How to Deal with Disillusionment

We’ve all been there, in a relationship that is going so well, you almost believe it’s too good to be true and then it is. Your partner says something or does something that shatters the illusion of the perfect relationship you thought you had. The rose-tinted glasses are thrown to the ground and it can leave you feeling exposed and vulnerable. Having our perceptions challenged in any context can bring confusion but coupled with a new romantic love, it can be a source of discomfort. But what is disillusionment? It can be referred to as the subsequent feeling of disappointment from the discovery that something is not as good as you once believed it to be or that your beliefs aren’t what they seemed to be.

Consequently, we often try our best to prevent our beliefs from being shattered and can even go as far as seeking out information that supports our principles. As Kaila, ‘The Healthy Helper’says in her blog ‘The importance of challenging your beliefs’, people can latch on to one way of thinking, criticising anything that doesn’t support the mindset that they are in, either in relation to their lifestyle or possibly their relationship. In fact, some even actively search out information that will support their illusions, just to hold onto that sense of security and comfort that believing what they think is correct and that their partner is this perfect person they’ve always been dreaming of brings. Our attempts of holding on to our impressions can even go as far as resulting in people getting irritated when someone tries to counter their opinion on their partner and offers a differing view. Demonstrating this shows more of a case of someone forcibly trying to take your rose-tinted glasses off for you as opposed to you being self-disillusioned. 

As much as we may want a ‘perfect’ relationship, the reality is at some point your partner is likely to do something that you don’t like, even if we choose to see what we want to see in our relationships. When we choose to make our beliefs our sole focus, it closes the door on having the ability to learn and grow in your relationships. It is important to remember that just because something doesn’t specifically align with what you believe about your partner, doesn’t make it wrong or bad. It just makes it different. It may seem uncomfortable or distressing to begin with but depending on what the situation is and what it is that has ‘burst your bubble’ so to speak, there are a number of ways you can respond to it and a multitude of directions your relationship can go. So, it is important to think of disillusionment as a chance to grow both in yourself and in your relationship. 

Therefore when conflict arises in a new relationship, it is often the first hurdle that you and your partner will have to overcome together. If your gut instinct is to usually cut and run at the first sign of any trouble, then you may be missing out on some potentially great relationships and yet if you are someone who becomes too amenable to certain behaviours, then you are again putting yourself at a disadvantage of finding a healthy, happy partnership. This is highlighted by Therapist, Sally Connollyin her blog ‘Running Away from Conflict’, whereby a compromise needs to be struck between two individuals in a relationships. This is because whilst fighting is not usually great for relationships, never talking about issues that have arisen and not resolving differences, is in fact far more detrimental for your relationship. When couples don’t resolve issues, they are more likely to grow distant from each other as they can end up feeling frustrated, upset and dissatisfied. Not feeling heard only exacerbates a feeling of being misunderstood, something that again will push you further from your partner. 

What can intensify the situation is when one or both of the individuals in the relationship exhibit an avoidant attachment type,  as it can worsen the issues discussed in my previous blog ‘The art of self-sabotage, too scared to find what you are looking for?’. This is because you steer yourself away from the reality of the situation in order to maintain a false reality of a perfect relationship that you deem to be ideal. Yet true love will never form if you are living in a falsehood and eventually the cracks will begin to show. Therefore, it is important to live in the relationship you have and not in a fairy-tale one you may dream off. Its not to say that your real relationship isn’t great but the way you think about your relationship and even how you form them can impact its success. For example, as discussed in our podcast ‘Are you up to date with dating terms?’we discuss that there are two contrasting sets of beliefs about the outcomes of romantic relationships. Those who endorse destiny theories believe that relationships succeed or fail because two people are either inherently compatible or not. When problems occur, destiny theorists are more likely to conclude that the relationship was “not meant to be”. They can also demonstrate increased behaviours they believe will reduce the chances of disillusionment. Whereas those who endorse growth theories, believe that relationships thrive when partners overcome challenges and obstacles. Thus, when problems arise, they put additional effort into making their relationship work.  

This is where self-management can come into play, ensuring your expectations are not excessively high can reduce the likelihood of disproportionate disappointment, ultimately reducing consequent negative feelings. If you become aware that you may follow a destiny theorists’ viewpoint, you can work to achieve this self- management. This is not to be confused with having a lack of awareness in what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour and what you are willing to accept in a relationship, but more to ensure that the standards you expect your relationship to follow are realistic. If we expect someone to behave perfectly, we will inevitably become discontented, whereas if we have an understanding that we are all human and makes mistakes, then it means that an entire relationship doesn’t have to get tarnished as the result of one situation. 

However, if you do feel like you’ve seen someone’s true colours, exhibited over a number of occasions, and they are very different to the person they made out to be in the beginning of the relationship, there are a few ways to tackle this. The first thing to do is to ensure you do not gloss over the issue. If they’ve said something, acted a certain way, exhibited a particular trait that displeases you, you have to acknowledge it. Once you are aware of it, you can challenge it, not in an aggressive fashion or in an inquisitory manner but exploratory. Express how you feel and then listen to their point of view, it could simply be a misunderstanding in perception and therefore you could give them the benefit of the doubt.  As Stephanie Sarkismentions in her blog ‘7 Keys to a Healthy and Happy Relationship’, arguing but not fighting “without name-calling or raising your voice” will help to resolve your issues and is therefore one of the key factors in maintaining a healthy and happy relationship. 

 Nevertheless, there has to be a balance in this, give someone the benefit of the doubt too many times and they soon ascertain they can get away with particular behaviours and if allowed to continue, it can progress into negative behaviour or even further into bullying behaviour.  In order to protect yourself from falling into repetitive potentially abusive behaviour, you mustn’t ignore red flags. A balance needs to be made between whether you have been disillusioned through instances where your partner has behaved in an unacceptable manner or whether they should be given a chance and you move on in the relationship. A key factor in keeping a balanced approach is to understand what you want and need from a relationship, this element is discussed in Nina Amir’sblog on ‘The Importance of Knowing What You Want’, where she states that having “clarity about what you desire keeps you moving toward” your goals. It is also important to remember that our desires are temporal and although some may last for may years, it is ok to amend what we are looking for as we grow. 

Nevertheless, only you can decide which route to go in life, what goals may change and whether you focus on having an authentic relationship, whereby you work with your partner to come through the other side of disillusionment.  What you must do however is just ensure whichever route you do follow, you go with a sense of self and an understanding that no-one is perfect and although you may feel an initial subsequent feeling of disappointment, to remember that disillusionment can be a chance for growth and enlightenment, about yourself, your partner and your relationship.