Finding Yourself in a Disappointing Marriage: How to Cope

In 2007, we were transformed from a world with no iPhones to a world in which every person was carrying this brilliant little device. While it was not perfect, it was like going from zero to seventy. With each new update and release, we were led to salivate over what was yet to come. As newer models felt exponentially better than the previous, we assumed that each new release would carry that same initial thrill of going from zero to seventy, despite the fact that the updates are now only incremental improvements on this genius piece of technology. Yet, each new release still leaves us feeling disappointment over the fact that the initial thrill we once felt is no longer there.

In my work with relationships, I often find that people fall into the same trap. Singles that are looking for the perfect mate often decline dates in the hopes that a better version will soon come along. Those who are already in committed relationships often fail to appreciate who they have, as they wonder if someone better might exist.

It is this same hyped iPhone expectation which leads to the demise of countless relationships. It is what I call the “midlife crisis mentality”. It is an immature bug of unrealistic expectations, which, when planted in our minds, demands that we wonder about other possibilities, rather than savor what we have. It is what leads a person to impulsively quit their job, buy a new car, search for a new spouse, or undergo radical cosmetic surgery. On a societal and individual level, we must be cautious of this trap, lest we find disappointment in all that we cherish.

So what is the solution to the “midlife crisis mentality”? It is simple – bring appreciation into the relationship!

Instead of looking at what features are still missing, stop and consider how many wonderful ones we already have. When we can turn to an imperfect spouse, child, parent or friend and love them unconditionally, that is when the relationship becomes rock solid.

relationshipsIn 20 years from now, when the iPhone 29 is out, what will it look like and what will it do? Chances are that 90% of it will resemble what we currently have! Will it get thinner, faster and have a longer battery life? Sure it will. But even with a few new bells and whistles, the fundamental pieces are already in place today. It is that core recipe which must be fully appreciated.

The same is true in every relationship. I believe that just about any two people could make their relationship work – if they want to!  While there are periods of euphoric highs, with romance and butterflies, the day-to-day ingredients for every happy relationship are already there. Wondering if you’ve made a mistake, or asking if the grass is greener on the other side can be a waste of good energy that could otherwise be put back into appreciating what you already have and making the relationship even better. 

It all starts with appreciation and gratitude for what you have. Then, the ongoing work is about managing realistic expectations, rather than living for the next fantasy. The research of Dr. John Gottman has found that when one partner begins thinking about how much better things could be with someone else, it can quickly lead to the beginning of the end of the marriage, such as an emotional or sexual affair.

The choice is ours. This will either become the generation which fantasizes about the future to define our excitement, where we live for what we don’t have. Or, we can look inward and savor the incredible gifts that we already have and keep strengthening what we already have and love.

To schedule a free initial couple’s therapy conversation with Dr. Sytner, click here.

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Strange to stumble upon a blog that includes technology, relationships & mid-life crisis and rolls them together. How very interesting! Two things struck me:
1. I cheated on the iPhone and went to the Samsung Galaxy. When I see iPhone adverts I still wonder whether I made the right choice. The analogies just go on….
2. I’m not there with the mid-life crisis (yet) but see it in others. I like that you make the mid-life crisis about appreciation. From what I read, it can also be an awakening, when a person comes to realise their full potential in all its glory and when things start to make sense. An expansion if you like. It doesn’t mean current structures have to be overthrown, but that everything needs integrating. Would you agree?

Ari this post is so awesome! You literally hit the nail on the head with everything you said. When I wrote my post a few weeks ago about Ashley Madison and cheating I got quite a few messages from people saying that I was being unrealistic and most people have “unhealthy” relationships these days. It made me really sad. I’m glad you also think 2 people can make their relationship work if they want to!

In regards to being appreciative, I couldn’t agree more. These days we are too concerned with getting the next newest thing that is out there. Or, in relationships, constantly searching for some person who doesn’t exist. We expect too much and spend too little of our time focusing on all the good things in our lives. Thank you for writing this wonderful post and spreading that message! The world needs to hear it 🙂

A very intriguing title that had me wondering “how on earth can a phone do all that” Technology really often has left us with a discontent with what we have, particularly if there is something out there that is new and improved. And it can easily trickle down to our own relationships. A great post with a wonderful analogy.

Right on! I almost didn’t read it because it said “iPhone” haha But, this is true. We always tend to look toward the bad, look for more — instead of embracing what we have.

What you write is true. We forget to look at the person in front of us with new eyes, as they grow and become more of themselves, find themselves, just as we, hopefully, become more aware human beings. And also, there are times when we will have chosen the wrong person for the wrong reasons, at a time when may have been unable to see who was before us, and because we got seduced by an idea rather than the reality. I know I was certainly there. So for those men and women who end up with self-centred and/or abusive mates, sometimes, it is not a mid-life crisis which overcomes them. It is a mid-life awakening. Thanks for the good work you do in the world.

Great perspective on modern expectations. As a society we are groomed to expect “wow” factor and rarely scratch the surface of what full depth and qualities are inherent in a new or existing product …. similarly, in a new or existing relationship. Further to that, aligning technologies and relationships, it really isn’t about they can do, it is about what qualities exist and how you make the most of them. Time is well spent understanding what truly lies beneath the exterior as most mobile phone users know of – and engage less than – 20% of their functionality and abilities. You simply cannot get the fullest experience and rewards without a deeper engagement and some focus time. Relationships of any type – with any other human deserves the same opportunity…….

Beautiful piece of writing about human wants and I must admit comments on the way you link relationship crisis to our expectations of this technology

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