No, a Breakup Is Not a Failure, and Relationship Experts Can Explain Exactly Why

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Whether societal, familial, religious, or coming from you, yourself, it's easy to feel pressure riding on the "success" of a romantic relationship. That is, there's a widely held belief that a given union is meant to be lifelong, result in marriage, and be totally fulfilling—and anything less than that is a waste of time. While there’s nothing wrong with wanting a life partner and even embracing the fact that you've found one as a success of sorts, it's important to also understand that breakups aren't failures. In fact, relationship therapists say the notion is not only self-defeating but plain old incorrect.

Experts In This Article

Relationship and dating expert Jess Carbino, PhD, former sociologist for Tinder and Bumble, adds that romantic relationships provide a space for people “to be able to step back and analyze how to really consider what they want and what they are going to try to accomplish in their next relationship.” With that in mind, instead of regarding breakups as failures, it would be more beneficial to consider them as an opportunity for self-growth.

“Romantic relationships are where we're going to do most of our healing, grounding, and growing,” licensed marriage and family therapist Jaqueline Méndez, LMFT, previously told Well+Good. And that’s true regardless of how long long the union lasts—meaning, in a sense, every relationship is actually a success, regardless of its duration.

The societal phenomenon of equating relationship continuity—rather than relationship happiness, and health—with success can also often be internalized, says couples therapist Larry Letich. This, he says, is another reason why many folks need to be reminded that breakups aren't failures. “Once we commit our hearts, our nervous system tells us that this is supposed to be forever,” he says. “So once it's not forever, it is the same nervous system that starts making you have doubts, or maybe signaling that because it didn't last forever, that relationship didn't reach its full potential.”

“Regardless of how long your relationship lasts, you get to learn your communication and love styles." —sex therapist Chanta Blue, LCSW

But the pros agree that if you're committing to to introspecting and learning from your romantic relationships, even if they do result in a breakup, you’re not failing one bit. “Regardless of how long your relationship lasts, you get to learn your communication and love styles [and] how you manage your individual identity while also making time for a significant other,” says Chanta Blue, LCSW, sex therapist and licensed clinical social worker, adding that breakups can be particularly potent in helping you figure out which characteristics you’re looking for in a future romantic partner. “When we look at it this way, we can focus on our growth—and that is the main goal of life,” Blue adds.

To help facilitate this growth, consider the following questions and let them also serve as a reminder that breakups aren't failures.

  1. “What did I like about this person and my relationship with them?”
  2. "What didn’t I like about it?"
  3. "What would I prefer from future romantic connections?”
  4. “What did I like about myself while I was in this relationship?”
  5. "What didn’t I like about myself while I was in this relationship and how can I work to change that?”

Focusing on what you took from the relationship and how it might help inform future romantic wins (as opposed to ruminating why the relationship resulted in a breakup in the first place) will help you to stop dwelling on the past and reorient you to instead focus on your bright future.

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