on the individual. For example, after a breakup, a person may find themselves feeling depressed (Stage 4) for three months, while someone else may move forwards or backwards through the various stages in a matter of weeks. There are people who can handle relationship failure quite well, but others can struggle with the reality of being single. Some experts claim that for every year of a relationship, it takes approximately a month to recover, while others believe if a couple has been together for a year, it can take around six months for a partner to fully recover from the split. Another factor in the grieving and recovery process is who makes the decision to leave.

The person who decides to end a relationship generally recovers quite quickly when compared to a partner who has been rejected and dumped. A clear decision followed by clear action usually results in feelings of empowerment, but the rejected ex-partner can be left feeling powerless or inadequate in some way, so his or her recovery time may take longer. Everyone copes with relationship bereavement differently, so there isn’t a ‘one size fits all' for each stage of the overall process.

The Seven Stages of Relationship Bereavement can often be a day-by-day, week-by-week gradual process, and how a person reacts to a marriage or relationship failure can depend on a variety of different factors, including the following:

Age: A teenager may experience greater emotional pain and distress compared with an adult.

Experience: A person’s first break-up may feel more intense, and the emotional pain may linger for a longer period of time than subsequent break-ups.

Character: Certain personalities adapt to change, failure, and rejection better than others. Their emotional programming will often be a major factor that influences how they react.

Support: When a person has a strong support network such as family or close friends, the recovery process will usually be easier.

Understand that resisting any stage of the grieving process will prolong your recovery. After a relationship failure, blaming, complaining, and feeling resentful are all forms of resistance that can waste a lot of time and energy. If you have been through a break-up recently, do you keep yourself busy by blaming your former partner? Do you resent being on your own and wish things could have been different? Do you believe your emotional pain is entirely his or her fault? When we feel confused or rejected, it can seem much easier to blame someone else for our pain, believing they are responsible. If you insist on playing the ‘blame game’ for your relationship failures, you’re being fundamentally dishonest while trying to evade responsibility for your own choices, expectations, and behaviour. It will be virtually impossible to find healing and understanding while you are busy insisting that someone else is to blame for how you feel.

"What you resist persists." ‒ Carl Jung, Swiss Psychiatrist & Psychotherapist

Pursuing greater self-awareness means asking yourself questions instead of blaming someone else, questions like, ‘How did I attract that person into my life?’, ‘What unresolved issues did I bring into the relationship?’, ‘What did I learn about myself?’, and ‘What lessons can I learn from the experience?’ This approach can be highly productive and is certainly much better than burning up valuable emotional energy blaming someone else for everything. None of us can expect to attract a kind, loving, and caring mate if we continue to insist on blaming an ex-partner for making us feel angry, bitter, or sad.

After a break-up, it can be easy to fall into the habit of obsessing about your ex-partner and wishing things had been different, but this is also a form of resistance. If you find yourself reminiscing excessively after a break-up, try to monitor your thoughts and moods carefully and think about something else whenever you catch yourself reminiscing about anything connected to the relationship. Focusing on your ex-partner when there is no realistic prospect of reconciliation is a waste of energy. This delays understanding the lessons to be learnt from the relationship and its failure.

Allow the grieving process to unfold naturally and avoid putting yourself under pressure to get over a failed relationship as quickly as possible. Spend some time examining your role in any relationship drama; try to be honest with yourself and to accept responsibility for anything you may have done that may have been unfair or damaging to the other person. This approach provides an excellent opportunity to explore and heal any emotional baggage that may be sabotaging your relationship choices. If you find yourself constantly struggling with overwhelming feelings of grief or loss, seek professional support and advice.

The Way Forward

"Turn your wounds into wisdom." Oprah Winfrey, American Talk Show Host, Actress, Producer & Philanthropist

When a relationship is over, for whatever reason, it is time to accept the situation and move on. It can be tempting to put your future on hold, hoping for reconciliation, but this leaves little room to handle the grieving and healing process effectively. Wishing and hoping for things to be different is not realistic or healthy, and many men and women often abdicate responsibility for their own healing by refusing to let go of a relationship gracefully. A relationship failure, although often painful, can be a very valuable learning experience, and how each of us manages these experiences indicates our individual levels of maturity and self-awareness. Those who are generally well-balanced, self-aware, and emotionally healthy often recover relatively quickly as they understand a relationship failure is nothing to be ashamed of. A breakup can be considered as a huge disaster or part of your journey through life: it’s just a matter of perspective.

While every relationship is unique and each break-up is different, the specific lessons for each of us can be very clear if we pay attention. Some people can waste too much time and energy brooding on what ‘went wrong’ rather than taking the time to reflect and learn the lessons at hand. Instead of giving ourselves a hard time about making a ‘mistake’ we should embrace what each relationship has the potential to teach us. When we fail to take responsibility for our part in the demise of the union, this sets us up to carry any unresolved issues into the following relationship where we will probably encounter very similar issues. The end of a relationship doesn’t usually feel like something to celebrate, but these events can present a valuable opportunity for self-evaluation and personal growth. A relationship failure also opens up new romantic possibilities, to eventually meeting someone new who may be a much better compatibility match than your previous partner. Living in the present and planning for the future means leaving the past behind once it has been properly understood and any emotional issues have been fully healed. Wanting to be in a relationship and actually being ready for one are two very different mindsets.

One of the biggest mistakes many people make is rushing into the dating game when they’re not mentally and emotionally prepared. They become involved ‘on the rebound', looking for someone to distract them from the feelings of failure, unhappiness, or low self-esteem. It can be very tempting to look for a quick fix to soothe feelings of hurt and disappointment, and when someone is vulnerable, their personal judgement can be badly impaired. A sexual adventure, a new partner or trying to rekindle a failed relationship can all at first seem like good ideas for a quick fix to soothe feelings of unhappiness, but many people are left feeling much worse when these types of liaisons inevitably fizzle out. Generally, when someone enters into a new relationship without fully coming to terms with the loss of an ex-partner, he or she is usually setting themselves up to fail. Always give yourself enough time to reflect and heal before deciding to date again. When you feel ready to go on a few fun dates, this can help to shift the focus away from the past and onto new possibilities that may have the potential to provide long-term happiness.

Book Extract: ‘How to Avoid Making the BIG Relationship Mistakes!’ Available @ Amazon

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Nigel Beckles, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Nigel Beckles is an Author, Certified Relationship Specialist & Coach, holds a Dealing With Narcissism Diploma and Psychology of Relationships Diploma. He is an Educator, Online Adviser and Workshop Facilitator. Nigel is a contributor to the award-winning documentary ‘Looking for Love’ available on DVD and online. He is also the creator of the podcast 'Interesting Conversations with Interesting People' featuring Interviews with Award-Winning Authors, Therapists & Relationship Life Coaches. All Podcasts Available @ Website: his work involves guiding men and women through difficult relationship issues.





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