Think of your spouse. If you don’t have one, think of your ideal spouse.
Think of all the things they do that make you happy. Think of their lovely habits, how thoughtful they are, all the wonderful things they do to brighten your life. Revel in those feelings for a moment, allow them to fill you.
Are you giddy and full of love now? Good. Now… that person will hurt you. More than anyone else ever could hope to. They love you as much as you love them, you are a reason they live and yet, they will fail you.
So, then, what now? What do we do when the last person who would want to let us down does exactly that?
1. Talk it out with yourself
First, it helps to understand a single principle: no one is perfect. This may seem insultingly obvious, but it’s usually the first thing forgotten when we’re angry. Talk yourself down from your emotions by remembering whatever happened to upset you was always bound to happen. There’s no fair way to hold someone to standards that don’t allow for mistakes.
When you realize you’re not morally superior to your partner, you’re in a stronger position to help them. Strive to use your moments of strength to help, not hurt.
2. Comfort them
You’ve brought yourself relative peace, now help them obtain the same. Highlight the strength of your bond that’s led to overcoming issues in the past. Undoubtedly, your partner will feel uneasy or anxious at the prospect of having disappointed the person they love. They may even be struggling with fleeting thoughts that this may be the end for you both.
Assure them that although you acknowledge their failure, you intend to work through this together. This brings the same peace to their mind as you found leaving you both in clearer headspaces for conflict navigation.
3. Assess and reflect
Now that you’re both in a state of mind ripe for sorting out problems, it’s time to get to work. Start by stating clearly how your partner failed you, how it made you feel, and what would help.
Analyzing failure is an unpleasant, but necessary, function for growth so we don’t repeat mistakes moving forward. It’s best to explain everything that happened from your perspective, including the resulting thoughts and emotions. When finished, your partner can try repeating your perspective in their own words. This way helps clarify any misunderstandings or misgivings about the events and helps your partner empathize with your perspective.
Once you’re both on the same page with what happened and what it caused, tell your partner what could’ve helped. Without this crucial step, they’re all but certain to repeat the same mistake in the future, just differently.
As much as we desperately wished we knew every thought in our partner’s head, no one is psychic. Assessment and reflection are like giving our partner a figurative blueprint of our mind to reference.
“The real test is not whether you avoid this failure, because you won’t. It’s whether you let it harden or shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it; whether you choose to persevere.”President Barack Obama
If you haven’t felt your partner has failed you in some way, I congratulate your beautiful bond. But every couple eventually struggles through moments of weakness in which one fails the other. In these moments of weakness, remember your strength. Not just your own, but your shared strength from intimacy built throughout your relationship. Assure each other that with your combined strength, there is little (if anything) that can’t be overcome.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline. 800-273-TALK (8255)
Self-Injury Outreach and Support. Learn and/or share personal stories while learning coping skills for the urge to self-harm.
If you enjoyed reading about what to do when your partner fails you, you’ll love reading this article that takes a more extensive, in-depth look at the same issue.