How To Deal With Disappointment In A Relationship

“Ugh. I can’t believe they did that. This is not what I signed up for.”

That’s what goes through your mind when you feel disappointed in your partner.

You’ve heard it before, am I right?

Truth is, we’ve all been disappointed in our relationships before. That’s because no relationship is perfect.

But what should you do when you feel this way? Is your relationship doomed to fail or can you make things right?

Let’s start by making a distinction between two types of disappointment…

Specific Vs. General Disappointment

Before we can explore the ways in which to deal with your relationship frustrations, it’s worth saying that disappointment comes in two flavors.

The first relates to a very specific grievance you have with your partner. It’s the kind of disappointment that flares up every so often when, much to your displeasure, they behave in a way that goes against your wishes.

Perhaps they leave a pile of dirty clothes on the bathroom floor, rock up late to your friend’s birthday party because they were too busy gaming, or spend your date night glued to their phone.

Then there’s the more general kind of disappointment. The feeling that things aren’t quite what you’d like them to be…

…when that voice in your head starts saying things such as, “they’re not who I thought they were” or, “is this really how it’s supposed to be?”

Keep this distinction in mind when reading the rest of this article. Depending on what situation you find yourself in, the ways to deal with it differ slightly.

What Are You Disappointed In?

Leading on from the two types of disappointment, it’s time to get to the heart of what is disappointing you.

Are you upset because you’ve told your partner on multiple occasions that something they do annoys you, but they keep on doing it?

Are you feeling down about the relationship because it feels stale and boring?

Has your partner suddenly revealed a particular life preference that doesn’t fit in with your dreams (e.g. they want to live in a certain location, or they don’t want children)?

Knowing why you’re feeling the way you do is key to figuring out the best way to approach the situation.

How Does This Disappointment Feel To You?

Disappointment is a broad term that can encompass all sorts of emotions. Ask yourself what exactly it is that you feel.

Perhaps your disappointment shows itself as sadness. You are sad because your partner did something that you didn’t like or because your relationship isn’t what you’d hoped for.

Or maybe it manifests as anger at your partner or at the world for bringing these circumstances into your life.

Is shame a big part of your disappointment? Do you feel ashamed because of the state of your relationship and how the outside world views it and you?

Identifying the precise mix of emotions that you feel is important. If you want to be happy in your relationship, you will need to address each of them.

And while you might be able to deal with many of them through the same means, others might require more specific action to target that particular emotion.

Why Might Your Partner Have Behaved That Way?

If your disappointment relates to a specific thing that your partner did, there is wisdom in asking why they might have done it.

People sometimes act in ways that don’t reflect their true character. They may later come to regret these actions, but in the spur of the moment they simply don’t care.

There are plenty of reasons why this might happen…

…they might have been stressed by something at work.

…they might be really tired.

…they might be anxious about an upcoming event.

…they might be struggling with a mental health issue.

Before you let your disappointment affect the relationship too much, try to step into your partner’s shoes and feel how they might be feeling.

Using your empathy to help explain (not justify) their behavior can give you an understanding that helps combat your disappointment.

It can also allow you to help and support them with whatever is troubling their mind.

7 Steps To Deal With Your Relationship Disappointment

In order to deal with your feelings, you should go through as many of the following steps as you can.

Each one will help you to work through the disappointment and reach a point of clarity about your relationship.

1. Avoid Thinking In “Should Haves”

In order to be disappointed by someone or something, you need to be able to compare it to an alternate, ideal outcome.

In your case, you can only compare the situation to your expectations of it.

You might think in “should haves” in terms of how things ought to be.

For example, you might think that your partner should have taken the trash out because that’s their job.

Or they should have realized that you were feeling down and tried to cheer you up instead of acting as if nothing was wrong.

You might even think that your relationship should have made you feel happy all the time, rather than the highs and lows you are experiencing.

So ask yourself whether your expectations of the situation were realistic. Just because the outcome wasn’t what you wanted, should you really feel that disappointed by it?

Maybe your expectations were too high. Perhaps the outcome was more reasonable than it seems and you could be content with it if you could stop thinking that your way is the only way.

The same goes for the relationship as a whole. Are you putting too much pressure on it to solve your problems and make you happy? Can any relationship ever really live up to these ideals?

Of course, some behaviors ought not to be accepted or expected. In these instances, you have to approach the situation in other ways…

2. Weigh This Negative Against The Positives

If you are disappointed by something specific that your partner did or did not do, don’t view that thing in isolation.

Instead, try to remember all of the good things about your partner. We all have flaws and we can’t be expected to act perfectly 100% of the time.

Is your partner quite attentive or thoughtful in other ways even if you feel let down in this instance?

What are their good points? What made you fall in love with them in the first place?

Relationships are hard and they require you to make compromises. You have to weigh the negatives against the positives.

Doing so allows your current mindset to shift to one that is more forgiving and understanding.

If your disappointment is more general, this exercise can also help you to see that things may not be as bad as you think. Or it might confirm that they are, in which case you’ll want to keep reading to the end.

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3. Place A Value On Whatever Disappointed You

How big a deal is the thing that you find disappointing?

Is it a small thing that you happen to find quite irritating? Or is it something more serious that causes you to question your relationship?

Give it a score out of 10 with 1 being a minor annoyance and 10 being a serious betrayal.

After careful consideration, you’ll often find that you score the incident far lower than your initial frustration might indicate.

And if something is a 2 or 3 out of 10, is it really worth getting upset about?

Yes, small things do matter, but they don’t matter as much as the big things (like those positives you noted down in the previous step).

This exercise allows you to rationalize your disappointment and see it as one thing amongst the bigger picture.

4. Ask What You Can Do

A relationship is a partnership between two people and you have a say in how a situation unfolds.

So if there is something that you’re not entirely happy with, ask how you might remedy things.

If your partner is slacking off from their share of the household chores, perhaps you could rearrange who does what to make it easier for them.

Or if they really want to pursue a new career, but it’s not one that you particularly approve of, consider how you might reconcile your feelings with their wishes.

Remind yourself often that you have the power to positively influence the state of your relationship. Just because you are disappointed by something, doesn’t mean you are helpless in making it better.

Even if you are just disappointed in the relationship as a whole, you can still try to be the one who drives things in a healthier direction.

5. Don’t Put Your Happiness In Your Partner’s Hands

We talked earlier about the unrealistic expectation of believing a relationship or partner can make you happy.

In truth, your happiness is not something that you can pass the responsibility for to someone or something else.

It’s just too heavy a burden for your partner or your relationship to carry.

Yes, your relationship can bring you happiness, but it shouldn’t be relied upon above all else.

Your happiness is something you must take responsibility for.

So, if you are disappointed in your relationship or the way your partner has behaved because you feel that they have withheld happiness from you, a change in thinking is required.

6. Create An Open And Non-judgmental Environment For Communication

Communication is a vital ingredient for any healthy relationship. That’s a given.

But not all communication is effective in addressing the problems a couple might face.

The key is to create an environment in which partners can speak openly, from the heart, and without fear of being judged by the other.

So if your partner has done something to disappoint you, this needs to be communicated without it feeling like a witch hunt.

If you are just disappointed in the relationship in general, this also ought to be discussed in a way that doesn’t put the blame on your partner.

One way you can achieve this is to use the following exercise.

Sit facing your partner and tell them what you are feeling and why. But, importantly, try to use “I” statements that avoid framing the problem as something of your partner’s making.

So instead of saying, “You don’t understand me at all,” you could say, “I sometimes feel misunderstood.”

Or instead of saying, “You never ask how my day was,” try saying, “When you don’t ask about my day, I don’t feel loved or important.”

Every so often, pause so that your partner can repeat back what you have said to confirm that they have understood it. This is called mirroring.

Avoid a tone or language that may be perceived as accusatory and try to stick to one topic per conversation.

Then give your partner a chance to talk, and listen to their concerns or grievances.

Whoever is doing the listening should be sure to validate how the other is feeling. Make it known that what your partner says makes sense, even if you see things differently.

And let them know that you understand how they are feeling and that you empathize with them.

They key is to always keep the conversation as neutral as possible. You may be feelings all sorts of emotions, but try not to let these influence how you put your point across.

7. When You’ve Explored All Avenues

Let’s be honest: not all relationships work out.

That shouldn’t be seen as a negative view of love as a whole, rather as a matter of reality.

If you have tried everything to overcome your feelings of disappointment, but they still persist, you have one final choice to make…

Continue the relationship in the hope that you will feel differently with time, or end it knowing that you have done all you can.

Which path you choose to walk down is something only you can decide.

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