The disappointment gap is the distance between our expectation and reality. For example, Covid invaded our home 2 days before Christmas. The expectation was the family would be together for Christmas for the first time in a couple years. Reality was a Zoom dinner (again) and the Covid-laden family member separated from the group.
In relationships we expect to be loved, respected, and happy. We expect our basic needs met, and to be valued as human beings. When it comes to for better or worse, richer or poorer, and sickness or health, we expect better, richer, and health.
Unfortunately, when reality differs from our expectations a gap occurs that can produce disappointment, discontent, dismay, discouragement, and destructive behaviors if not redirected.
This is when two parasite words creep in: “Always” and “Never”. He will never share his thoughts with me. She always disregards my need for space. Parasites suck the life out of the host; in this case, these words suck life out of the relationship.
We stop believing that things can change, stop trying, and start looking for something to dull the pain. So overeating, workaholic tendencies, porn, pleasure seeking, other relationships, or other things replace taking action to improve the relationships we have.
Steps Toward Overcoming
1. Remove “always” and “never” from your vocabulary and thoughts
They are rarely true. This can help us to see the good that we’re missing.
2. Focus on Yourself
When relationships are strained, we tend to focus on what the other is doing or not doing. Often when a relationship ends, the freed partners do things with the new person that may have relit the flame in their previous relationship:
- Spending quality time together
- Listening to each other
- Not criticizing and complaining
- Giving gifts
- Dressing up before we go out
- Doing little things like sending affectionate texts etc.
- Holding hands
Basically, ask the question, what have I stopped doing that could change things?
3. Remind Yourself What Love Really Is
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NIV
Our love should reflect the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ. However, the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ does not condone or support physical or emotional abuse. But most relationships end, not because of abuse, but because needs aren’t being met in a meaningful way. n
4. Seek Out Marriage Help
You’re not alone and there is hope in most cases. Call Focus on the Family, seek out a Christian Counselor, find a good marriage blog like Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs. For adults with divorced parents, learn how your parents’ divorce is impacting your behaviors and responses to your spouse or partner.
In closing, I looked at the disappointment gap through a relational lens, but when applied to life, it can lead to issues such as depression, suicidal thoughts, and other debilitating factors. If this applies to you, seek professional help. If suicidal call 1-800-273-8255 (Suicide Prevention Lifeline).