I remember licking my wounds over a cup of tea with a friend back in 2002. The main topic of discussion was my very fresh separation from a woman I had lived with for some eight years.
Are you facing a relationship breakup?
I recall starting the conversation by announcing: ''Well, I have fucked up again!'' My friend, an ex-girlfriend herself, responded: ''Of course, that is what you do''.
When I went on to explain that my relationship had drawn to a close, my friend asked: ''How is that fucking up?''
Upon questioning whether a successful relationship wasn't one that endured, my friend responded: ''But it did endure, eight years!''
She was, of course, right. For most of those eight years, my relationship was successful. In fact, based on how well we got on, how much fun we had and how infrequently we were at war, I would suggest that it was very successful.
But it did come to an end, which I viewed as a failure, and thus, a fuck up.
My friend didn't. She takes the view that every relationship has a life span and it's the quality of the relationship during that life span that is the measure of success. She also believes that managing a separation with a minimum of anxiety, with both parties still talking to each other, is in itself a success, and quite clearly it is.
While my previous partner and I were never married, the point I am making is no less valid in a defacto relationship than in a formal marriage.
If a relationship goes well, both parties enjoy it and appreciate, willingly or otherwise, that it has run its natural life. While there will be pain, there is also success.
Failure comes when the relationship, while it lasts, is unhappy, runs longer than it should (to the detriment of both parties), or they cannot part with honour and civility.
My relationship was a simple one. We didn't have children. That said, i would argue that while the needs of children should always come first, children are also not well-served in a household with unhappy parents, parents who stay together too long, or those who can't appreciate that the relationship is over and part with dignity.
This is not to say that a relationship should ever end without both parties giving it their best shot. But once it is clear that it's run its course, failure involves sticking with something that is not working to the detriment of all parties (including children).
Even if all parties understand that it is over and that it is in everyone’s best interests to part, there will still be emotional pain. In many cases, that pain will be extreme. But it will almost certainly be better managed if the relationship ends when it is over, and is not dragged out.
Marriage is seen as being for life and in my view, that is the outcome that all parties should aspire to. But life in 2018 is very different to life in 1950.
The environment we live in today comes with extremely different pressures than existed in 1950. There is also evidence that divorce rates in the '50s were so low because many women put up with poor relationships because they had no source of independent income, no job prospects, and a need for financial and practical support. This has changed a great deal since then.
I've never given a damn what the community thinks about me or my relationships. Frankly, I can't see that it is anyone’s business but mine. Hopefully more people are thinking like this, as the world opens up and religion dies a natural death.
The point I am trying to make here is that the object of a relationship is happiness for both parties.
And it is best served when all parties make the most of the relationship, recognise when it is coming to an end (while retaining the notion of married for life), and then end it when it has run its course (at death, or at any time prior).
What do you think?