Dealing with Disappointment
We’ve all been there.
A forgotten date; an underwhelming anniversary; a last minute gift.
The moments in life that leave us saddened, frustrated, and longing for something … more. It is, unfortunately, a rather universal human experience; especially around this time of the year. So how do we respond to disappointment? As a relationship therapist, I know what we often do; we ignore it, suppress it, and let it turn into deep rooted resentment. I’d like to offer a better starting point. Look within, look to the other, and look between.
I believe the first step to dealing with disappointment is to look within the self. Consider your expectations; where they realistic? Did you accurately communicate them? Did your partner accurately hear them? You may have done all of these things; but by first considering your own contribution, you may save yourself from an embarrassing moment of “foot-in-mouth”.
2) Looking to the Other
You next need to consider the other person that contributed to your disappointment. What characteristics do you attribute to this person? Do you believe them to be a caring and genuine person? Do they have your best interest at heart, even when they make mistakes? Before saying anything, consider their motive and how the coming conversation may speak to their character. It is important to affirm that your disappointment doesn’t change the way in which you view the character of your partner. They are not a disappointment; it is just that you were disappointed in this instance.
3) Looking Between
Now consider the relationship itself. How open is your dialogue and communication? What would the relationship you desire look like, and how could you create it together? What would it mean to you for your partner to hear you, know you, and respond to you? By addressing your disappointment, you want to offer your partner an opportunity to create something better in your relationship. In order to offer that opportunity, you first need to know what it would look like, at least on your end.
As you prepare to address this disappointment with your partner, consider how you can invite them to consider and experience these three components with you. Admit any contributions you had to your disappointment, acknowledge the character and quality of your partner, and invite them into how things could be different and the meaning that would have for you. These moments of disappointment hold the potential to take your relationship to a whole new level or to cement you further in the depths of resentment and despair. Don’t let your disappointment define your relationship; instead define your relationship beyond your disappointment.