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Second Chances

So you and your ex are debating getting back together again and you want to know if it’s worth giving your relationship a second chance.  It is hard enough to offer an employee, a student, or a friend a second chance, but offering a lover a second chance is very tricky.  The level of emotional detachment is completely different and you are opening yourself up to getting hurt again.  On-again-off-again relationships are hell and nobody wants to sign up for the emotional dramas that accompany that sort of life.  How do you decide when to grant someone a second chance and when to just cut your losses and walk away?

The first thing you need to look at is the overall quality of the relationship you originally had.  This is not about whether or not you were in love with each other, but how well you got along together, how compatible were you, and how easy was it to just hang out in each other’s worlds.  If it was always a struggle and a lot of effort to make the relationship work, then you really need to take some time and think things through.

Why was it tough to get along?  Are you from completely different worlds?  Are your lifestyle preferences and needs completely different?  Do your personalities clash?  All relationships involve a certain element of give and take with compromise being an essential ingredient towards longevity.  However, you should not commit yourself to something that feels like a chore.

If you had to work too hard to keep the relationship alive the first time you were together, then you need to look at the reasons for that.  Are you both really stubborn?  Are there drug or alcohol addictions in the way?  Are third parties being allowed to interfere in the sanctity of your relationship?  Is it one of those things that can be fixed, or is it something that really cannot be fixed?  If one of you is a serious ‘nose to the grindstone’ type and the other is a ‘party animal’, then you may not be able to fix the differences between you.  It’s not a matter of right and wrong, just being too different.

The motivations behind the stresses in your first attempt at a relationship will tell you if these are personality differences or if they are behavioral differences.  Did clashing needs or clashing preferences destroy your relationship?  Needs cannot be changed very easily, if ever.  Preferences are negotiable and can be compromised.  Take a step back and really analyze the needs and preferences of each of you as individuals.  Then look at the needs and preferences of the partnership.  How much work is involved in making your two worlds blend into one?

If you have determined that the problems in the relationship are fixable and worth the time and energy involved in doing so, then you have to move on to the second aspect.  You have to look at how committed each of you is towards making the changes needed to successfully make a life together.

A huge piece of commitment is fidelity.  Infidelity is more than just physically cheating with someone.  It includes certain levels of flirting, sharing your most intimate feelings with someone else instead of your partner, and an overall lack of loyalty towards the relationship.  If they cheat on you or just flirt a lot with others, are you going to feel that they are really committed to you?

If your partner allows others to speak poorly of you behind your back, then are you going to feel secure in the relationship?  If they surround themselves with people who dislike you or who treat you badly, then will you ever really feel good about being involved with them?  

Commitment can mean that they have to stay clean and sober or else they lose you for good.  Commitment can mean that they have to actually take time out of their busy life to spend some quality time with you.  Commitment can mean that you are both going to open your hearts in front of a counselor and do all you can to make the changes that need to happen in order for your relationship to really work for both of you.  You have to analyze the level of commitment that each of you brings to the relationship.

If you are the person who wants to be given a second chance, then you need to think through these questions too.  Can you really change to fit within the needs of the relationship?  Should you change?  If the only way the relationship is going to make it is if you become a completely fake and unreal version of yourself, then are you ever going to feel that they love you unconditionally?  You want to be loved for who you are, not for who they want you to become, right?  Change should be in your best interest too.

If both of you have determined that yes the relationship is fixable and yes you are both fully committed to making the changes necessary, then a second chance could work out beautifully.  I have known a number of happily married couples that tell tales of huge breakups that almost ended in divorce during the early years of their marriages.  However, they were fully committed to fixing the problems and did so.  Sometimes it takes losing someone to realize just how much they mean to us.

I have also watched dear friends take someone back into their lives over and over again only to have their heart shattered each time.  No matter how much they loved the other person, they could not fix the relationship all by themselves and the other person kept on behaving the same old ways repeating the same old patterns.  Without a real commitment to fixing and changing the problems, there is no way the second, third, fourth, or fifth chances are going to make the problems go away.