Relationships fail for many reasons; if you can see the signs of a failing relationship early, you have a better chance of fixing it. Inspired by The Parable of the Poor Farmer – and by a reader’s comment about her failed relationship – these signs may bring you the insight you need.
Dr. Barbara De Angelis’ latest book is Soul Shifts: Transformative Wisdom for Creating a Life of Authentic Awakening, Emotional Freedom & Practical Spirituality – she offers practical tips on recognizing what’s good for you, what’s not, and how to make decisions that align with who you are and what you believe. If you’re confused or uncertain about your relationship – or other aspects of your life – read her book. She’s written several books on love and relationships, as well.
Here, I used The Parable of the Poor Farmer to illustrate the signs of a failing relationship because sometimes we jump too quickly to judge something bad. As a reader pointed out on 10 Warning Signs of a Bad Relationship, people and relationships are complex. Just because you think you recognize the signs of a failing relationship doesn’t mean it’s time to break up.
To see what I mean, read this parable about a farmer who was slow to judge and quick to accept…
The Parable of the Poor Farmer
Once upon a time, there once was a poor old man who owned a beautiful white horse. Whenever noblemen passed through the village, they always noticed the horse and offered handsome sums of money for the stallion. The old farmer always declined their offers, saying, “This horse is my friend. How can I sell my friend?”
One morning the old man awoke to find the horse was gone. The village people gathered. “You were a fool not to sell the horse,” they said. “You could have been wealthy! Now it has been stolen, and you have nothing. It is a great misfortune!”
But the old farmer replied, “I wouldn’t say that. Whether the horse was stolen or not, or whether it is a misfortune or a blessing, is unknown. All we know is that the horse is not in the stable.”
Some days later the horse returned, bringing several beautiful wild mares. Again the village people gathered. “You were right,” they said. “The horse was not stolen, and it was not a misfortune. It was a blessing, and now you have many fine horses!”
But the old farmer replied, “Again you go too far. We don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing. All we know is the horse is back. Whether it is a blessing or a misfortune is unknown.”
Some days later the old man’s only son began to train the wild mares, but he was thrown and trampled, and one of his legs was badly broken. The village people were saddened. “You were right,” they said. “It was not a blessing but a great misfortune, and now your only son is lame!
But the old farmer replied, “Don’t say it’s a good thing, don’t say it’s a bad thing, just say my son has broken his leg. Whether it is a blessing or a misfortune is unknown.”
A few weeks later the country went to war, and all the able bodied young men were forcibly taken for the military. Only the old man’s son was passed over, because his leg was broken. The whole village was crying and weeping, for they believed their sons would be killed. “You were right,” they said. “Your son’s injury was a blessing. Your son may be crippled, but he is with you, while our sons are gone forever!”
The old farmer simply shook his head and said, “We don’t know if it’s good or bad that my son is here, and your sons are not. We will wait and see. ”
The moral of the parable: nothing is good or bad in itself. Always wait and see before you judge something that happens in your life or relationship.
Signs of a Failing Relationship
What does the Parable of the Farmer tell you about relationships, judgment, and acceptance? I welcome your thoughts below. Here’s what I think the parable says about love and marriage…
Be slow to judge
Why are you looking for signs of a failing relationship? Stop for a few moments, and write down the reasons you think your relationship might be ending. Sometimes these reasons aren’t really signs of a failing relationship, they’re just the natural dips of a normal, healthy relationship. For instance, if you think a sign of a failing relationship is that you don’t feel like you’re “in love” with your partner, then you need to learn what love is.
If you already know your relationship is doomed, read my tips on how to cope with a failed relationship.
Listen to the advice of others – but trust yourself
In the parable, everyone around the farmer told him what was good and what was bad. They judged everything that happened before giving things a chance to unfold naturally. In your life, are there people who judge quickly? Maybe you yourself tend to judge events before letting them unfold. Not feeling like you’re in love with your partner is a good example of a “sign of a failing relationship” that is really just a natural condition of being committed to another person for a long time.
Think about where you learned the signs of a failing relationship
If you think that not feeling “in love” with your partner means your relationship will fail, consider where that idea came from. For instance, I grew up with a single mom and no dad. I had to learn what a healthy marriage is like from counseling, from my husband, from reading books, and from the guidance of God. If I didn’t do the work it takes to discern the difference between signs of a failing relationship and the natural ebbs and flows of a marriage, I wouldn’t be with my husband today.
Learn to see the blessings and misfortunes in everything
In The Parable of the Farmer, the old man teaches us that nothing is all good or all bad. Some things – such as a possible sign of a failing relationship – seem bad on the surface. But they may actually be an opportunity to take a good look at your relationship and make it better. Every couple needs to pay attention to their relationship, and do the work it takes to make it stronger and healthier. Failed relationships aren’t the only outcome of problems a couple faces.
How can you apply the Parable of the Farmer to the signs of a failing relationship in your life? I welcome your thoughts below! I can’t give advice, but often it helps to write about your experience. Writing can bring clarity and insight.
If you’re unsure about your partner, read 5 Ways to Know if You’re Settling in a Relationship.
May you find wisdom and peace, and may you recognize the signs of a failing relationship…or the signs of a love that just needs to be nurtured and cared for.
Your thoughts are welcome below! I don't give advice, but you can get free relationship help from marriage coach Mort Fertel.