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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Five tips for moving your marriage forward when disappointment strikes.

At times we all face bitter disappointments.

Marriage can be a place where disappointment leaves us shaken and feeling crushed. It may come from a decision your spouse has made or from something they  have done or failed to do.

Because true marital intimacy requires vulnerability and trust, it can also lead to deep disappointment.

But what do we do with the pain of the disappointment? How do we process through it in a way that leaves us stronger, more full of faith on the other side? How can we preserve the relationship when our spouse has inflicted disappointment on us?

My sister-in-law, Betty, works for Adventures in Missions, where she also writes a blog. I recently read a post she wrote regarding a workplace disappointment and immediately knew I had to re-post it here. The truths she shares so openly and sincerely below on how to deal with disappointment translate pretty directly into marriage.

1.  I take responsibility for my own baggage and my own reactions

There are reasons why it hit me so hard that are not the responsibility of the people who caused the disappointment.  If it triggers past hurts – that’s not their responsibility.  It is mine.  Does it bring back old lies?  I’m the one who needs to battle that.  If it was going to fill a hole in my life and now that won’t happen – it’s not their responsibility to fill the holes in my life.  Does it injure my pride?  That’s my issue, not theirs.  Do I have an inappropriate sense of entitlement?  If so, it’s my responsibility to take care of that.

It is also my responsibility to treat all involved with respect.  And to extend grace to those making hard decisions.  And to not gossip.  Some of the reasons for this decision make sense.  Others are still confusing to me.  But I am responsible for my own actions in response. If I act poorly, I can’t blame it on how disappointed I was or whether it should have happened the way it did.

2.  I allow myself to grieve

I think it is okay to grieve as long as the grieving moves in the direction of healing and not in the direction of bitterness.  And as long as I don’t get stuck in it.  I won’t get to do something that was already a hope deferred, something I wanted to do months ago and was told I needed to wait.  Because of this opportunity, I had made the hard decision to pass up another one - and the one I hated to say “no” to is now too late to jump into.  So my summer has a huge hole in it.  And there are legitimate things to grieve.

3.  I decide if this is something appropriate to fight for, or to ask for reconsideration.

There may be times when it is right to ask questions, to advocate for a different outcome, to appropriately ask for reconsideration.  This was one of those times.  It does involve something I’ve poured my heart into, a dream I’ve had for years.  There are legitimate reasons to discuss the situation and there are reasonable questions to ask about the decision.  And I’ve now had those discussions.  In this case, nothing changed.

4.  I decide when and why to stop asking for reconsideration.

Along with deciding there’s a time to push a bit, to advocate a bit, to hope a bit that the decision might be reversed – there’s another question.  When is it time to stop?  And what are the right reasons to stop?  I think sometimes you stop because it’s not the most important battle to be fighting - i.e., you choose your battles.  Other times, I think you stop when you make the decision to just be a good sport about something that didn’t go your way.  And then there are times you stop because you choose to trust that the Lord holds your heart and your dreams and your coming in and your going out.

5.  I choose not to stay stuck in disappointment and to make choices that move me forward.

How do I do that in practical terms?  I need to talk to people who can help me through it – while being careful to not cross the line to gossip.  But they can only take me so far.  And while it is tempting to continue to rehash it in front of supportive friends, I’ll get stuck if I don’t move beyond that.

There’s internal work that only I can do.  I remember the big picture.  I go back to the things that give me perspective.  I run toward those things and not away from them.  It’s part of choosing to move through disappointment rather than stewing in it.  So I make sure I spend extra time with the Lord rather than finding excuses to avoid it.  I know that time with Him brings peace.  So my choices point to whether I desire peace or self-pity.

Disappointment is never easy. When it comes from someone we are especially close to, like our spouse, it hurts even more. If you follow the tips above it will definitely keep you from getting stuck and allowing bitterness to take root. So if you are facing disappointment in your spouse or something they have done, reject the temptation to either strike back in anger or to simply push your pain down. Deal with it. Get past it. And come out of it on the other side with a better, stronger marriage.

Have your faced disappointment in your marriage? Do you have some additional tips on how you dealt with it? We'd love to hear. Leave a comment.

photo credit: tatyanagl /


Anonymous said...

This is such an excellent post. I can think of friends who have faced such huge disappointments and came out of it closer and stronger as a result. And I can think of others who have crumbled under the weight of it all. I don't think this part of marriage gets discussed enough, so you've done a great service to the marriage community by passing on this wisdom from God (through your sister-in-law's writing gift.) I recently went through a season of being "disappointed", but it was really anger towards God masked as disappointment. It was an enormous eye-opening time for me, where God helped me delve into the motives and cravings of my heart. This is where healing and release comes, and thank God He lead me to a place of peace, trust and joy again. The post I'm speaking of is this one:
Thank you for sharing. I'm going to spend some time re-reading it and allowing the Holy Spirit to further deal with my heart. Like she said, "I take responsibility for my own baggage and my own reactions." Well said!

Scott said...

Thanks Debi. Yes festering disappointment can easily lead to many other destructive emotions, like anger, resentment, fear, etc. It's always best to deal with it head on rather than trying to push it down. Never works.

Nancy Lehman said...

I think partly, it’s just that you keep going…
Some disappointments are short-lived.
Some are life long.

You pray, you work hard at it,
you seek appropriate counsel,
but you just keep going...

Don’t give up on the marriage.

If you are emotionally/ spiritually strong,
you do all the things
that Betty mentioned in her blog.

But even if you are not that strong,
even if you do get mired in disappointment
it is not over –
there is always hope –
even if you can’t “see it”.

My own marriage is testimony to this.
I had lost all hope
that things would ever improve.
We both had “worked hard” at it,
but there didn’t seem to be any way
to get past the impact
of the pain and distance
that on-going disappointments lead to.

The surprise ingredient
that aided the healing was,

T I M E.


Who knew?

By God’s grace alone,
we hadn’t bailed out on the marriage.
If we had, we would have missed out on
this new land that we have entered into:
quiet contentment and
genuine pleasure in each other.

JerBer said...

Bitterness is very dangerous...It distorts your thinking and can destroy your marriage, family, & even life...

Anonymous said...

For me the key to remember is that we both have our fair share of disappointing each other.

Years ago, I believed it was all ME who was suffering all the disappointments. Meaning: I could do no wrong.

It was a shocking day when I learned that I wasn't the harmless little weak 'flower' that I thought I was. In fact, I was quite as capable of causing just as much disappointment in my husband's life.

Once we see our own guilt and own it, I think marriages have a better chance.

Scott said...

Nancy - I am so glad to hear you had the determination to hang in there and see your marriage restored! God is faithful!

Jer Ber - You are right bitterness is dangerous, as is every other negative emotion triggered by disappointment. Deal with it now, or else!

Robyn - What? You mean your aren't perfect? I'm so disappointed! Ha! It's so true that we have to realize that we both will disappoint each other from time to time. It's good to stay humble and acknowledge that, as long as you don't get caught up in beating yourself over the head about it. Show grace to your spouse and to yourself.

Unknown said...
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