No ‘happily ever after’ for your relationships? You’re not a failure

Written by:

Winston Lam

Winston Lam

Winston is a psychologist who is passionate about the underlying mechanisms that influence social interactions, human behaviour, and self improvement.


Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on whatsapp
Share on linkedin
Share on telegram


There’s a story about an accomplished anthropologist. She was asked this question: “If you know so much about humanity, why did all three of your marriages fail?”

She replied: “None of my marriages was a failure, they just ended.”

There is this cultural philosophy that the hallmark of a successful and meaningful relationship is a lasting one. This article is to tell you that that’s far from the case.

Because of this entrenched belief, many people beat themselves up when their relationships come to an end. They think they failed as a person, or they become miserable trying to maintain a relationship that is just not meant to be. Relationships can be temporary, or fleeting even, and when they end, it does not mean the people involved failed, or that the relationship meant nothing.

What people should strive for is not longevity of relationships, but fulfillment from the experience. 

A heteronormative construct?

This longevity-above-all notion arguably stems from the heteronormative construct built on the marriage institution, the idea that “till death do us apart”.

While the intent for this may be good, this idea can become toxic when held onto too strongly. And this is true for all kinds of relationships, gay or straight.

There are so many reasons how sometimes a divorce or breakup is better for both parties than if you tried to “make it work”. It can open up more opportunities for you and your partner to learn and grow and be happy.

Of course, that is not to say that we should just give up on our relationship whenever we face conflicts or adversity. But we also should learn to recognise when to decide to end a relationship. There is no shame in doing what is best for yourself.

This extends to even love itself. When I broke up with my ex a few years back, we still loved each other. And I still loved him for a long time afterwards.

By the way, me loving him did not mean I wanted to be back with him, I loved that he exists as a person, and I do not need him to do anything for me, I just wanted him to be happy.

But this idea that one day I might stop loving him scared me. I did not want that to happen, because I thought that love should be without end. But it did happen, because he’s changed and I’ve changed. I still loved the him I knew during that period, but I’ve learnt that most things in life are temporary.

And that’s okay. The experience I had about him and its impact on me as a person was the meaningful part. 

What I’m trying to say is that we should prioritise lastingness as our value and hope, but embrace the moments that we get.

Hold the memories close to your heart and appreciate your experiences. Like Diane from my favourite show Bojack Horseman once said: “I think there are people that help you become the person that you end up being, and you can be grateful for them even if they were never meant to be in your life forever.”

This post is brought to you by PULSE CLINIC. PULSE CLINICS provide quality healthcare for all and are located in Thailand, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore with a worldwide collaboration and support system. Here to help, not to judge.