Failure? Or success? Was your last relationship either? Could it have been both? And if it ends, is it necessarily a failure?
I had always felt as if the ending of each relationship, particularly my engagement, was a failure. I suppose I have defined a successful relationship as one that lasts forever. About a year ago my friend Ryan mentioned an article in GQ magazine in which a celebrity discussed how he could not understand why his marriage, which is apparently coming to an end, is viewed as a failure (said celebrity is now playing house with Angelina Jolie). The actor said something to the effect that he rejected the idea that a relationship not being flawless or permanent renders it a failure--despite the beauty and honesty of the time two people had together.
I do not think that a marriage that ends in divorce as being successful. By its very definition, I think marriage is something that should last as long as the two who entered it live (with the exception of the Biblical exceptions—but even given those, you would not define that ending marriage as successful). I am, however, wondering if a dating relationship can be a success even if ultimately the two daters are not meant to have a permanent relationship. Prior to attempting to surrender my dating relationships to God (the first 26 years of my life), I would have voted that any relationship that doesn't make it "fails." Or at least it felt like failure (except for the ones in which I didn’t really care about the other person…I know—that’s sad).
Now I can see how a dating relationship could not result in marriage but still be a success. So what I'm thinking about now is why my view has changed. Off the top of my head, I think part of it is that I’m focusing more on what God wants (His plan) than my plan, which has often been based on what seems easiest or other faulty criteria. I also think that the way in which most of us date—“playing house” and practically living together (if not completely living together) and acting as if we’re married (basing all important decisions and social plans on the relationship) from a very early stage of the relationship is bound to lead to disappointment and feelings of failure. Even if you’re not having sex, if you’re together more days than not and spending the night together, you’re playing house and making it very difficult to let someone go if the relationship isn’t in God’s plan. Why not save some things for marriage?
So perhaps a successful dating relationship is one in which both people strive to treat the other as God instructs us to in the Bible and both have a respect for the other and for God that helps them set boundaries so that if the relationship ends, it feels less like divorce or failure or enormous disappointment and more like a relationship that honored and glorified God rather than our selfish desires for companionship, intimacy, and the like.