Our generation already boasts two monikers: Millennials and Gen-Y. But we could just as easily claim a third one: The Disappointed Generation.
Most of us grew up with expectations for our futures that vastly exceeded our present realities. For us, underemployment is a way of life. Once attainable dreams, like buying a home or starting a family, seem a million miles away.
We all struggle with chronic disappointment, especially when it comes to relationships. We weren’t the first generation to grow up with Disney princess-level expectations of our own love stories, but we may have been the first to really believe them.
If you were constantly told you’re amazing, special and capable of anything, as many of us were, fairytale love stories seem totally doable.
Cinderella barely did anything to make the prince fall in love with her; she just attended a party while looking awesome. Snow White was literally asleep when the prince fell for her. If they can do it, landing a prince should be a piece of (poisoned apple) pie, right?
Millennials are marrying later in life than any previous generation, and the divide between the romantic heroes of yore, and the random assh*les, appears to be ever widening.
Maybe you’re having a hard time untangling yourself from hook-up culture. Maybe you have an easy time landing boyfriends, but find yourself increasingly deflated each time he shows himself to be less than Prince Eric (yes, Prince Eric is the best Disney prince, obviously).
Whatever aspect of relationship life you’re currently dissatisfied with, there are some ways to pull yourself out of it.
Here are five ways to overcome chronic disappointment in relationships:
1. Don’t lower your expectations; shorten your list of expectations.
When you’re absolutely sure you need a certain trait or quality in a boyfriend, don’t compromise it. Don’t lower your standards on the things you know you need. If you can’t get serious with someone who’s not intelligent, or can’t date someone with whom you feel no sexual spark, keep those standards high.
That being said, there are probably not that many things you absolutely require in a partner. Fundamentally, you should require someone who’s honest, interested in you and emotionally available. Throw “intelligence” and “sexual spark” on the short-list too, if those are essentials.
But that’s it.
Everything not on the (very short) list of requirements is negotiable. You’ll always feel disappointed if you expect your boyfriend to boast professor-like education, Benz ownership and a hot bod to boot.
Keep the short list short, and maintain an open mind about everything else.
2. Don’t demand perfection, but demand effort.
We all know there’s no objectively "perfect" partner.
Even Prince Eric fell for the Sea Witch in disguise and lost a little bit of his luster along the way. But we forgave him, because he realized his mistake and did everything in his power to make it right.
Every boyfriend (or husband) you ever have will mess up at some point, but it’s the effort (or lack of effort) he puts into making it right that matters.
Can it be a little jarring when someone who you think is amazing/awesome/perfect makes his first mistake in the relationship? Yes.
But don’t let it send you down a disappointment spiral. If he realizes what he did wrong, apologizes and works to not make that same mistake again, this can actually be a good thing for the relationship.
3. Become the person who wouldn’t disappoint you.
If there’s an ideal person in your mind you’d like to date -- honest, confident, reliable, straightforward -- become that person yourself. There are a number of reasons why this will help you overcome relationship disappointment.
First, it’s something completely within your control, and something you can do when you’re single. You may not be able to change other people or the dating landscape in general, but you can always work on yourself.
And by becoming the person you’d want to date, you’re more likely to attract a person like you.
This works if you’re in a relationship as well. If you work to improve yourself, there’s a good chance your partner will notice and decide to follow your lead. If he doesn’t and you have to end the relationship, at least you'll walk away knowing for sure that you’re awesome.
Which leads us to…
4. Be willing to walk away.
If you’re in a relationship where the other person is constantly letting you down, it’s no wonder you feel stuck in a fog of disappointment. Once you’ve tried and tried again to improve the situation, it’s worth remembering that you always have the option to leave.
Keeping in mind that you can leave is not about threatening the other person; it’s about not giving away your power in the relationship. You're are not doomed to be in a less-than-satisfying relationship just because you’re in one now. You always have the option to walk away from something (or someone) that’s truly beneath you.
5. Don’t abandon your friendships.
A disappointing relationship is never fun. But it’s not a disaster unless you’ve let your other meaningful relationships slide because of it.
Breaking up can become an utterly soul-crushing experience if you feel like you've sacrificed everything -- including friendships -- to make the relationship work. And then, sometimes, it still doesn’t work.
Maintaining your social circle outside of the relationship (especially in the beginning, when you don’t know if the other person is who you think he is) helps ease any let-downs that arise within the relationship.
If you keep your friends, you’ll know you still have people who care about you. If you keep your friends, it’s much easier to keep your spirits up.
Our generation may have been set up for chronic disappointment, but we don’t need to give in to it. Use these tips to help keep relationship disappointment at bay.