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Do You Still Have Residual Hope?

It's not unusual after a breakup to have some hope of getting back together, but one of the crucial things that you need to recognise about reducing the amount of pain you're in and not delaying your grieving process, is that hope - particularly hope related to denying, rationalising, minimising, and fantasising - even in what can seem like very small amounts, can put a wrecking ball through the energy you need to be putting into getting your life together.

Hope is a feeling of expectation for something that you desire to happen. Right now you're feeling disappointed because your hopes and expectations for the relationship, this person, and possibly you, weren't met.

The thing is, while you cannot turn off your feelings just because you've started No Contact, if you're still desiring for the relationship that you've had to start NC over to happen, you are unwittingly or even very consciously undermining your own efforts.

Who truly moves forward when they're hoping for someone from their past to spontaneously combust into someone that meets their expectations even though they haven't been that person yet? Even if you did try to date, you couldn't let yourself truly engage with someone and give them a chance for fear that the other person would 'come through'. You're waiting which is just hope by another name.

Hope is also grounds for believing that something good is going to happen. What you need to evaluate is, why, if you have assessed your reasons for needing to do NC, do you still feel that you have grounds for believing that your 'something good' is going to happen? Isn't this denying what your own eyes, ears, mind, and feelings know? Doesn't this set you up for hurt to hope for something entirely different that isn't based in the grounds of reality?

I say this not to upset you but to illustrate how easy it is to fall into the trap of wanting more out of something that is already causing you deep pain. I also say this from experience - hope is what had me bouncing back and forth with a guy who had a girlfriend. Each time I ended it, I'd call my good decision into question and really I was hoping that the absence of me from his life and this latest threat would galvanise him. It's like "Can't you see that on this twentieth go round that I really am serious?" and then next thing you're doing round twenty-five.

Residual hope is exactly what is fuelling your disappointment cycle. Stop leading you on.

There are people out there that are only too happy to exploit the fact that you are unrealistic about them. They not only find what amount to your delusions about them quite flattering and even a turn on - it's like having a magic mirror where they can pretend to be someone else - but they mistake your kindness and your hopes for weakness. In the worst NC situations, it will be taken as reasonable grounds to disrespect you, after all, if they can mistreat you and you're still hoping that they will give you what you want, they have the brass nuts to reason that your misery that you experience from their exploitation, is not their problem. They'll reason that you keep providing them with the opportunity and that you should regard them as the equivalent of extreme sports - you know the dangers, you proceed at your own risk, and they will not be taking responsibility or providing compensation.

This is why when we break up, even when NC isn't involved, we have to take the ending as the big fat red flag that it is and accept that the relationship is over. It is natural to hope in the immediacy after a breakup that you may get back together, but time and reality, as well as actions in your own life, should reduce that hope. If many months or even years have gone by with you 'hoping', it's time to accept that this person isn't and cannot meet your expectations and that to wait around, is to put yourself on standby. You cannot run your whole life on hope.

It's also time to acknowledge what your residual hope is truly about. What are you trying to avoid in your own life? Are you trying to right the wrongs of the past? Is this about hope for the relationship or hope for you? Is this even about hope for a parent or caregiver?

Sometimes we use hope for a toxic situation as a means of avoiding having to step up in our own life. We use it to avoid action and in doing so, we avoid our responsibilities. As we become increasingly aware of what we're doing, it's this avoidance that can have us pursuing this hope because we want to have something to show for it.

Be truthful with you and evaluate whether you still have hopes that this person will change (this means that you're not accepting who they currently are and are either living in the past or living in the future so attached to a person who doesn't exist), or whether you still have hopes that the relationship situation will change (this means you're not accepting the feedback from your relationship - you see it, you hear it, but you shut this out and hope it will be different), and then evaluate why you still have these hopes.

  • What do you hope will happen? Based on what you know of them already through experience, is this actually likely to happen? What are your grounds for having these hopes? There must be solid grounds tied to solid actions that match words.
  • And the crucial question: If you have these hopes, why are you No Contact?

This may be hard to hear, but love is not enough, neither is this sense of 'needing' them. Need isn't love either. Love alone doesn't give hope to a relationship - action does. You cannot do all of the loving and hoping all alone, and hope doesn't mean much without the crucial action. You may feel like you 'need' this person to make your life better but actually, this isn't healthy. You need you to make your life better and you're here right now, which means you can have plenty of hope there because you're the only person you have complete control over.

You can love someone but know that irrespective of your feelings, what you've had isn't and no longer works for you. If you have any hopes, it must be based on the solid grounds of reality and you don't want to toy with your own feelings by breaking up and doing NC to provoke them into doing what you want. Follow through with your action - have hope for your own life and efforts.