Dealing with Dissappointment in Marriage

Expectations of how things should go and when they should happen in relationships can be a deep source of pain and disappointment and can cause us to develop a short term view of relationships. The reality is that your spouse will let you down and you will let your spouse down. It is also reality that you will feel your spouses offenses against you are greater than your offenses against your spouse. We always weigh our own experience of pain more heavily. When we allow this evaluation and constant pondering about our woes and what we feel we are lacking in life because of our spouse to drive our emotions and perception of the world, we will grow resentful and heap all of the problems in our life onto our spouse. When we do that, the intimacy that we should have with our spouse goes out the window because who could feel close to someone we believe is the source of all of our problems? This then leads to emotional separation which, left unchecked, is how people get to the place of wanting physical separation. For those who leave a marriage based on this cycle, they believe there is someone out there who won’t let them down, not realizing that they had a major role to play in the downfall of the marriage. So they go out and find someone else only to experience the inevitable let down that happens when two imperfect people live together in close quarters and then experience the same process and wonder how they got there again. So how do we avoid this trap that has caused so many people pain?

Have a Long Term View of Relationships
The first thing we all need to do is to remember that great relationships are always based on a longterm view and are developed over time. There is no instant success in relationships. We never really arrive because marriages are living organisms of sorts. They are either growing or declining. We have to work at our marriages if we hope to stay connected and close with our spouse. This work takes place over a long period of time. I can’t tell you how many couples I have worked with who quit just before they could have experienced the greatest sense of peace and closeness in their marriages. A history with someone is not something that is easily developed or easily thrown away and a longterm view of a relationship allows couples to relax and not spend every moment of their lives evaluating whether or not the relationship is “working.” The relationship will work if both parties have a long view towards building a healthy marriage. It usually takes years to get over our own views of how things should “work” and when we finally let go of our demands and choose to love and move towards each other in life, we experience a rhythm to life that we never even had on our radar as part of the “dream.”

Admit and Respond as if You Are an Equal Part of the Problem
As I said earlier, we are all experts on how the other person is failing. Few of us are experts on our own failures or if we do admit we have areas where we have failed they are usually minor compared to what we believe our spouse is doing to fail us. When we work to fix our spouse or complain or criticize our spouse for all that he/she does wrong we are only causing more problems in our marriage and pushing our spouse away. If we really want to experience all that our marriage has to offer we have to look in the mirror and make our own behavior the project we are working to improve. If you have not been working on yourself as it relates to your marriage or if your list of what is wrong in your relationship is longer for your spouse than it is for you, you are probably still blaming your spouse for most of the problems. It is the rare case where only one person is causing all the pain in a relationship. It takes two to tango as they say and we all have to admit we have a part to play in the problems we face as a couple.

Get a Grip on Your Expectations
Many times we believe that our expectations are always reasonable and everyone in the world has the same view and is experiencing all the things we feel we are lacking. We get into the comparison game from a distance and assume that those we admire have it all together and are getting what we are not in our marriages. The reality is, everyone is experiencing conflict. Anyone who says they are not, either has a spouse who is dead, or someone is not talking and it usually isn’t the one who is saying everything is great! Take some time to evaluate how many of your expectations put an unfair burden on your spouse to come through for you in order to make you “happy.” Any expectation that puts my happiness or mood in the hands of another person is dangerous and unfair. Just as we teach our kids that someone else is not responsible for how they act, we too need to avoid making our spouses responsible for how we act or feel.

Marriage is a beautiful and difficult thing. It can be the source of our greatest joy and connection and the source of our greatest pain and rejection. But the measure of success in a marriage is not how much joy I experience on a regular basis, but how much we grow together in the midst of conflict and joy. It is the ability to work through difficult times and still stay connected that is measure not only of the strength of our marriage, but the character we possess individually.

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