Is it time to give up? Here’s how to know when you should stop hoping a relationship will change, plus the difference between wishful thinking versus healthy reasons to keep hoping for change. You believe in your relationship…but are you hoping for a miracle?
First, here’s the difference between wishful and hoping. Then, find strength and courage to move forward. “It is imperative that you give up hope if your hope is not hope at all, but just an empty wish,” writes Dr Henry Cloud in Necessary Endings: The Employees, Businesses, and Relationships That All of Us Have to Give Up in Order to Move Forward. “But how do we know the difference between wishing and hoping?”
Before we explore the difference between solid grounds for healthy hope in a relationship versus wishful thinking, tell me what you’re hoping for. How do you want your relationship to change? What do you wish was different, or better, or nonexistent?
Talk to me in the comments section below! Share the best and worst parts of your relationship. Writing about your hopes and fears will help you see what needs to change in your relationship…and it may even show you what is and isn’t possible.
How to Know if You Should Give Up Hope
“One of the best ways to know when to give up hope in your relationship is your fear of change,” says Alex in 4 Signs You’re Fooling Yourself About Your Relationship. “One of the reasons people stay in bad relationships is their reluctance to change anything. Men by nature are conservative. Many of them agree to be unhappy in a relationships for the sake of stability.”
Most people dislike change – both men and women find change difficult to adapt to (but yes, men do seem to prefer routine more than women!). Whether you’re a man or woman, these tips will help you see if you’re stuck in wishful thinking or if you have legitimate grounds to hope your relationship changes…
1. Know yourself
Are you staying in this relationship because you’re scared to be alone? Maybe you dislike change, like Alex mentioned in the comment above. Maybe you don’t want to be a “divorced woman” or “single mom.” Maybe you aren’t sure you can pay the bills, take care of the house, or find someone new to spend the rest of your life with.
Before you can know if when to give up hope in a relationship, you need to know yourself. Figure out why you’re staying and what you’re hoping for. Be honest with yourself. Write down your deepest, darkest hopes and dreams. Work through your disappointments and failures. The more you understand yourself, the easier it’ll be to decide if it’s time to stop hoping your relationship will change.
2. Learn the difference between healthy hope and wishful thinking
Healthy hope isn’t just a yearning or expectation that your relationship will change.
Healthy, solid hope means you have specific grounds for believing that your relationship can and is changing. Your hope is founded on specific, objective reasons to believe that your relationship can be different than it is now.
If you wish your relationship would change but you have no real reason to believe, then you’re trapped in the wishful thinking stage. You have no solid reason to believe that change is possible….your hopes are founding on nothing more than your fairytale wishes for something different in your life. There’s nothing wrong with hoping your relationship will change — if you have a realistic, objective reason to believe that change is coming.
3. List 3 specific reasons you’re hoping in your relationship
Here are a few objective reasons to hold on to your hope:
- You and your husband or boyfriend have talked honestly and openly about the changes you hope to see in your marriage
- Both you and your partner have identified specific ways to change your relationship
- You and your boyfriend or husband are holding on not just to your hope in your relationship, but your belief that you can actually make change happen
- You’re aware of specific things you can do to reconnect as a couple, such as marriage counseling, reading relationship books together, going to a marriage retreat or course, or changing your routine to refocus your priorities
What are three specific things you and your partner can do? If you and he can agree on at least one way to move forward, then don’t stop hoping in your relationship! You have a REASON to hope, and you can create the change you want to see.
4. Be honest with yourself — and your partner
Here’s how to know when to give up hope in a relationship:
- You’ve been waiting for a long time for your husband or boyfriend to change
- You know you’re ignoring the warning signs of a bad relationship, but you’re “love him too much” to make a change
- You’re passively waiting for him to start loving you the way you need to be loved
- You think love is enough, and you’re hoping your relationship will take a turn for the better — without you having to do anything
Another tip for knowing when it’s time to stop hoping in your relationship is how many friends, family members, and forums you’ve consulted. Are you asking for advice, over and over? Are you ignoring what your gut is telling you? If you’re avoiding the truth and pretending you can’t hear the still, small voice that is telling you to give up hope in this relationship because it’s not going anywhere — or it’s abusive — then you need to be honest with yourself.
5. Fix your eyes on the only true source of hope
How are you and God doing these days? Maybe your relationship or marriage problems are the symptoms of a bigger relationship issue in your life.
If your eyes are fixed on your husband or boyfriend as the source of your joy, peace, love, and freedom in life…then you definitely need to give up hope in your relationship! He can’t give you what you need. No man can fill the emptiness in your soul or the hole in your heart. Jesus is the only source of life, love, and joy. He is freedom and truth — and if your hope is in Him, then He’ll take care of your relationship.
Sure, you have to show up and do the work…but you won’t be worried, anxious, or afraid. Your hope will be founded on something far greater than your relationship, or marriage books, or relationship retreats. It’ll be founded on the rock of your salvation, which will never go away or change.
Help and Hope for Relationships
In Necessary Endings, Dr Henry Cloud describes the difference between wishful thinking and solid grounds for hoping a relationship will change.
He discusses relationships at work and home — and his examples and wisdom will help you see if you should stop hoping your relationship will change, and start preparing for a necessary ending. This is a really important book to read, even if you aren’t struggling with the end of a relationship.
How are you feeling? Are you closer to knowing when to give up hope in a relationship, or are you confused? Share your thoughts below. I can’t tell you if you should stop hoping your relationship will change, but I will say a prayer for you and your husband or boyfriend.
May you find strength, courage, and wisdom as you move forward in your relationship. May you experience true peace and healing, and may the joy of Jesus fill your heart, mind, and soul!
Your thoughts are welcome below! I don't give advice, but you can get free relationship help from marriage coach Mort Fertel.