In my coaching sessions with clients, I realized that the way many people define a “successful” relationship is limited to only those that result in marriage. Well, I am here to tell you that is not necessarily the case. When you are in a relationship with someone, as you put certain things into it, you also want to get certain things out of it. You should, of course, be able to give as well as receive love and/or affection and maintain a general compatibility. However, when classifying a relationship, you should also consider its overall benefits and meaning for you. Ask yourself: at least for a time, did you have fun, laugh, enjoy yourself? Feel respected and supported? Make positive strides? Learn something about other people? About yourself?

In my opinion, if you spent a considerable amount of time with someone who touched your life for the better in some way, even if it did not end up in marriage, then you should consider it a positive experience. I believe that people come into our lives at different times for various reasons. For example, you may meet someone right before the death of a loved one, and that person may be the one who will help you through it. You may develop a relationship with someone who has an odd set of beliefs and opinions, and that person’s presence may be necessary in order for you to expand your mind and maximize your potential. You could also establish a relationship with someone who treats you better than anyone else ever has, and I believe that person was meant to raise your standards for the kind of life you make for yourself.

Conversely, if you have a relationship with someone who turns out to be unfaithful, consider that you made contact with and had affection for another human being who ended up teaching you a valuable lesson about trust, awareness, and forgiveness. In my mind, the key to determining if a relationship was successful lies in how it impacted your life. And as long as you enjoyed yourself for a time and were able to avoid long periods of unhappiness or suffering, then I’d say you can check one off in the win column!

I believe the goal in relationships should be to spend the moments of your life wisely and to savor every emotion. If you have established a relationship with someone who, as it turns out, is not right for you, so what? You made a connection and, hopefully, a friend. You participated in the flow of your life, made the most of the experience, and continued to move forward. Because isn’t that what our lives really are? A journey over an unknown period of time where our experiences help us to understand and grow and change ourselves and our communities as we search for meaning and happiness and answers to our questions about God and ourselves? Those are the reasons why we have relationships, why we feel love and laughter and wonder and sadness, and why we have to let go and be happy anyway.

Author's Bio: 

Audrey Valeriani is an author, freelance writer, relationship coach, columnist for the Malden Observer, and Board Chair for Self Esteem Boston Educational Institute, Inc. in Boston, Massachusetts. Her book "Boot Camp for the Broken-Hearted: How to Survive (and Be Happy) in the Jungle of Love" is designed to help readers improve self-esteem and relationships, and is on sale now.