Disappointment in a relationship

Managing Disappointment In A Relationship

Difficulty with Vulnerable Feelings

What do you do when you are disappointed with your partner?

Specifically, what we do when we are disappointed in our partners reveals our difficulties with our vulnerable feelings. These include feeling hurt, abandoned, sad, guilty, ashamed, and fragile.

What we do (our behavior) when we are disappointed, hurt, or feel let down also reveals our survival strategies and, consequently, our ability to create good relationships or wreak havoc on our relationships.

Our behavior reveals a lot about us:

  • What we struggle with
  • Why our relationships are difficult
  • How we survived past difficulties
  • Our attachment styles
  • And more

Non-Optimal Strategies for Disappointment

There are a lot of non-optimal ways to deal with our feelings. Some of these strategies for coping with our vulnerable feelings are very destructive to our relationships. Some may be game changers, red flags that suggest the relationship is unproductive and will repeatedly cause hurt.


Hurt, Hurting, or Both?

If someone were a client of mine whose behavior negatively impacted their relationship with their partner, I would help them connect more fully to their difficult feelings and change how they dealt with them.

If someone was being hurt by another person’s survival strategies, and that other person was unwilling to do the work to change them, I might suggest that the relationship had untenable limitations and work on self-care with the person continually being hurt.

Of course, it is usually not one-sided. Usually (but not always,) two people hurt each other with their actions. We tend to form repetitive patterns of difficulty in our relationships.


I’m Disappointed In You

  • When you disappoint me, I punish you so that I do not have to feel my vulnerable feelings.
  • When you disappoint me, I pull away because I need to regroup and process my vulnerable feelings.
  • I pursue or cling to you when you disappoint me because I cannot tolerate my vulnerable feelings.
  • When you disappoint me, I shut down and become unavailable because I cannot tolerate my vulnerable feelings.
  • When you disappoint me, I find someone else to be with because I cannot tolerate my vulnerable feelings.
  • When you disappoint me, I fantasize about other people because I cannot tolerate my vulnerable feelings.
  • When you disappoint me, I move into addictive behavior because I cannot tolerate my vulnerable feelings.
  • I want to hurt myself when you disappoint me because I cannot tolerate my vulnerable feelings.
  • When you disappoint me, I feel rage because I cannot tolerate my vulnerable feelings.


Tools To Change

The tools for changing our survival strategies include:

  • Getting in touch with our deep vulnerabilities
  • Self-reflection and, consequently, insight
  • Deactivating our triggers
  • Healing
  • Authentic and vulnerable communication

Each of these contributes to changing our behavior from destructive to productive and ultimately helps create a secure attachment style in our relationship.

Our communication opens up as we begin to make changes and apply the above tools.

When you disappoint me, I tell you I feel disappointed and ask that we talk about what happened, how your actions impacted me, my needs, and possibly my historical wounds.

Opening up this kind of conversation – assuming both parties are willing to look at themselves, be accountable, and change – is how we move relating from patterns that don’t work to more conscious and loving relating.

Also, we may respond differently when disappointed by life or an event rather than an attachment figure. For example, when I experience disappointment from a life event, I may, in a sense, collapse. I might cry and feel depressed until I bounce back and feel normal again.


Attachment Styles

Of course, how we handle our disappointments brings up attachment styles. Because much of our behaviors stem from attachment deficits that formed as we developed and are now concretized in an attachment style.

But back to our behavior in our relationships when we feel disappointed.

For someone who has an anxious attachment style, also known as preoccupied, they might begin to pursue when they are disappointed. This can look different according to the person. For example, they might be a bit harsh and attacking or try to plead and get their partner to move closer to them. Regardless, they will tend to move towards their partner, whether with anger or fear.

For someone with an Avoidant, also referred to as Dismissive Attachment Style, they will likely move away when disappointed.

For someone with Disorganized Attachment, also known as Fearful-Avoidant, they might move forward and then withdraw.

Someone with a Secure Attachment Style will probably be able to talk about their partners, disappointment, and needs.


Disappointment In Ourselves

Sometimes as we watch our behavior, we feel disappointed in ourselves. Maybe we are getting reactive, grumpy, mean. Maybe we go off and abandon our partner. We know we are hurting them. We want to act better. We just don’t know how to deal with the intensity of our feelings. Being disappointed in ourselves indicates that we are conscientious. It means we don’t want to hurt someone else. If we are not disappointed in our own bad behavior, we may tend towards narcissism – which definitely will require some work to shift. But back to feeling disappointed in ourselves. What can we do?

  • See that this is an opportunity to grow and evolve.
  • Learn more about what is getting triggered in you.
  • Learn to transcend/defuse that trigger – meaning heal this part of you.
  • Discuss what is happening with your partner. Include the parts that are your responsibility and the parts of them that you struggle with.
  • Tell yourself you will learn to handle this.
  • Tell yourself you don’t have to hate yourself. You just have some work to do.



We can change and develop. We grow. We rewire. We are continually evolving. Just because we have a behavior doesn’t mean we will always behave that way. As we use the tools available to us and interact more effectively, we can change how we behave as we respond to our vulnerable feelings. Ultimately, we can create good relationships that are close and supportive.


The WeConcile App

Give the WeConcile App a try! It will help you deal with the disappointments in your relationship and develop new ways to relate.

There will always be a free trial for the Premium Subscription version.

The Freemium version just gives a little taste but not the full experience.

We’ve also fixed the bugs and are continuing to make the WeConcile App better and better, so give the new and improved version a try.




Learn more about Attachment Styles here:

Using Attachment Types to Improve Communication


And this post might interest you:

Grow Your Relationship with an Attachment Style Quiz


Attachment Styles & Their Role in Relationships


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