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False Hope

By Kenda-Ruth Stumpf

Many believe that false hope is a Hope for something that is unlikely or unrealistic. Yet who defines likelihood or realism? If there is any possibility for the desired outcome, Hope cannot be false. Though it implies chance, Hope is not a gamble. Many hope to win a lottery and though the probability of any individual winning may be low, it is possible for those who participate. Such a Hope would be false for a person who refuses to participate in the lottery and it would be folly for anyone to use their Hope to gamble on winning.

    Examples of False Hope
  1. I will compete as a swimmer in the Olympics and win gold in the 400 IM. Were that something for which I were Hoping, it would be false. It would not, however, be false for a swimmer with a history of national and international successes. Neither would it be false for an able-bodied eight-year old considering his or her future.
  2. When a child's dog is hit and killed and the parent wants to break the news gently by first preparing the child by telling them the dog has been injured and is at the Veterinarian's. In this situation the Hope is false because the giver is planting a desire for an impossible outcome. If the dog had run away and been killed by a vehicle without the parent's knowledge, the child's Hope in finding the dog would not be false. It would not be realized, but false hope includes a messenger providing intentionally incorrect information.
  3. Becoming Queen of England (without a change of rules and precedence)
  4. Male pregnancy (for a human male)
    Examples of Hope often considered false
  1. Terminal cancer within the last days or hours on one's deathbed. Talk to Lance Armstrong if you think this is false.
  2. Marital reconciliation
  3. Winning the Pulitzer for...something you do or have done.
  4. Becoming a movie star, rock star, President...

I will never again tell her I love her or she will think she has some hope.
Standers clinging to Hope analyze every interaction for crumbs of Hope and often twist neutral interactions to fit their needy desires. Such behaviour is frustrating to the MLCer; it seems his wife will not get the message! To combat this concern, many MLCers feel they must therefore destroy their spouse's hope and the only way to do that is by being mean.

The Prodigal
It is common for an MLCer to attempt a premature return--some make multiple attempts. The Biblical story of the Prodigal Son is about Forgiveness and reconciliation. How many failed returns did the Prodigal Son make? The story implies there was a single return and that it did not fail. As a message of forgiveness, it is relevant, but to reveal such joy at the return of your Midlife Prodigal is to risk either frightening or enabling him with your level of revealed Hope. He may be uncertain whether he wants to return, whether he will be successful or is not yet at a place where he trusts even himself. He fears your enthusiasm because it reveals an additional burden of success.

How would I take steps forward without giving her false hope?
If your Hope is linked to expectations and he senses this, it will add to his fears. MLCers go through touch-and-goes which are not returns, but tests, and many also make multiple attempts to return. It is important that he feels safe that you are not relying and expecting him to return and that he is safe changing his mind. The safer he feels rejecting you, the safer he will also feel accepting you.

There are two sides to each equation. Where is your MLCer's Hope? Where is his confidence or belief that you will always be there to take him back? His Hope may be hidden or denied from even himself. But if he is confident that he can spend time playing and you will take him back, he may continue playing because you will take him back.

There may come a time when your roles are reversed. He wants to come home and yet his confidence you will let him return, his Hope, enables him to become comfortable in his immaturity rather than seek growth. You may find yourself in a situation in which you feel his Hope needs to be torn down to facilitate growth.

I'm Kenda-Ruth and I believe in marriage.
Are you tired of hearing...
  • Once a cheater always a cheater?
  • You're better off without him?
  • She doesn't deserve you?
  • I guess it just wasn't meant to last?
  • Divorce is no big deal?
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