Reframing Marriage ‘Failure’

image-162When your marriage dissolves before your eyes, you may be tempted to think that it was a ‘failure.’ The value of the entire marital relationship may be called into question in your mind. You may ask yourself, “Were we ever right for each other? Or was I deluded?”

There are several thought paradigms about marriage that can lead to feelings of failure with divorce:

  • Til Death Do Us Part. The vows taken at the start of a marriage profess that a marriage lasts until one of the people dies. By taking these vows, you implicitly agree with the idea that a marriage can be valid for an entire lifetime. Subsequently, if the marriage does not last until death you are left to either feel as if it has been a failure, or it was never valid to begin with.

    I suggest that our most intimate relationships are “Til we outgrow one another.” Every intimate relationship is an opportunity to learn about ourselves at a deeper level through the mirror of another person. The creation of a family gives us an opportunity to have awareness of the aspects of our subconscious that need healing from our childhood or previous life experiences. At a certain point, the relationship has served its purpose, and it is time to bring closure to the marriage with gratitude and respect.

  • Making It Work. The idea that a marriage needs to last a lifetime means that, somehow, we have to ‘make it work.’ Making it work leads to a lot of negotiation and compromise, and the submergence of the authentic self of each individual in the relationship.

    Once we let go of the idea of Til Death Do Us Part, we can open to the idea of being in the moment with our authentic selves. We can bring ourselves fully to each discussion and intimate experience to discover our own truth using the context of the relationship. Staying in the moment without enforcing the ‘until death’ relationship construct also keeps each person at choice, and reduces the controlling tendencies of co-dependency. Ironically, maintaining awareness that each person in the relationship is at choice may actually prolong the relationship by increasing mutual respect.

    What did you do to ‘make it work’ in your marriage? Do you see ways in which you lost touch with your authentic self during the course of your relationship? Can you see how losing touch with your authenticity because of ‘making it work’ may have been a factor in the dissolution of the marriage?

  • A ‘Good’ Marriage. Sometimes we get the idea that a good marriage is one where we are happy, supported, and loved. In reality, our most intimate relationship is our biggest classroom for personal growth.

    By embracing the idea that the intimate relationship is to show us, through the mirror of the other person, where our shadow lies, we can open to expect discomfort rather than be dismayed by it.  We can even come to feel some measure of delight in finding one more subconscious mess from which we can liberate ourselves.

    What did you learn about yourself from the challenges of your marriage? What patterns emerged in your marriage that resemble your childhood experiences of family and parents? Can you see ways in which your marriage helped you learn about the places you get ‘triggered,’ places where you need to do some healing?


When your relationship ends is the perfect time to thoughtfully reflect on the lessons learned, read about the patterns you notice in yourself and your relationship, and do some personal development work. Start with the premise that there are no wrong choices, there are only experiences from which you can learn and grow. This is a beautiful place from which to begin the inquiry into your marital experience.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *