How to Deal with Disappointment without Acting Out
For those of you who don’t know, I am from the Philadelphia area and a huge Philadelphia sports fan. So when our Philadelphia Eagles lost the Super Bowl in a very heartbreaking manner it was hard to take.
To say I felt crushing disappointment Sunday night and the days after is an understatement. But you know what?
I didn’t act out with porn to sooth my frustrations.
That may sound strange to some, but there was a day when I certainly would have. And if you ever struggled with porn or other unwanted sexual behaviors you probably can identify with that sentiment.
Maybe not with sports, but possibly with…
And why? Because disappointment is very difficult and emotionally challenging. Yet, regardless of the reason, acting out sexually is never a good choice. It’s just the choice we feel drawn to because it helps us detach from the pain of our reality.
That said, when you face disappointment (perhaps this week with Valentine’s Day) try to keep the following 6 principles in mind:
Disappointment is a natural feeling we all experience at times in our lives. It’s inevitable. We all have hopes, dreams, and goals… and sometimes (if not often) only a few of the best-case scenarios we’ve drawn up in our heads come true.
That’s life. And it’s ok. And so is the resulting disappointment.
Sit with your feelings.
And refrain from judging or shaming yourself for having them. It’s fine. This too shall pass.
If your sex life is on the same schedule as the presidential elections, then there is very likely a MAJOR problem.
Too often we allow our expressed disappointment to become a weapon of shame.
But the disappointment you feel is your fault not theirs. To put it another way, disappointment is caused by the nonfulfillment of your hopes or expectations, not by some inadequacy on their part.
So when your spouse denies you sexually, it’s OK to feel disappointment.
But it’s not OK to tell them they’re a disappointment. They didn’t create the expectations you thrust upon them; you did.
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I’m not going to lie. Sunday night I was angry. Especially after a late penalty that was called that determined the outcome of the game. And when you face moments of disappointment, you may experience feelings of anger as well.
And that’s to some extent a little expectant.
Anger is a secondary emotion and one of the easiest to express because it distracts you from experiencing the real pain you feel inside. But anger can lead to even more problems and make a bad situation even worse.
Don’t get me wrong. When that game ended I wanted to hurl something at the TV, but I didn’t. Because I know that would have just created more damage. And regardless of the situation, the same principle applies.
Again, when you experience disappointment with a spouse specifically in regard to their rejection, lashing out at them is going to complicate matters greatly. Take a breath. Walk away if you need to. Acknowledge your feelings and deal with them.
Then, when you feel under control, you can return to the situation and do what’s needed.
Don’t let your anger decide what’s going to happen next. Likewise…
Again, your feelings are OK. They may even be merited. After all, there is nothing wrong with setting expectations. But when something or someone fails to meet those expectations you have a choice.
Or do you get back to work (whatever “work” may be in your situation).
If you are married and want to experience deeper intimacy, then you have work ahead of you. And that work will often not be easy or pleasant. But you need to stay the course rather than letting your disappointment derail your efforts.
This might mean you have to…
Putting emotions into words is very therapeutic and can even help you better regulate your emotional response to a situation.
Matthew D. Lieberman, UCLA associate professor of psychology and a founder of social cognitive neuroscience, explains that when you put feelings into words you activate the prefrontal cortex region of your brain (the high brain) and see a reduced response in the amygdala (the mid-brain).
Just like when you see a yellow light and hit the brakes in your car, putting feelings into words hits the brakes on your emotional responses.
Additionally, in a relationship context, when you take the time to share your disappointments and frustrations in a nonjudgmental way, you can allow for more productive dialogue and build empathy (both ways).
Ultimately, what’s important to understand is that disappointment is an entirely human and normal feeling. There’s nothing wrong with it. But that is not a valid reason to act out sexually, so you need to learn how to deal with disappointment without using things like masturbation and porn.
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