People disappoint us on a daily basis.
You disappoint people.
For most people, we look past it, shrug and keep moving.
Something different happens though when it is our spouse.
Maybe it is the high expectation we have of them, our hope that they won’t disappoint us, it might be because they are closer to us than anyone us that it hurts more or simply that we are jaded and hurt because of “all the disappointments.”
When it happens (and it will happen), you have some choices to make and the choices you make will have an enormous impact on your marriage, your kids and your view of your spouse.
Here are some things to keep in mind when your spouse disappoints you:
1. Protect your heart. It is easy when you are hurt or disappointed to become bitter and cold towards your spouse. If they’ve hurt you, cheated or made a poor decision that has led to financially hardship, it is easy to hold this over their head. Are you justified to be angry? Yes. Do you need to automatically trust them if they apologize? No. You don’t need to keep them at arms length (you may need to depending on what happened), but if you aren’t careful you will become bitter and resentful which makes reconciliation almost impossible. Protect your heart from this.
2. Look at your sin. When you are disappointed, it is easy to think it is 100% the fault of the other person. Very rarely is an issue in a marriage 100% the sin of one person. Both people have a part. Yes, one is more to blame than the other, but both made the issue happen or allowed the issue to keep going because of not having a hard conversation or looking at the issue. When you are disappointed, look at what you did to cause the issue.
3. Understand why you are disappointed. As you think about your disappointment, be sure to ask why you are disappointed. Often, our disappointments come from an unsaid expectation, how our spouse reminds us of a parent who hurt us, or an ex. This doesn’t mean we let our spouse off the hook, but until you identify why you are disappointed, you may be putting your spouse up against a standard they can never reach or judging them on something you never told them about.
4. Is your expectation realistic? As you think about your fault in something and why you are disappointed, it is important to ask if you have communicated your expectations to your spouse and if they are realistic. Often, our anger, hurt and disappointment comes from an unrealistic expectations. The only people who can honestly answer if your expectation is realistic or if your disappointment is justified is you and your spouse. Your friends can’t. It’s just you two.
5. Be honest with your spouse. When someone vents to me about their spouse, my first question is, “have you told them this?” Almost always, the answer is no. Or, “they don’t listen.” Or, “they wouldn’t listen.” Until you’ve told your spouse honestly how you are feeling, you shouldn’t be spouting it to anyone else or all over Facebook. You don’t know what they’ll do with the information you’ll give them. You might be right and they’ll completely blow it off. They may surprise you. They may have no idea how they are hurting you or not showing you love. When I’ve asked Katie what she needs as our kids have gotten older, her answers have often surprised me. Very rarely what shows her love is what I thought would show her love. So tell them. Your spouse is not a mind reader, just tell them.
One thing that many couples struggle with is the wife wants to share about something and have her husband just listen. The husband wants to give her feedback and how to fix it. This often leaves couples frustrated. A few years ago a woman asked Katie what she does in this situation. Her response: “I tell Josh what I want before I tell him. I’ll say ‘I just need you to listen right now.’ Or ‘I want your help in figuring this out.'” This gives me a clear expectation of what she wants in this situation. I know, I know. That isn’t romantic or I should just know many women might say. But it avoids unnecessary hurt and fights.
6. Give your spouse a chance to respond & change. Once you’ve been honest with your spouse, give them a chance to make some changes. I often think a good rule of thumb when it comes to how many chances you give your spouse to change is how many you’d like to get if the roles were reversed. Again, this is the hard choice you’ll have to make, not your friends or Facebook.
At the end of it all, the most important thing to remember with this or any other issue in your marriage is to always fight for and pursue oneness. You will get hurt and disappointed, that’s one thing you signed up for in marriage or any relationship. The ones who survive are the ones who fight for oneness.