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Making It Work Together, Little by Little

The hardest thing about a relationship may be knowing whether or not it is a success. How do you even measure success in a relationship? Is it the same for each kind of relationship? If we don’t know how to see success in a relationship, how can we even know if one fails? This topic is probably larger than a blog post, but bare with me.

Can success in a relationship be simply that both people are happy? First of all, that seems unlikely as every relationship has its tough times when at least one person is not happy. Family relationships are often rocky, and sometimes family relationships create a superficial calm masquerading as happiness. Work relationships can be fraught with personality clashes, and work is not really the place where people worry about making sure everyone is happy. Intimate relationships are often started with a hope for happiness, and perhaps that expectation alone makes it harder to find a person to be happy with. Friendships might be the most likely to maintain fairly consistent happiness, or at least that two friends aren’t the cause of unhappiness very often. With all of this in mind (and this is an extremely brief survey), happiness seems like an unlikely measure of success.

Can success in a relationship be that it exists? Well, this also seems an unlikely measure, because it’s hard to apply to family relationships, which aren’t voluntary at the start at least, and work relationships, which also aren’t truly voluntary though one can choose where to work. It could only apply to friendships and intimate relationships. However, friendships may end sometimes in ways that may be difficult to think of as failure. Two people can grow apart quite naturally, and no one could be blamed for it. Also, intimate relationships may only be an animal attraction or temporary relationship due to unique circumstances that both people understand will end. The fact that it ends doesn’t necessarily mean that the time spent together or the brief relationship wasn’t a success.<

Maybe success in a relationship means that the relationship helps both people tap into the best parts of themselves or made both people better. That is a tall order in many cases. This requires both people to be interested in such a goal. However, very few people even concern themselves with the well being of others when they don’t already have some other reason that should make them care. Also, I doubt many people try to find or foster other people’s potential unless they are a parent or teacher. Lastly, people have to want to let out their better selves rather than simply take care of their needs in any relationship.

I can say from personal experience that being in an intimate relationship with someone who encourages me to be the best I can is wonderful. When I think about family, I think that is what I want from those relationships as well. I would also love to see the best they can be as well. I feel like my friendships are very much about sharing the best of ourselves and also trying to help each other be better where we need to improve. That’s not always the case, but definitely the relationship with my best friend feels that way. Lastly, the workplace seems to run a lot smoother when people work as a team, putting their talents and skills forth to achieve goals and supporting each other in becoming even better at their jobs. I’ve certainly experienced this myself and strive to do the same as a colleague.

So how do you manage failure in relationships? Well, I think it all goes back to the serenity prayer that says, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference…”1 We may consider the relationship a failure if it doesn’t bring out the best in both people or help people become better. However, you can only manage that failure through what you are willing to do with it. If you can’t achieve your best, then perhaps you can at least learn from the relationship. Furthermore, always recognize that it requires both people as well, and perhaps there are just some people who aren’t able to get along

1 Belief Net,, Aug 18, 2017. Attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr.

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