February 20, 2019

How to Find the Silver Lining When a Relationship Does Not Go as Planned

It’s a cliché, for sure, the old saying about how every cloud has a silver lining. But often clichés are truths that have simply been spoken by many wise people for many years.

This year, we want to take that ol’ dud-relationship cloud and turn it inside out so the lining will be visible in all its shimmering glory. What’s involved? First of all, don’t throw your dreams out just because things did not work out this time. Without dreams, goals cannot exist. Your future successes are built on the foundation of the dreams you hold onto today. So cherish that positive dream about how a relationship can be. Even if this relationship went south, dust off the dream and try again. You can revise it, tweak it, polish it up, but hold tight to it.

Here are a few ways to make the transformation from specific versions of the grimy cloud to valuable, precious silver.

If the situation was just off. Whether it’s geography, time of life, or other commitments… sometimes a relationship with promise just is not meant to be, at least not now, not here. You found a great person, but they live four hundred miles away. Perhaps, they have fabulous potential as a partner-in-crime but their career is just getting off and they don’t have enough time for you. Hold on to your dream of a loving, fulfilling relationship. Just because this relationship did not go as planned, your dream is not lost.

If your partner was emotionally unavailable…. That can feel very lonely, and when you get out from under that one-way-street kind of relationship, it’s time to turn your experience around. Think to yourself: “Wow, good thing I figured out that I am worth the investment.” You need that emotional availability and now you’ll be more likely to recognize it in the next person who comes along. If you don’t see it, you’ll know enough to say, “Pass.”

If you were not prioritized in the relationship. If your partner’s job, siblings, friends, pet, yard work all come first, and you always come last, you might feel like chopped liver—not worth the time. But don’t feel that way. The silver lining of this unfulfilling situation is that you have realized your value. You are worthy of a number one slot in your significant other’s life.

If you were rejected…. You were not rejected. I mean, sure, it may seem that way, but the person who rejects you is a waste of your time anyway. The uncomfortable end brought about by that person was, in fact, a huge favor (silver lining) to you. You will now move on and find someone worth your time.

If your partner cheated on you…. One of the most common errors people make is to think it’s somehow their fault when their partner betrays them. One of the most common things cheaters do is blame their actions on their partner. Both of these things could not be more wrong. The choice cheaters make (to cheat) is about THEM not about YOU.  So what’s the silver lining in this very painful situation? Figuring out your personal boundaries. Learning to separate yourself from the other person and the situation. And most of all: not taking it personally. It is NOT your fault and you are NOT responsible for someone else’s actions or happiness. You cannot “drive” someone to behave without honor. Walking away with head held high is enough silver to drape every inch of you!

If your relationship was just plain awful…. Maybe your partner was a narcissist. An abuser. A bully. Passive-aggressive. Permanently unemployed and overly entitled. An addict. Whatever your version of just-plain-awful looked like, there is nothing but empowerment to be gained from a bad relationship that you have put behind you. The silver lining can look like: learning not to give your power away, to set boundaries, to demand fair and equal treatment, to recognize bad news when you see it, and to realize how truly awesome you are.

A relationship is a life circumstance, and it is one we ultimately have control over. (Not our partner but the relationship itself—because we can choose to stay or leave, work on things, or acknowledge that working on things won’t help.) Life circumstances do not define us. Whatever your past relationships were like or how they ended, they are not you. So rather than saying, “I’m just a doormat,” or “I’m the person who always gets left,” or “I’m a bad picker,” disown those labels! You found yourself in a certain situation and now you are out. You can take a different road next time. (For more on how to use your thoughts to create a better outcome, see my blog on the subject.)

Everyone processes at a different rate. Finding the silver lining is not necessarily automatic or easy. Be patient with yourself and allow yourself to process. Feel the feelings—the loss, the sadness, even the feelings of unworthiness—and then give yourself the space and time to move from the bad to the good—from the storm clouds to the shimmer of the silver lining. You will have a moment of transition—when you wake up one day and know you’re going to be okay.

So for this happy new year, number one on your list:
     1.  Resolved:  find the silver lining!


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