On relationships, failure rates, and asking the right question

Last night I attended the wedding of some old high school friends (grats! Ben & Kim). Interestingly enough, it was the second wedding I've attended this month that joined together a couple that had been a couple for over eight years (grats! also to James & Nancy). When I woke up this morning I began reflecting over the wedding, the duration of the couple's relationship, and my own past relationships. After a while, I stumbled on to an obvious, yet really interesting, fact that I hadn't really thought of before. If you've ever had a relationship in your life AND you're currently single, you effectively have a 100% failure rate for relationships.

[Now I know what you're thinking. "Chris, you're just a pessimist." And you're right, I am. However, the point of this post is actually quite optimistic, so just bear with me.]

So, I took my new found failure rate factoid and continued reflecting on my past relationships.  I thought about how in every relationship there can be tensions that arise from both pre-existing friendships and new ones that are made with the people surrounding the couple. I thought about how those relationships are often tested, strained, or made uncomfortable by a break up. And I began to realize that in the beginning portion of many (don't bother reading into that word choice too much) of my past relationships, one question was brought up in each of them: "What happens if this doesn't work out?"

Now don't get me wrong, it is a legitimate question to be concerned about. However, it's the wrong question to be asking when you're starting a relationship with someone new. As I already established in the beginning of this post, 100% failure is the norm for most of us. So we know there's a high probability that there's a breakup somewhere in the future. With that in mind, what good can come of asking what's going to happen if the relationship doesn't work out? All it's going to do is force you to concentrate on the bad things and the risks associated with the person you want to be with. The real question you should be asking is "what happens if this DOES work out?"

Breaking up isn't the exception, it's the rule. What you really want to focus on is the small probability of success and what you're going to do when you DON'T fail. I don't know about anyone else, but I'd like to think that knowing your not expected to succeed makes worrying about failing less significant. Now I know that getting into this mind set isn't' going to make it feel any better when it doesn't work out, but cross that bridge when you come to it. Don't worry about it when you're just getting to know a person. Every second spent trying to figure out how you'll be friends with a person after you break up is a second stolen from figuring out how to be friends with them in the relationship. At least that's the way I see it.

posted by Christopher Schnese