by: Margaret Paul, Ph.D.
Shauna believed that her feeling of frustration was being caused by Mark. But this was not the case.
Frustration is the result of an expectation. Shauna had an unrealistic expectation that Mark would be on time, despite the fact that he never was. Shauna knew from the very beginning of their relationship that Mark was always late, but she convinced herself that she could make him change. Shauna hated being late, but because she had fallen in love with Mark, she didn’t want to accept that she could not make him change. So she kept trying to get him to be on time, and kept feeling frustrated each time he was late.
You will likely feel frustrated any time you do not accept the reality of a person or situation. Many people believe that they can get others to change – if they are loving enough, needy enough, angry enough, hurt enough, or punishing enough. Sometimes people will give in to you, but often they end up resisting in other areas in order to not feel controlled by you. No one likes to feel controlled, so often people unconsciously do whatever it is you don’t like to not feel controlled. Few people have learned how to decide for themselves whether or not they want to do as another asks them to do. Instead, they either give in and resent you, or they resist, and in both cases there are negative consequences for the relationship.
“Shauna, if you completely accepted that Mark is always going to be late and that there is nothing you can do about it, what would you do to take responsibility for your own feelings of frustration?”
“Well, I can take my own car, but then I don’t get to be with him.”
“So which is more important to you – being with him and being late, or being on time and not being with him?”
“Why can’t he just be on time?”
“Shauna, this is a complicated issue. Perhaps he had a controlling parent and he learned to resist by being late, or perhaps everyone in his household was always late and he learned to live his life this way. Perhaps he has a problem with time organization and has never learned how to manage time. He can learn this, but he has to want to, and the fact that he is resistant to changing it means that he is getting some benefit out of being late. The issue for you is that you can’t make him change, and the fact that you keep expecting him to change is what is causing your frustration. Accepting your helplessness over him is a big challenge, but until you do you will feel frustrated. Your expectations and resulting frustration is a protection to not feel the authentic feeling, which is the helplessness over him. If you accept this, your frustration will go away and you will learn to take the loving action in your own behalf. So which is more important to you – being with him and being late, or being on time and not being with him?”
“I guess that sometimes it’s more important to be with him and other times it is more important to be on time. And I can see that when it is more important to me to be on time, then I have to take my own car. I can’t say I’m happy about this, but I do feel a sense of relief knowing that I can do something about the time when it is important to me.”