Why The Length Of A Relationship Doesn't Indicate How Successful It Was

by Dan Scotti

In the year 2015, so much is reliant upon the idea of instant gratification.

Over the past few decades, our patience, as a society, has run thin. We’ve lost appreciation for the process -- the method by which results are developed -- and all we really seem to pay any mind to are the results, themselves.

And while results are important, they’re not always the most telling.

For instance, I could spend the next two years trying to get some hypothetical startup off the ground.

Over the course of those two years, I might’ve made countless sacrifices and spent many nights sleepless only to watch my startup dreams fall short or never leave the ground.

Now, if I were to reflect back on those two years and try to conclude whether or not they were a waste of time -- I’d have to look further than just the results, themselves. See, the results will only tell you one side of the story. In order to fully gauge a situation, you need far more perspective.

I’ve noticed this type of tunnel vision pops up a lot when people discuss relationships, or quote, unquote, failed ones, at that. Whenever a relationship doesn’t work out -- or doesn’t work out for that long, at any rate -- many people consider it regrettable.

Regardless of how long the relationship may have lasted or how beautiful it might have been while it did, it’s almost as if anything short of marriage will equate to failure, for a lot of people.

But relationships require much more context.

I, for one, have always maintained a rather different attitude toward relationships, and life, in general. Personally, I understand results are important, but I also am aware that they’re far from defining.

Think about LeBron James’ career, for instance. It’s hard to deny that he’s been the greatest talent the league has seen since Jordan retired (really retired). That said, he has also lost in each of the last two NBA Finals and was long considered a “choke” prior to being crowned champion in 2012.

With basketball, everyone loves to use “championship rings” as a barometer for success. Whereas Jordan has six, LeBron only has two -- but if you tried to judge LeBron James solely by his results in NBA Finals, you’d only doing yourself a disservice.

Ruminating over past relationships isn’t much different. A relationship that lasted six years may appear to be more successful than one that lasted only two, but, in reality, they’re impossible to compare. The length of your relationship offers very little insight into anything more than how long two people chose to put up with each other.

I know old couples, married for half a century plus, who have been miserable together for the majority of that time. Then again, you may have a summer fling you’ll carry along with you for years. When push comes to shove, time will tell you nothing but “I told you so.”

The manner in which you choose to spend your time, on the other hand, is always a more accurate barometer.

During those times of quiet reflection, try to think more deeply about your relationships before judging them.

Think about more than simply the amount of time you spent invested in them. Think about the person you were before that relationship -- and the person you are now.

Few relationships are truly regrettable because few relationships don’t expire without some return of wisdom. And I know it’s difficult, at times, to see the forest for the trees -- but success, or apparent success, can be a fickle friend.

Be mindful of the bigger picture, the domino effect that probably ensued following the breakup. Every relationship serves a purpose; it usually will just require some period of time to pass before you’re able to see that purpose for what it is.

Even if your relationship only lasted one month, it likely changed you. Now, whether or not you let that relationship change you for the better is left in your hands. But, from my experience, I’ve noticed that some of the most influential moments in my life have come on the heels of some relationship going up in flames.

“Failed” relationships force you to regroup, to head back to the drawing board and figure out where things went wrong. Take each relationship for what it is -- part of the bigger picture that is your life.

Whether it was a long chapter -- or a small footnote -- it’s of little importance, as long as its message is received. If you choose to receive that message, I’m sure you’ll find a way to make it happen -- with any relationship, long or short.