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Dealing with a Failed or Failing Relationship-The 6 Abilities You Need Right Now

One of the few commonalities of all successful people is that they have typically failed a great many times, maybe even more than they have prevailed.

Relationships exemplify that margin of victory and defeat more than any other emotional matter in the world.

My last two posts have focused on relationships and how to choose one that is good for you or identify one that is bad for you and needs correction. One that could even be causing you serious mental health issues like depression, anxiety and chronic anger. One that is  interfering with other aspects of your life. The other type of relationship is when you have somehow sabotaged it, consciously or unconsciously, based on limiting beliefs about yourself or life in general. In all of the above, dysfunctional thoughts and patterns are likely to be evident.

The reason for this post on failure is to hopefully reach you with the message that it is OK to fail, even in love, and to not beat yourself up over it. I have had clients believe that because they chose a terrible person or stayed too long in a bad relationship that they were losers themselves. This kind of self flagellation does nothing constructive for your self esteem or the rest of your life. You made a mistake, end of story. If you choose the wrong detergent at the store you don’t spend years worrying about it. If it ruins your clothes its not your fault. Id like you to get closer to that mentality in your relationships as well.

Easier said than done, I know. You probably have put yourself out there fully, trusting and hoping that this person you have chosen will appreciate and love you back. Or that the friend you have chosen will prove trustworthy with your friendship and trust. Nothing is more emotionally painful than a betrayal by someone you loved and trusted.

When this happens and when the relationship doesn’t work out the best you can do for yourself is be armed with the abilities and mindset to move on. There really isn’t a lot of choice in the matter if you think about it. Staying stuck in the pain and beating yourself up is a choice that robs you of any future joy and steals precious time from your life.

Technically, it may be the other person who failed, they are the one who was unable to carry out a healthy relationship. Your part in the failure may be not recognizing it or acting on it sooner. Or by choosing someone based on your emotional baggage that can never work out or reciprocate your love. There are a gazillion of those people out there unfortunately and without the right mindset and abilities it is likely you may meet one and keep them around too long.

The Abilities You Need to Develop to Deal with A Failed Relationship:

  1. The ability to recognize in yourself the dysfunctional patterns that keep you choosing the wrong person. Patterns most likely learned in childhood or young adulthood.
  2. The correction mechanisms of these patterns.
  3. The ability to take things at a pace that allows you to think and be mindful about what is going on.
  4. The ability to overcome the fear of being alone if things don’t work out.
  5. The ability to build the ongoing attitude of hope and optimism that frees you to choose someone else in the future. This is called building resilience, a critical part of our emotional makeup.
  6. The ability to not dwell in the past.  Look forward, not backward.
  7. The ability to enrich your life with enough other things to keep you busy and distracted for a while. These things provide balance to your life and a focus outside of your personal relationship.

As you notice, I call these abilities as opposed to tools. They are processes, thinking patterns  that are needed for you to be able to work through difficult things that happen in life. These are the mechanisms that emotionally successful people have in place. These thinking patterns are most likely things that were not taught or fostered in you, therefore leaving you with an inability to thrive in a healthy relationship right from the start. They can be learned, no matter where you are starting from or what age you are. It is never too late.

It is not too late to learn any of these things and in fact they are things that are critical to learn and start to apply in all areas of your life right now. The lack of this knowledge is not a character flaw in you nor a chemical disorder in your brain. It is not a sign that you are unloveable, bad, shameful or disgusting.  It is simply something you haven’t learned.

Being armed with this knowledge does not mean you will never fail again, it makes it more unlikely but doesn’t fully prevent it. What it does do is assist you with dealing with the failure effectively rather than allow it to become how you identify yourself. We all fail, it is the human condition. We all feel bad when we fail, but we cant let that failure take over who we are. It is just a part of us, not all of us. We tried something, we failed, we move on to the next thing.  That is the healthy path.

Dealing with a Failed or Failing Relationship-The 6 Abilities You Need Right Now

Audrey Sherman, Ph.D.

Dr. Audrey Sherman is a licensed psychologist, coach and the author of the book Dysfunction Interrupted-How to Quickly Overcome Depression, Anxiety and Anger Starting Now. Her expertise is in defining, describing and transforming dysfunctional behavior and thought patterns learned in childhood or beyond that keep you anxious, depressed, angry, stuck in unhappy and unproductive relationships, jobs and more. Dr. Sherman developed the Dysfunctional Patterns Quiz and other free resources to help you determine the effects of these on your life. She works with individuals, conducts live and online workshops and trains others in her programs. To learn more about Dr. Sherman, you can visit her website.

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APA Reference
Sherman, A. (2019). Dealing with a Failed or Failing Relationship-The 6 Abilities You Need Right Now. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 1, 2020, from


Last updated: 5 Mar 2019
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