Even the happiest, most aligned couples experience anger and disappointment to some degree
Getting Past Disappointment
Abby Delouya RMFT-CCC, CPTT
When we’re engaged, we have many expectations and ideas of how our future marriages will look. Some of these dreams are rooted in preconceived notions of happy marriages — perhaps influenced by our own parents or mentors — and some are based on fantasies we developed after getting to know our future spouses.
It’s a blessing to get married young, yet considering our brains do not finish fully developing until the age of 25, it’s possible that the 19-year-old iterations of our identities are not fully formed. In addition, we all change as we go through different life stages, and mature into our adult selves. What happens when the goals you had for yourself change? How does that affect your spouse and the life path they were counting on?
It’s important to remember that disappointment in marriage is normal. Even the happiest, most aligned couples experience anger and disappointment to some degree.
Still, it can be challenging to deal with disappointment in our marriages. Some changes are more traumatic and shocking (discovering mental health illness or addiction), and some are more subtle (changing one’s mind about where to live), but all are difficult. How do we stay connected and supportive while dealing with our own disappointments?
Keep these ideas in mind:
1) Disappointment usually stems from unmet expectations. Unrealistic or fantasy expectations can cause a great deal of disappointment. For example, expecting your spouse to read your mind/pick up on mild hints and get that perfect birthday present or expecting your spouse to be Mr. Fix-it when he doesn’t know the difference between a drill bit and a screwdriver. Having some expectations in a relationship is a healthy barometer for boundaries, yet make sure those expectations are appropriate for your marriage, and more importantly, specifically reflect your spouse’s capabilities and limitations.
2) "Should-be"s cause issues. You may think your wife should be like your mother — capable of a shiny, clean house Erev Shabbos with steaming fresh kugel and perfectly washed kids by chatzos, or your husband should be like your friend’s husband who plans the most amaaaazing little getaways for the two of them, fully on points, no less! You are not married to those people — delete the should-be's.
3) Verbalize your expectations, as no one is a mind reader. Then, invite your spouse into the expectation discussion. Just because you expect it doesn’t mean your spouse is capable of it or will blindly agree to it. Having an open conversation will clarify what’s realistic.
4) When discussing disappointments, stay on topic and be careful with your timing. Three minutes before you have to leave for a family simchah or at midnight are probably not the best times for intense communication.
5) Look for progress, not perfection. If you have certain expectations that are not being met all the time, but there’s consistent effort and communication, you’re on the right track.
6) Let go of expecting your spouse to be your only source of happiness. If you rely on your spouse to validate your self-esteem and to constantly give you approval, you’ll be disappointed. Personal happiness is not something you want to place in the hands of your spouse. Give yourself what you need: compassion, nurturing, admiration, and self-love.
7) For bigger disappointments, it’s important to share your feelings with a healthy, respected mentor who can help you navigate these intense feelings. Disappointments related to mental health issues or addictions will likely require the support of a licensed mental health professional.
Abby Delouya RMFT-CCC, CPTT is a licensed Marriage and Family therapist in private practice with a speciality in trauma and addiction. Abby lives in Monsey, NY, and maintains her practice in Canada.
The Cost of Easy
Sara Eisemann, LMSW, ACSW
“True self-care is not salt baths and chocolate cake. It’s making the choice to build a life you don’t need to escape from.” — Brianna Weist
Self-care is all the buzz, but it’s a concept that confuses many women. Perhaps what’s confusing is the definition of self-care that has somehow become synonymous with self-indulgence. The occasional indulgence is great, but true self-care is much more about creating a life that nurtures you in a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual way. It’s about taking the time to do the things that bring peace to your body and soul. And sometimes it’s hard work in the short run, but so much better in the long run.
I came across a brilliant passage recently:
If we follow “easy” long enough, eventually we create a life fraught with anxiety, dissatisfaction, and half-filled dreams. We trade comfort for true pleasure and exchange distraction for meaning. The things that were important to us slip through our fingers. The relationships we valued can start to fade away.
The unsettled feeling of a half-finished job chases us, leaving us looking over our shoulder, waiting for the negligence to catch up with us and wreak havoc. And suddenly we are left with a life that needs running from.
If it’s important enough to want, it’s important enough to work for. Our values, our families, our avodas Hashem, and more — they all require investment of time, money, resources, emotions, and physical effort. Easy street is often a dead-end.
Strangely, life gets harder when you try to make it easy.
Exercising might be hard, but never moving makes life harder.
Uncomfortable conversations are hard, but avoiding every conflict is harder.
Mastering your craft is hard, but having no skills is harder.
Easy has a cost.
Sara Eisemann, LMSW, ACSW, is a licensed therapist, Directed Dating coach and certified Core Mentor.
Change or Accept?
There are two categories in life: things I can change, and things I need to accept. The strongest frustration arises when we put things in the wrong category.
Shoshana Schwartz specializes in addiction and codependency. She gives in-person and online addiction prevention lectures and workshops to education and mental health professionals, community leaders, and parent groups, as well as 12-Step workshops for non-addicts.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 817)
Oops! We could not locate your form.