A question that comes up often in my talks with spouses is “When do I give up hope?” After all, if divorce isn’t an option and you can’t make your spouse do anything, what are the chances that they’re just going to “come around” and be the spouse we want them to be? At what point do you give up, settle for what you have, and just continue, waiting until one of you dies.
The problem is, I think the question is flawed. Often, we fail to state what it is we are hoping for. Either that, or we aren’t truthful with ourselves, or God, about what our hope really is. Early on in our marriage, when we were going through our sexless years, I hoped and prayed that my wife would suddenly have a ravenous sex drive. I hoped that she would want sex every morning, noon and night, and not be able to get enough of me, dragging me off to bed whenever we got a spare moment. That’s what I thought our marriage needed: an excessive amount of sex.
When we finally did resolve a lot of our issues regarding sex, we had daily sex for a while. Turns out that’s not what we needed. What we needed was intimacy, not just sex. More sex led to more intimacy, which did lead to more sex, but intimacy was the need, not just sex.
My point is, what I was hoping for was flawed, it wasn’t what I needed. In fact, my hope was for something unattainable and thus was unhealthy. Sometimes, we need to let go of the things are are hoping for, so that we can hope for something healthier. After all, hoping is a bit like praying, and praying (particularly when requesting something), is asking God for something. Sometimes, when we hope, we are asking God to give us something that would not be good for us. In these cases, we are asking God to sin, to go against His own will, and then we wonder why our prayers aren’t answered.
We should always be willing to let go of our desires, our prayers, our hopes, so that God can show us what our desires, prayers and hopes should be, because the Bible tells us that desires, hopes and prayers can be good things. After all, God has desires and hopes as well. His are mostly centered on us loving Him and His getting to spend eternity with us. Hoping for a restored relationship is good. Hoping for an improved marriage is good. Hoping for a shortcut to more sex without putting in the effort of improving the marriage. That’s bad. Hoping our spouse will just suddenly “flip” and turn our view of the the “perfect” spouse, probably bad as well. Our sense of “perfect” is usually way off.
So, should we give up hope? Never. Should we give up what we are hoping for? Sometimes.
Are there some hopes you need to exchange for godly ones?
19 thoughts on “When do I give up hope?”
This is a well written post, but I can’t agree with the “Never give up.” I had to give up in order to salvage my own mental and spiritual health.
I am coming up on 30 years of marriage and I have had all that time a marriage that I feel was intimacy starved. Yes I would like more sex, but it would be a huge improvement if she would sit next to me when watching a movie, accept or give a backrub, on occasion give me a hug > 1 second in length.
I have read and tried to implement dozens of marriage improvement books and when my wife even sees one she gets angry. The harder I would try, the harder I would eventually fall into depression. I put down exactly how I felt about our relationship, including that I gave serious consideration to divorce and in the end decided that was not at all what I wanted. I read the letter to her and she basically said, “I can’t change at all” and didn’t want to talk about it. Even though she is being treated for depression and says she is fine, I think she still has significant emotional/mental issues, but refuses to discuss any of them with me.
I have prayed until I am almost losing my faith in prayer. I have prayed to change her at the start, then to take away my urges, then to just, “Lord, I don’t even know what to pray for – tell me what I need to pray for to make things right.” I don’t feel I have received any answer or relief (unless you consider low testosterone a “blessing”).
She refuses to go to a therapist more than once. I have a great one now.
I have almost been fired due to my depression and I can’t afford that to happen. I love my kids and that keeps me from leaving. I would rather be a bit unhappy than hurt my kids. I want to give them the best shot at being happy. As my kids have married I have had very blunt talks with them about marriage. I have made them very positive about how wonderful marriage can be, but you have to put in the effort.
At my age, lack of hair, and a bit of a belly I don’t really expect if we divorced I would find anybody and I think I am too bitter to even trust anybody else anyway. I am in my early 50’s and given my life expectancy is probably about 20 years, it is time I start looking for ways to be happy in life and stop letting my poor relationship with my wife drag me into depression. I am still kind to her and look out for her welfare, but it is amazing when you stop trying that the love quickly is gone.
Sadly I feel I am on walking the same path that you have walked down. If I bring the subject up there is a strong defense on her front. I have offered to go to counselling, suggested great sites like this one but no movement. Even a simple hug gets a cross look. I am simply staying for the sake of my daughters at this point.
Wow.. You and I must be living the same life. I am not sure if I wrote a summary like this that it would not be almost word for word what you have written. Only I have only been married for 22 years. Know that I am praying for you as I continue to pray for my marriage. I wish I could give you the answer, but then if I could I would probably not be here reading this message from you.
Wow you have to have hope you can not give up even after my wife’s affairs I have hope sure I want sex but to be honest it is intimacy I want more and need more this journey I have been on has taught me a lot about what is inportant and who I really am our marriage is getting better but you can not give up you just have to cling to God even more and let him teach you how to love.
You know I’ve grown up to believe in the Bible my parents raised me my family and my wife’s family stay married they don’t really get divorced both of their parents of been married for almost 30 years but here’s the thing this is one area where I feel like I would be willing to take the punishment that comes with getting divorced if I truly wasn’t happy with my spouse. And I don’t mean she won’t swallow for me happy I mean she just doesn’t want to have a physical or emotional relationship with me happy and then at what point is it not enough. I refuse to just say well I marry this person so I guess that means I’m stuck with them if they are unwilling to put in any work the matter what wings one side would go through to make it work if both people are not giving 100% then to me that’s no different than cheating. It’s no different then having relations with somebody else outside of marriage because you’ve already checked yourself out and I’m sure to God that’s just as bad. Luckily in my marriage it’s not like that and I don’t think I will have to experience that because I have been learning bs trying to put her needs in front of mine and communicate my needs and take charge a bit and it seems like the more that I do that the more she tries to do the same. I feel for people when I hear about stories like person above who’s just stuck in some crappy marriage where his wife could really give a crap whether not he’s happy and that’s just ridiculous but he should have to stay in that at anytime for any reason.
I have to disagree. If I had that attitude, of saying I was justified in leaving if there was no sex, then I would have left years ago. Instead, I waited, had hope, prayed, and now our marriage is amazing! I would have lost so much if I had given up.
And yeah, I agree, refusal is no different than cheating, but so is porn use. I think a lot of these marriages are “even” in that case.
I am a higher drive wife and I have been hoping, and hoping some more, that eventually my wonderful hubby would just be all about whisking me off to the bedroom each and every day. But as I’ve tried to pinpoint exactly what it is I truly want, it is more intimacy…although a teeny bit more sex would be nice too. 😉
So I’ve realized that instead of just continuing to hope for something that is unlikely to play out as I imagine in my head, I need to get out of my head and have a heart to heart with hubby so he knows without a doubt what my wants are.
After all if he doesn’t even know that I’m hoping for something or what exactly it is, how can I expect him to meet me where I’m at, kwim?
Okay, enough rambling — loved your thoughts!
I can not agree with you more with sitting down with your husband and making your hopes, wants and desires known. After the discovery of my wife’s affairs I had amoung other things a real wake up call. Before I held everything in and just hoped for the best now I am up front and share my hopes and dreams the problem is my wife is still not opening up to me yet but I have hope.
Your much stronger then I. If my wife cheated we would be having problems. Why would be a huge question. What am I possibly not giving her would be another. Emotionally, physically. I feel like I have a realistic grip on reality and her needs. Communication has been so huge for us. Yesterday I told her I’m working on communicating my needs, desires before it becomes a problem of unhappiness or resentment. I used to get upset cause she can’t read my mind and magically know every desire I have. As soon as I voiced stuff I looked at our relationship much differently. Keep up the faith if staying with her is what you want…..
Jay Dee I’m sorry my post was all over spelling wise I use my voice to text a lot and it runs words together. I’m talking extreme cases. I’m talking about years if trying and getting nothing back. People rarely just change over night. Eventually one or two might come around but at what cost? At what length. Life is short. I refuse to believe that if someone will not be physically and emotionally available to their spouse then the one receiving no affection should at some point have the chance to leave without being judged. I think this is mistaken for a simple giving up and throwing in the towel. Like I said, I believe the bible excuses divorce if one party is unfaithful? There are many ways this can happen. I feel like humans in order to receive they full potential need to feel love at some point. Compassion. Happiness. Like I said I’m talking a lot more major then my wife/husband won’t fulfill every sexual need I have. Because to me if people don’t want to give and receive love freely and unconditionally then why even be married?? It has to be a two-way street.
I agree that sometimes it is okay to give up hoping for a change. After nearly 35 years of marriage, I have given up hope for a better sex life. Instead, I have placed my hope in Jesus Christ which will have eternal blessings (far beyond any earthly blessings). I continue to love my wife as God has commanded me to do as her husband. My reward will be in heaven, not on earth.
God was the author of the original marriage between Adam and Eve before sin entered the picture. With the introduction of sin everything changed that’s why we find ourselves in imperfect marriages because both husband and wife are not perfect, we don’t have perfect role models so we shouldn’t expect perfect marriages.
Having said that I agree with Jay Dee that we shouldn’t give up on improving our marriage relationships and be open to discussing our issues with our spouses. The problem comes when we come to the discussion accusing the other spouse of wrong doing, the other spouse become defensive because of the wrong approach so nothing is resolved. I find it helpful to pray earnestly before confronting a difficult situation at home or even at work. I ask for guidance from God, I ask for wisdom on how to approach a given situation. I even research online on how others have approached and dealt with a similar situation. If your spouse is not ready to discuss the problem at that time find out from him/her when they think will be a better time. Never ignore issues that affect your relationship because they always grow and metastasis and will be difficult to deal with in future.
Hoping that the situation will resolve itself is a dangerous way of dealing with problems. Let us be willing to have those uncomfortable discussions in order to resolve the problems. It might not work the first time but never give up on your marriage.
Maybe I need to approach my wife 70 x 7 before she is willing to even admit we have an issue, but the problem is that life will be over before that. I have calmly approached her and clearly told her how unhappy I was in the marriage. I admitted I shared in the issue we had and I needed her to help talk to me about what she found to be an issue in the marriage. She over and over said, “Nothing is wrong!” and would be angry at me again for bringing up the (non) issue.
I fear that if I keep hoping and praying for us to both enjoy our marriage that I will become an atheist. So I am giving up hope and focus on praying for the pain in my heart to be soothed by the love of Jesus.
Sometimes we confuse the objectives with the means of reaching the objective. Hope for a happy marriage and you leave yourself open to be guided by God to get there. Don’t try and tell God how to get you there and wait for him to follow your orders.
I caught a small bit on the radio last week, some therapist of some kind, don’t recall the specifics, but one thing he said that stuck out to me was that people have to give up the hope for a better past to move forward.
It’s not that the question is flawed, but one of your beginning premises is flawed. You begin with the idea that “divorce is not an option.” Sorry, but divorce IS an option. Hosea wrote “my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” and that lack continues today. Our idolatry of marriage in our churches today means that our ignorance is condemning multitudes of Christians lives of misery and desperation for the sake of our beliefs.
Interesting you quote Hosea why defending that idea. You should read Hosea. That’s the main premise for my “Divorce is not an option” belief.
My issue is that despite my wife not showing any interest in that area for me, she seems to prefer masturbating next to me in bed (every night, sometimes all night long), leaving me feeling unloved, undesired, rejected and frustrated. The last time we had sex was about a month ago and before that it was 9 months. When I told her that she woke me up masturbating one night, she said that it must have been something else. Anyway, I have recordings of it now on my phone (with her consent). I am going to play them to her to prove that I’m not just hearing things. But I think that she may be doing it in her sleep. It’s a nightmare for me! 🙁
I wonder what’s going on that she apparently has such a strong sex drive that she’s dreaming about it every night, yet won’t have sex. Is she afraid of being vulnerable? Is there a trust issue? Bad teachings in her past? Abuse? Something is going on here.