Did they make you happy?
I’ll admit it: I have a few failed relationships on my portfolio already.
But I don’t regret any of them.
One idea that always both intrigued and enraged me was the notion that being in a relationship with someone who is not “the one” is a waste of time.
Waste: “an unnecessary or wrong use of money, substances, time, energy, abilities, etc”, according to the Cambridge dictionary.
So how, exactly, would we consider a relationship a “waste of time”?
A. If it was unnecessary? Well, in technical terms, all relationships are unnecessary. We have them because we enjoy them. Right?
B. If it was wrong? How can a relationship be wrong? There are a few possibilities here: if there is any kind of abuse, physical, emotional, or otherwise. If you bring each other more pain than joy. If you harm each other and your lives are worse together than apart.
But most times, this is not what happens, is it? Relationships are good, they bring you joy, they make you happy. But, sooner or later, they come to an end. While this is usually painful, does it mean it shouldn’t have existed in the first place?
The idea of a waste of time evokes the notion of an end goal — you wasted your time because you wanted to reach a certain goal with this relationship but failed to do so. But what is the goal of a relationship? Living together, getting married, having kids? If this is how you look at a relationship, hoping to get somewhere, then you are missing its purpose altogether.
The purpose of a relationship is to make you happy, and happiness is an in-the-moment feeling. Does this relationship make you happy today? If the answer is yes, even if it ends next month, next year, it won’t have been a waste of time.
Plus, you learn with each relationship. There will be an abusive one that will teach you to read red flags well in advance. One with a jealous partner that will teach you about the importance of independence. A long-distance one that will show you that a relationship is more than the romantic ideal of “love and a cabin”, it’s about practical stuff too.
There will be plenty of lessons if only you are open to learning them. Each and every one of them will be important and will shape you as a person.
When you’re 80, sitting on a swing chair, reminiscing about life, you will remember these people with a smile on your face.
You will casually tell the stories of your adventures with your lovers to your grandchildren — probably hiding the details, who needs them anyway?
These grandchildren will be the ones who came from the children you had with the 15th person you had a relationship with. The person with whom the relationship was beautiful, seamless, perfect. The one with whom everything worked out because you learned all your lessons before.
And if that person never comes along —it might as well be the case — then you will still be swinging on that chair, thinking about these people with a smile on your face.
Why wouldn’t you? They made you happy at some point. And happiness is never a waste of time.
Next time one of your relationships ends, amongst the pain, take a minute to thank the other person. They were not a mistake. They were a choice, a part of your life, a lesson, and a lot of beautiful moments shared.