To many people, a good relationship is one that makes you happy or that lasts a long time. We are quick to judge a relationship as failed when it is not as long-lived as we’d like, or if we weren’t happy in it.
Instead of judging and labelling our relationships, perhaps we should just accept them as they come. Yet being human, we want to understand our relationships, analyse them, and satisfy ourselves that they meant something.
If we insist on evaluating our relationships, then we could at least adopt a broader perspective. Even a brief, unhappy relationship could have a purpose in your life. Here are some alternative ways to judge the ‘goodness’ of a relationship.
Did you learn something?
Every relationship holds a lesson. Sometimes we learn about human nature – an abusive or cheating partner helps us to wise up and become better judges of character. Other times we learn about other people – we realise that people love us in the best way they know how, not necessarily in the way we want them to. And sometimes we learn about ourselves – do we become insecure and jealous as intimacy grows, or do we relax and trust more.
Did you make a new friend?
Life is a state of flux. People change and so do relationships. Mere acquaintances can fall in love and marry. Close friends can fall out and become mere acquaintances. We can choose to be hurt when a relationship tapers off in intensity, or we can be grateful that the intense period brought us close enough to stay in touch afterwards. If a relationship ended with deep hurt, it may take time before friendship is possible but it’s certainly possible.
Did you breathe easier?
Some relationships come into our lives at a time when we are desperately in need of companionship and friendship. Think of these people as angels, sent to help you stand on your own two feet when you didn’t have the energy or will yourself. Once you were better, their job was done and they quietly leave your life. Don’t resent them for disappearing, but thank them for coming.
Did you give your best?
Many people at the end of their lives wish they’d loved more, not less. Every relationship is a chance to love as much as we can, without counting the cost or holding back from fear of hurt. When we understand that relationships are not about what we can get out of them, but what we can give, we would have started to understand love. Relationships define us, make us who we are. Did you define yourself through this relationship as someone who gives his best?
Did you grow?
Ultimately all life is about growing. A baby, a seedling, a puppy… they don’t ask endless questions about the meaning of life. They just grow, as they were born to do. We can do the same. Relationships offer unparalleled opportunities for growth. Often we grow most when we hurt most, just like diamonds sparkle best when they’re cut a myriad times. We’re all diamonds in the rough, and relationships help to make us into polished gems – both tough and beautiful.
Did you make the world a better place?
Every relationship changes the world. Perhaps a child is born out of love; or a couple produces inspiring music or uplifting poetry; even the mere act of holding hands could have been seen by somebody and brought hope and encouragement to that person. If your relationship sent out good vibes, then you made the world a better place.
All relationships leave their footprints on the cosmos. Someday when we have better vision, we may see the intricate pattern of our footprints and realise that all those relationships that came and went were actually part of an elaborate dance of life. What makes a dance beautiful are precisely the twists and turns, the doubling back, the moving in circles, the changing of partners. Was yours a dance of joy? Of hope? Of love?