Is your husband or wife a perfect match for you? Do you ever find yourself wishing, dreaming, longing for them to change in some important way? Perhaps the change you long for is tied to a life controlling addiction or unhealthy behavior pattern. In either case you find yourself at times grieving, maybe even at the point of despair over the apparent impossibility of your mate changing.

Are you a perfect match for your husband or wife? Are you aware of failing to meet their hopes and expectations of you? Perhaps you feel as if your own efforts to grow and change are never enough and you struggle with feelings of hopelessness.

An intimate relationship like marriage brings to the surface all the rough edges and imperfections in people. It requires no special insight to look at one’s spouse and identify where they need to change. When we are honest with ourselves we quickly recognize traits and patterns in ourselves which are not helpful to our marriage and not reflective of what we hope for ourselves.

Growing, healthy and vibrant relationships are not relationships formed by perfect people. Marriages which are inspiring to the rest of us often display a vital balance of acceptance and hope. Somehow these relationships nurture hope for growth and change while at the same time acknowledging the present challenges and stresses. These spouses are not in pathological denial of their imperfections and liabilities but rather are honest in addressing them, hoping for growth, resolution, and recovery. It is the tension between acceptance and hope that keeps spouses working and growing.

Acceptance without hope becomes resignation. Simple acceptance can result in despair of anything ever changing. Hope inspires individuals to keep trying, to stay open to possibilities and the promise of something new and fresh for themselves and the relationship. When hope dies, opportunity will either go unrecognized or be distrusted. Hope is what inspires one’s ability to risk, be vulnerable and have a chance for change. Once hope is lost, self protection becomes a lifestyle and opportunities for change are lost as well.

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Hope that is not balanced with acceptance quickly becomes resentment. Hope not tempered with acceptance of complexity and challenge fuels unrealistic expectation, which then becomes demand for change and performance, setting up a drama of failure ending with resentment, bitterness and contempt. Hope inspires change,and hope embraces effort. Without acceptance of our limits of influence and factors outside our control, hope can be corrupted. We feel wronged because we tell ourselves we deserve to have our hopes fulfilled without regard to the other person or the circumstances.

Acceptance and hope together balance the dream and the reality of ourselves, our partner and our relationship. If one begins to exist without the other then everyone suffers needlessly. We need the inspiration and wonder that hope provides. We also need the awareness, resolve and compassion that acceptance provides.

So, when that longing for change is especially strong, consider acceptance or hope as a means for gaining perspective and direction. Hope and acceptance together can build confidence and conviction to persevere through difficult times. Whether my concern is about my mate, my self, or the relationship, hope and acceptance can keep me moving on the journey toward a great marriage.

Copyright © 2013 National Institute of Marriage.

Dr. Robert Burbee is an Intensive Therapist at the National Institute of Marriage. Founded in 2003 and located in Branson Missouri, the National Institute of Marriage provides Intensive Marriage Counseling, Marriage Conferences, and numerous other Resources for Couples.