Sometimes you can find yourself trapped in this cycle of doing the same thing over and over again on the basis that, in spite of evidence to the contrary, you still believe there’s the possibility of the original reward. On some level, you’re hoping for a big payout that will make up for all the previous disappointments.

I correspond with a number of people where it seems like someone repeatedly disappointing them doesn’t matter. When that person gets in touch, they respond and do all manner of things. And then they feel disappointed and vow to do differently. Yet the next time the person does the same thing (or variations of it), they’ll respond in a similar way.

Here’s an example:

The person calls and asks for something. —> They spring into action even though they have reservations. —> They think that maybe ‘this time’, it’s for real. —>

They feel validated when the person calls and by doing whatever is asked. It’s because they feel needed, valued, more important than someone else this person’s involved with, etc. —>

The relationship doesn’t materialise. —>

They feel despondent. —> They wonder why what they did wasn’t enough. —> They think about how they need to move on and forget this person. —> Time passes (possibly the same amount of time as usual). —>

The person calls but doesn’t ask for something. —> They’re curious and take the call. —>

They feel validated and hopeful, along with other short-term, feel-good emotions, although they no doubt feel cautious. —> They’re afraid to tell them to jog on because what if this time is different? What if this time it’s for real? —>

They sleep together / hang out. —->

The relationship doesn’t materialise. —>

They feel despondent. —> They wonder why their efforts weren’t enough. —> They think about how they need to move on and forget this person. —-> Time passes (possibly the same amount of time as usual). —> And… lather, rinse, repeat.

It’s the same disappointment.

Now, if you look at these as isolated situations, you might think that they were different. However, in reality, they’re not.

Consider the above example. One time, the person called and asked for something. And one time, they didn’t ask for anything ‘upfront’, although there is an ‘understanding’. The hopeful party sprung into hopeful action, thinking they’d get the big payout. It didn’t happen (again), and they felt bad afterwards (again).


they say i've change

If you’re experiencing your own Disappointment Cycle, it’s due to getting caught out by being hopeful for the big payout, i.e. the relationship you want or whatever, and then getting side-tracked by the short-term or even instant high.

Sometimes it’s your ego that provides the distraction. At some point, you need to be saying, “Er, this ‘reward’ doesn’t exist,” or “It’s not worth it.”

At some point, you need to opt out of the Disappointment Cycle that you’re in with the same person.

If you stop viewing the situation in the same way you have previously, you will recognise the pattern of disappointment and learn from the insights gained. You certainly wouldn’t continue responding because that would be insanity: doing the same thing and expecting different results.

If you look at how long you feel good for when the latest cycle first starts and then evaluate how long this lasts in minutes, hours, days, and weeks, you’d be surprised how you can be putting yourself on the hamster wheel for what may be a matter of minutes.

One reader has been doing a Disappointment Cycle with her ex for several years for feel-good highs of as little as fifteen minutes! Fifteen minutes!

I’ve asked a few people why they keep doing this to themselves, and all answers led back to this anticipation of something that’s not actually there, but they hope for it to be because it would make it all worthwhile.

Often, people who are in a Disappointment Cycle, when they think about responding differently, they don’t think about not responding at all or saying NO.

Their idea of “not responding” is to make them wait a while or not make it “easy” for them.

But what is the point if, at the end of the day, it’s going to wind up with the same net result at the end of the cycle?

You could add in another few steps, but a person who is hellbent on doing things ‘their way’ will passive-aggressively and sometimes aggressively get things to where they want them to be.

If you keep winding up with the same net result from someone, it’s teaching you who they are and their real agenda.

Even inconsistent people end up being consistent about being inconsistent, with the net feedback to you being Don’t rely on this person.

It’s like when you only hear from that person when they want something. It’s all very well hoping that on the fifty-first occasion, they’ll be different, but you have fifty occasions where they haven’t been. They’re a user.

If you look back over an unhealthy relationship, you will see there’s a ‘cycle’. The time periods may vary a little, but you will notice that certain things happen or they do something, you respond, they do something else, you respond, there’s a fallout and lather, rinse, repeat.

I know people whose relationships break down every Christmas and just in time for Valentine’s Day.

There are people who ruin every birthday, weekend away and holiday.

I know people who hear from an ex every time they’re in between relationships.

What do you do with these people? Keep hoping each Christmas, Valentine’s etc., will be different? Keep being available in between their breakups? Hard pass!

People really do teach you what to expect from them. You could expect differently, but that will only set you up for pain, especially when they’ve given you all the information you need to choose a different course of action. Without them. Listen to your feedback from your experiences. Acknowledge where you’re being sucked into responding to their cues.

This person’s just not that different.

If you broke down each occasion and plotted it against a calendar as well as did a blow-by-blow list of moves, you’d be frightened at how damn similar the situations are and each of your responses.

If someone is blowing hot and cold, then you know that when you get hot, cold is coming, and vice versa. And lather, rinse, repeat.

You don’t try to get them to do hot all the time. Instead, you recognise that playing switcheroo is their thing and get off the rollercoaster (Disappointment Cycle) before you throw up your self-esteem or continue to give them time and energy that would be better spent elsewhere.

Your thoughts?

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