3 Takeaways for Dealing with a Loved One Who Disappoints Us

Updated: May 12

This past weekend was Mother’s Day.

To all the incredible mama's out there, I hope your Mother's day was wonderful!

Mother's Day can be such a happy time for seasoned and new mothers, as well as the loved ones in their lives.

But for some, it can be tough.

For some, we may have grown up with moms who aren't the female role model that we expected.

For some, we may have a complicated relationship with the woman who raised us.

For some, we may feel betrayed by this one person we wanted to care for us so badly.

And this isn't only applicable to moms... It may have been a grandparent, a dad, a sibling, an aunt or uncle, a best friend. Or maybe even ourselves.

What I have slowly come to realize it that takes a lot of energy and pain to hate.

I have spent a lot of time feeling confused and hurt, trying to figure out what was wrong with me or why a loved one may have acted a certain way... Why someone I love and care about can't seem to meet the expectations I have for them.

Here I want to share with you the lessons I have learned:

1) First and foremost, we must have compassion for ourselves. I invite you to allow yourself to feel the feelings that this person is bringing up for you.

While I invite you to identify the specific feeling using The Feelings Wheel shown below, it’s important not to identify WITH them. What I mean by this is that it’s beneficial to not let yourself get caught up in all of these feelings. Instead, I encourage you to feel the feeling and then allow those feelings to move through you.

After this, ask yourself, may I feel compassion for this person in my life, too?

When we're experiencing pain, it can be hard to realize that maybe that other person is expressing these certain behaviors because they also have a lot of unresolved pain sitting inside themselves that they don't have any idea how to deal with.

For instance, maybe your grandmother is constantly putting you down whenever you bring a muffin to your mouth or whenever you try to don any sort of tight-fitting clothing. This may make you feel inadequate and unworthy. I invite you to write those words down, sit with those with feelings. Then I encourage you to get curious, exploring the idea that maybe your grandmother chooses to speak to you this way because she’s grown up being extremely self-conscious of her own weight and food intake, constantly criticizing herself whenever she “slips up”. While holding this sort of compassion doesn’t make this person “right” or “okay”, maybe this sort of negative self-talk is being relayed through unnecessary criticizing of your own food and clothing choices.

It’s possible that someday, when you’re feeling ready, you can actually have a discussion with this person about the hardships they have gone through to make them act and speak the way they may be acting and speaking. Make sure to read then next takeaway on how to handle this sort of conversation that feels constructive for both you and the other person.

But for now, repeat after me: May I hold compassion for myself and for [insert person’s name here] in this moment. May I open myself to the idea that this person’s words or actions are not a reflection of how they feel about me or my life, but maybe about how they feel about their own. May I hold space for the feelings I am feeling right now without judgment.

Another practice I find helpful in this moment is incorporating breathwork (ie breathing in love and compassion for myself, and breathing out love and compassion for the other person). You can also replace the word “love” and “compassion” with another elevating emotion, like strength, forgiveness, kindness, warmth, etc.

2) The hard truth of the matter is that it's not that person's job to live up to our expectations, similar to how it’s not OUR job to live up to anyone else’s expectations but our own.

The person we may be experiencing complicated emotions around is also a human being living their own human experience.

Not to say that you should not talk to this person about what feelings are coming up for you.

In fact, I encourage you to voice your concerns and discuss with that person how their words and/or actions may be affecting you in a way that it isn't shaming or blaming them - which causes a defensive response - but in a way where you're holding a container of warmth and care for this person, while also expressing how certain behaviors may be hurting you.

For instance, say you noticed that your significant other has been drinking a lot more and not helping out around the house.

Instead of reacting in a derogatory or passive aggressive manner (ie “Do I have to do EVERYTHING around here?? Can you at least take the trash out instead of sitting on your lazy ass playing video games?”), is there a way you can respond in a way that feels constructive to both you and your partner.

For example, gently asking your partner to stop what he/she is doing so that you can talk. Then, opening up and holding the space for both your partner and yourself by saying something along the lines of “I know that you have been having a hard time at work and I’m so sorry that you have been feeling so down and frustrated. I have noticed that you have been drinking more and I feel as though I have been doing everything around the house, which has been really hard for me. I’m worried about you and I also miss having you to interact with at the end of the day.”

When opening up difficult conversations with a significant other, a parent, a sibling, a child, a best friend, or whoever in our lives who we love and care - and has also been bringing up feelings of despair within us - by approaching the conversation in an understanding, calm way, we can truly invite the other person to open up versus if we tried to start the conversation in an accusatory manner.

At the end of the day, that person will not change their behaviors unless they want to change, unless they themselves can see the positive difference that working on shifting their behaviors can bring to their own lives. This is where having a constructive, open conversation can come in handy.

3) Forgiveness, when you’re ready.

This doesn’t mean that you have to see this person again, love them, or talk to them ever again.

But it can, if that is what you desire.

There was someone in my life who I cared for and loved very much (and still do). But I did feel betrayed by this person, like I built up a relationship with them and this person didn’t care, as evidenced by multiple lies and instances of deceit.

And I also knew that I still wanted this person in my life, even though it felt forced and awkward whenever I met up with this person; I found myself becoming angry, confused and hurt all over again.

Until I heard a phrase recently from a great female influence that went along the lines of “To forgive someone does not mean that what that person did was right, but it allows you to release the hold they have on you; it allows you to be free”.

Forgiveness is self-love. Forgiveness is freedom. Forgiveness is the utmost strength.

What if you were able to release the hold that this person had on you? What if you were able to release the feelings of hate and hurt?

Again, to release the hold does not mean that what this person did was okay. But what it does mean is that you no longer have to keep constantly wondering WHY this person cannot just act differently, why they did not make an alternate decision in the past (or the present if they continue to participate in questionable behaviors). Or why they cannot care for and about you the way that you want them to.

Here, you can say to yourself: May I release the past. May release the pain that you [the person] have caused me. May I forgive you and love you, knowing that I am not responsible for changing you.

This is not to say that it won’t be painful. Or that you should not continue to practice setting boundaries for this person. Or that you’ll automatically “get over it”.

Forgiveness takes time. Only you will know when you’re ready.

All of these takeaways are a continuous practice, ones that will be helpful to undergo as you encounter people in your life who disappoint you or hurt you, whether it is the same person, or different individuals.

Many of my thoughts and teachings are grounded in self-love.

In this life that we have, we deserve to have people in our lives who we WANT to be there.

For the people who we don’t want to be in our lives, can we release the negative feelings festering inside of us, so that we no longer have to suffer? What would it feel like to be able to move forward, without feeling like you’re constantly harnessed to the past?

And for this who we choose to continue to take a part in our existence, but having trouble reconciling this desire with any pain or hurt they may have caused us, what if we could let go? What if we could forgive with the knowledge that there may be some things that continue to be worked on and discussed, with the knowledge that we are all flawed humans who are going through the ebbs and flows of life?

So, as stated previously Mother’s Day - and any sort of holiday - can be extremely happy for some, but not so much for others, for various reasons.

We have the opportunity to decide how we want to handle hard situations in the present and in the future. We all have an opportunity to grow.

I leave you with this: We cannot change the past, as much as we may want to. But we have the ability to change our thoughts and actions in the present to set us up to handle obstacles and tough situations easier and in more alignment with how we want our future to look. What will that look like for you?

There is no right answer here. Only the answer that works for YOU.

Alli is mid-20's blogger, educator, and coach residing in Maine who highly enjoys spending time outdoors, adores big dogs and loves to read in her spare time. She works as a pediatric physical therapist by day and helps ambitious women find PEACE with food and their bodies, so they can be PRESENT in their everyday life + relationships by afternoon. Because of her experience suffering from years of disordered eating and hating her body, it has become Alli's mission to help others find food freedom and body confidence just like she did using the concepts of self-compassion and intuitive eating. Schedule your free call with her here.

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