Do Second Chances In Relationships Work?

From a statistical stand-point second chances tend to fail and decay faster than first ones. The odds, as they say, are stacked against us.

For once my own personal outlook is a little less bleak than the cold hard facts seem to indicate. I say this because I am absolutely convinced that most of the time reconciliation is attempted too swiftly and impulsively.

Can second chances in relationships work? Absolutely. Consider this article my subjective attempt at improving the harrowing odds, clearing typical hurdles and paving the way towards a realistic shot at successful reconciliation.

A good start

It all begins with the recognition that no matter how we cut it, the climb is a steep one. A breakup will fuel insecurity and erode trust. Even if a genuine foundation of love and caring exists, surmounting defensiveness, pain and fear can often be too much to handle. And all of this is based on the assumption that whatever malaise caused the breakup to begin with was correctly identified and corrected.

Before we even begin talking about reconciliation as a realistic prospect, we need to make sure that the entire notion isn’t just a convenient day-dream. This means that:

  • The feeling is mutual. You aren’t being asked to throw your lot in without a pretense at commitment from your partner. Dismiss words and judge actions instead.
  • Trust hasn’t been terminally compromised.
  • We are willing to accept our partners as is, not as they could be, but as they are.
  • That our innate fear of abandonment isn’t completely overruling our long-term needs (to some extent it is natural).

These few pillars represent, at the very minimum, what is required to even begin contemplating reconciliation. The bottom-line is simple; patching things up should be a choice, and not an emotionally imposed need. Don’t let fear and hope dictate the process.

The importance of drawing it out

Overcoming the pain of a breakup takes time. Time also allows us to detox from dependence, routine and rediscover our individuality. It allows us to objectively analyze what went wrong and weigh the relationship’s pros and cons without being blinded by insecurity and fear. In short, I feel it is a necessary ingredient with regards to attempting successful reconciliation.

The reason I fear that the statistics are so apparently skewed towards failure stems principally from the lack of time and space these attempts are given. Instead, without addressing key destructive ingredients such as insecurity, we hastily dive head-first into the very same relationship that had dissolved not so long ago.

In many ways I am convinced that renewing passion and caring is counter-intuitive.

  • We need to get over it before we get into it. Unless we can accept life without them, we will be hard-pressed to flourish as individuals because we risk being led by fear. Ultimately succumbing to a relationship based on security over fulfillment.
  • We need to be confident of their intentions. Even partners who are generally happy about their decision to part ways will have their moments of weakness on the road to regaining their emotional freedom and balance. Regret, guilt and insecurity can temporarily cause dumpers to reach out in confusion, instilling false hope and delaying long-term healing.
  • We need to come to grips with buried feelings. Breakups can blow the lid off pent-up feelings of resentment and anger. It is imperative that we are able to process these before attempting reconciliation, or they risk coming out later and jeopardizing the relationship. Trust is paramount.

The value of vulnerability

While time is a fantastic way of regaining clarity, it is also important to convey our introspective findings transparently without allowing pride and defensiveness to muddy the communicative waters.

A traumatic breakup can lead to an emotionally scorched wasteland riddled with insecurity. Not even time will be able to erase the occasional pang of fear or resentment. As bad as our own fears are, we need to remember that our partner also is plagued by uncertainty.

Successfully reconciling involves not only addressing our own fears, but placating theirs. The single most important facet when it comes to dealing with these insecurities is crystalline communication, the kind characterized by a brutally honest assessment of our own vulnerabilities and expectations.

Vulnerability does not mean weakness. If anything it is the opposite. It means accepting the foibles of our own nature comprehensively. It means not allowing others to disregard our admittedly subjective needs and wants. Love is not logical and our feelings are what the are independently of how silly or unwarranted others claim them to be.

This is of course is true regarding their feelings as well.

Ultimately, there will always be a discrepancy between our needs and those of our partner. Commitment therefore, acts as he figurative glue that keeps this discrepancy from tearing the relationship at its seams. Should the glue not only be composed of fear and insecurity, which is what I feel most attempts at reconciliation sadly are, then I honestly feel that your chances are far better than the statistics dictate.


Images courtesy of David Castillo Dominici /


2 Comments Do Second Chances In Relationships Work?

  1. linkworshiper

    Well my situation just changed a lot and this topic seems a bit more appropriate now. My ex and I have been NC for almost four weeks now. Today I had lunch with his roommate to get some of my things, and when I brought the bag of things home and opened it up, there was an incredibly emotional, heartfelt letter from my ex inside that detailed his failings and his efforts to try and fix himself, how emotionally alone he felt and how it had made him unable to understand his own complications, much less mine. He spoke about the changes he was making to try and improve himself and understand who he was and be a person he could admire and that I ought not to wait for him and continue to grow, and that hopefully in the future we could talk about it some more. He said he wasn’t happy just being casual acquaintances with me, that I was a beautiful soul and genuine and that I should breed that. He said he hoped that when we do see each other again, that I would be able to forgive him and in the meantime, for us to be the best we could be.

    I am not sure what to do. I want to tell him so much… that there is nothing for me to forgive him and that I will always be there for him no matter what. But it’s obvious he is also asking for time to work on himself… I feel like in order to not just be a better partner, but a better human. So I am worried that it won’t be good to send him any kind of response. I don’t know what to do.

    1. James NelmondoJames Nelmondo

      I am not sure what to do. I want to tell him so much… that there is nothing for me to forgive him and that I will always be there for him no matter what.

      If that is how you feel, then that is what I suggest you say. By answering his heartfelt message with this you are not smothering him, nor are you asking for commitment, you are simply supporting him emotionally.

      Additionally, he has also had the strength to be honest and heartfelt. By not answering you risk causing resentment and misinterpretation. As you say, it isnt easy to know what to do.

      I would answer the same way he initiated his thoughts. Through an indirect medium such as a letter (to reduce stress) and offer my support (if reconciliation is what I wanted). It sounds like a good first step LW.

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