Disappointment is pretty much a part of life. Maybe you’re disappointed in a movie you had high hopes for or in the way your homemade cheesecake turned out. You might feel displeased for a short period of time, but it’s nothing you’ll lose sleep over. Other times, disappointment can run deeper, such as when someone you love – like your spouse – lets you down in a way that feels significant and personal. In these situations, you may not get over it so quickly. So what should you do?
Let’s run down some of the do’s and don’ts of experiencing disappointment in your marriage.
When you’re disappointed in your spouse…
DO reflect on your own role in feeling disappointed. Disappointment usually stems from unmet expectations, so take time to assess whether your own expectations might be fueling your disappointment. Were they too high or unreasonable? Were they unclear or not communicated to your spouse? Be willing to take some responsibility if any of these were the case. You might still feel disappointed, and that’s okay. You can’t always control your feelings, but you can think about how you might adjust your expectations to help you avoid disappointment in the future.
DON’T bottle up your frustration. This can turn to resentment, which can cause more problems down the road. Instead, try to communicate your feelings respectfully, going into it with a mindset of sharing your perspective versus blaming or attacking. Keep in mind, you can share your feelings while also owning up to your own contribution to the problem. This might sound like, “I’m disappointed that we didn’t get to spend much downtime together this weekend, but I also didn’t tell you I was needing that, so that’s my fault.”
When your spouse is disappointed in you…
DO acknowledge their feelings. Even though it’s likely you had no intention of letting them down, their feelings are real. Take a step back from the situation and try to empathize with your spouse’s perspective. Taking the empathetic path can help you and your spouse maintain a team mindset, instead of devolving into a “you versus them” dynamic.
DON’T get immediately defensive. It’s a natural instinct to protect ourselves when we’re confronted with the fact that we may have fallen short, but try not to lash out or shift blame as an automatic response. Instead, hear out what your spouse has to say, focus on sharing your own perspective using “I” statements, and take responsibility for any way in which you might have contributed to the situation. This might sound like, “I hear your disappointment. I didn’t realize you had planned to relax together this weekend, but I should have checked in with you before making other plans.”
When you’re disappointed in yourself…
DO share your struggles with your spouse. Even if your self-disappointment stems from something that happened in your marriage, working through it together is better than trying to navigate it alone. You might find they are also struggling with guilt over the way a situation was handled between the two of you, or they may be able to ease your mind and help you move forward.
DON’T expect perfection. Sometimes we have a tendency to be our own biggest critic. Remember that everyone makes mistakes, and that includes you and your spouse. While reflecting on the past can help you learn and grow, dwelling on how you’ve messed up can often prevent that from happening. You can’t change what’s already happened, but you can choose to learn from the situation and move on in a productive way.
Disappointment in marriage is bound to arise. In the moment it can feel like things are going wrong or you’re failing in some way, but this usually isn’t the case. You’re both human – you’ll make mistakes, hold faulty expectations, and miscommunicate – it’s all part of a close relationship. When you learn to handle it productively and work through it together, it becomes a great opportunity to get recalibrated and aligned on an issue before it becomes a bigger problem.