Updated: Feb 26
Disappointment is a complex feeling that can be even more confusing when experiencing it in your relationship. Whether it is directed towards your partner or the relationship itself, it is something that will be experienced by nearly everyone at some point. Reconciling the two emotions and understanding that they can coexist can be hard to do; how can I feel this way about someone I love and respect so much? While it may seem like love and disappointment are mutually exclusive feelings, this is often not the case. The human experience is complex, but we often reduce it to something simple in our minds, falling into a pattern of “black-and-white thinking”, which invalidates the emotions or experience at hand. Acknowledging and accepting that multiple realities can exist at once can help you to better understand what is happening within and what you may need in order to heal.
Understanding Your Disappointment
Once you have recognized that you are feeling disappointed in your relationship, take some time to process it. Allow yourself to validate this experience and know that it is okay to feel this way. See if you are able to identify any other feelings that are coming up that are contributing to the disappointment- these could be embarrassment, judgment, resentment, or a multitude of other feelings. Having a better understanding of the root of the feeling can help to foster more effective communication with your partner when the time comes. Remind yourself that disappointment is a part of life and eventually these feelings will pass once you give them the time and space needed to understand and process them.
Discussing Disappointment with Partners
When you feel like you’ve taken time to understand what you are experiencing and are ready to talk about it with your partner, there are a few things that can be kept in mind to help facilitate a more productive conversation. Before diving in, take a moment to reflect on how (or if) you’ve brought this issue up to your partner. If you’re noticing your disappointment is stemming from an issue that has not been clearly communicated, try to take this opportunity to do so before leaning into the disappointment. It can be easy to feel like your partner should know how you’re feeling, but unless it has been voiced to them, there’s a good chance that they are not aware of what’s going on.
Hearing that someone is disappointed in you can bring up shame or guilt which can feel incredibly vulnerable and influence how the situation is navigated; maintaining patience with each other can help keep the conversation going without becoming defensive. Try to use clear, non-judgmental language that focuses on how you are feeling by using “I feel” statements like “I am feeling disappointed in how we are communicating right now, which makes me feel.... (lonely, disconnected, frustrated, etc.). You can also try replacing “but” with “and” to make sure that the language you are using is conveying the right message. When you respond to something your partner is saying, or are trying to communicate complex thoughts and feelings that you are experiencing, including “but” can feel invalidating, whereas “and” acknowledges that there may be more than one interpretation or experience that is happening. For example, “I love you, but I’m disappointed in you” may leave your partner feeling like your love has been lessened by this disappointment, that the love is conditional, or that there is not room for both of these feelings to coexist. When the language is changed to “I love you and I’m disappointed in you”, it may be more likely to be heard as a reassurance of the love while simultaneously acknowledging the disappointment.
Wrote by: Melissa Fingado
Mental Health Counselor Intern