TOLERATING DISAPPOINTMENT

Many couples have difficulty experiencing disappointment in their relationships. This can become a major source of conflict in a marriage. Many people enter marriage with the unstated expectation that they should not disappoint their partner and that their partner should not disappoint them. There is the idea that it is mean to disappoint someone you love so people often feel guilty and self-critical when they are told they have disappointed their partner. On the other hand people often feel that if their partner disappoints them it is a sign that their feelings are not really important or worse that their partner does not love them enough.

These expectations become a burden that creates stress, frustration, and resentment. Disappointments are inevitable in a relationship for several reasons. We all have our limitations as people and can not be sources of unconditional support, understanding, and nurturance. We are all separate individuals which means that when two people are living together there are going to be times they are in different moods and have different needs which leads to a certain amount of conflict and tension. There are other times when partners realize that they simply see some situations differently and disagree with one another. It is important that you feel you have the option to disagree with your spouse even when you know this will disappoint him or her. If you can not say no to a request of your partner, then saying yes is not really a choice, but is more of an obligation.

Paradoxically, acknowledging and accepting that you are going to feel disappointed at times, and that you are entitled to disappoint your partner, can free you up to be more genuine and spontaneous in your relationship. It will decrease the pressure to please your partner that for many people creates a great amount of stress and anxiety. When you can be open with your partner that you are disappointing him or her in the moment, and not act defensively about it, this normalizes disappointment as part of the relationship. When disappointment can be accepted as a normal occurrence it becomes much less of a trigger for feelings of anger and mutual criticism.

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