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Love is a force both potent and fragile. It has the ability to create joy and communion or anger and desperation. Love binds us, builds us, but can also tear us down. So why do we pursue it? Why is love the thing most of us seek?
I believe that love, when experienced by healthy* and aligned people, can be transformational. But what happens then if you've experienced that transformational, even transcendent love, and it still didn't work out; it was lost or cast aside?
Something happened and it fell apart. It was devastating, and yet, you wonder to yourself, I don't feel ready to let go – could there be such thing as a second chance at love?
For a long time, I didn't believe so.
I was a part of the school that thought, “if it didn't work the first time, you can be sure it won't work the second.”
Second Chance at a Glance
I have much more experience now, and I understand life isn't black and white. There's a whole world, and many humans, and we all live so many lives within the short one we've been given. What I've realized is, that my belief that something can't work a second time came from the fact that no relationship I had prior to James would have worked a second time around. It barely worked the first! If I had tried to accept it all and fight for a second chance at love with those people, I wouldn't have known happiness or peace. That isn't to say I didn't experience grief at its demise. It isn't to say I wasn't terrified of change. Trust me, I was! But, having the courage to recognize the threat those relationships were to my peace was stronger than my will to fight.
I owe my life to this courage.
What I now know is this: we cannot predict the future. We can not control other people. We can only have hope that everything will be okay. And we can only get strong when it isn't.
I know that marriage is not insurance for heartbreak. The words “husband and wife” are just labels. James could walk out tomorrow. He tells me he wouldn't, and I hope that's true… But life is unpredictable, which is why I wanted to speak about second chances, and how, when granted, they may create the possibility for happiness and peace. How they may grant the opportunity to be brave and improve.
Giving a second chance means investing in the future, not gambling on the past – remember this – even if that's how it feels.
Love is always worth fighting for when it's the right kind when it connects you to a better part of yourself. Love doesn't have to be lost because it didn't show up in the way you planned. Love, like the seasons, like the sea, like everything in nature, has a rise and fall. You just have to decide how low you're willing to dive to reach the top.
Reasons Not to Pursue a Second Chance at Love
I realize I made that sound romantic, but it's important to remember there are some relationships unfit for second chances. These relationships do more damage than good and are less than anyone deserves. These are the relationships I escaped from in my past – the ones that had me thinking second chances are a lie. Review this list, and take a moment to reflect on the reality of the relationship you're trying to salvage.
If you resonate with any of these, I suggest talking to friends, family, or a mental health professional to ensure you have a concrete plan for fully exiting the relationship.
If your partner exhibits abusive behavior, be it physical or emotional, do not give it a second chance.
Although physical abuse may seem easy to define, emotional abuse is more covert. It appears as controlling, isolating, gaslighting, shifting blame, etc. Usually, there is a power dynamic, whereby one partner feels responsible, accountable, or dependent on the other person.
Regardless of the form it takes, trusts your instinct: does the relationship feel safe?
If you've been in an abusive relationship for some time, it may be more difficult to identify. Lean on people you trust, and take time to work through this.
If your ex-partner is in another relationship, and you are waiting for them to make a commitment to you, I suggest you don't re-pursue it. Here's why: their priority should be the relationship they are in, unless agreements to pursue external relationships have been made. If they are waiting for “the right time” to leave their spouse, you are not required to support them through it. If they really plan to leave their marriage, they will contact you when the deed is done. That's when you can decide if a second chance at love is really worth it or not.
You Are More Committed Than They Are (or vice versa)
If it's evident that you put more time and effort into the relationship than your partner, it may be time to move on. You deserve someone who brings just as much to the table as you do, or at least enough to fulfill your needs within the relationship. If you're the partner who is less committed, the same goes – let the first time be the last time.
You're Afraid of Being Alone
Are you so completely terrified of being alone that you would settle for anyone? Including your ex! Take it down a notch – is your fear of being alone making your (ex)partner look more appealing than they actually are? If this is the case, listen to that fear and explore what it's telling you. Is it really related to love, or are you using love as an ego pump? Worse, are you utilizing relationships as an avoidant tool for something deeper? It may be time to do some work before diving into another's arms.
Have you and your partner split up in the past because of something they did? Did that something happen more than once? More than twice? More than three times?
Despite the number of apologies, you taking them back is their get-out-of-jail-free card. You've let them get away with it more than once, and they know this! What's to stop them from doing the thing that destroys you again, and again, and again?
Reasons to Pursue a Second Chance at Love
Okay, we've gotten past the sad bit, now let's look at all the reasons you should pursue a second chance at love.
You Still Want to Be Together
It's a simple question: do you and your partner still want to be together? If so, you can check this off your list!
You've Acknowledged Your Role
This may be difficult, but taking responsibility for what went wrong is mandatory for moving forward.
Depending on what happened, and what hurtful things were said or done, this conversation will vary. But if you can sit down together and have an open discussion about the wrongdoing(s), and how it could have been handled better, that reinforces the understanding and commitment of both parties.
Take Stock of the Good
I'll always remember the line in The Vow, where Rachel McAdams' character discovers her father had an affair. When she confronts her mother about it, she asks her how she could stay with him after what he'd done. Her mother replies:
“I chose to stay with him for all the things that he did right, and not leave for the one thing that he did wrong.”
Taking stock of the good during a time of tension may feel difficult at first, but I assure you it has alleviating powers.
Where, Why, and How Forward
If you can see where everything started going wrong and why, the path back to each other may seem more clear.
The difference between dwelling on the past and using it to build a better future lies in what you do with the information. If you and your partner can trace back to a time you were genuinely happy, and then follow that into the dark parts, you may find the problem easier to identify. Once you know the problem, it's much easier to find solutions.
You're Willing to Do the Work
For a successful second chance at love, you both need to be willing to work on yourselves individually, and as a couple. Whether this means being more honest about your feelings or finding a couples therapist, the point here is intentionally taking care of yourself, which in turn will take care of the relationship.
For those of you who are taking that step and plan on pursuing a second chance, here are a few last-minute tips:
❤️ Go slow. Allow yourself the time to process any initial hurt or shock that was the result of the breakup, betrayal, or other emotionally charged events.
❤️ Once the two of you feel ready, it's time to communicate. Where did it go wrong, how can you take this moment to connect and heal? What boundaries need to be put in place that didn't exist before?
❤️ If needed, seek couples therapy! A therapist will be invaluable in areas you feel uncomfortable or ill-equipped for.
❤️ Be selective about who you share this part of your relationship with. It's important that you honor each other's privacy, while also authorizing support from people you trust.
❤️ Identify unhealthy relationship patterns and put things in place to reduce or eliminate them.
❤️ Identify healthy relationship patterns you've exhibited or have witnessed and implement some of them.
❤️ Make sure you have time for each other and yourself.
❤️ Forgive! Forgiveness doesn't mean you won't need to have the same conversations, have feelings of sadness, or insecurity; however, holding a grudge is not conducive to healing. Forgiving your partner and yourself is paramount for the success of the relationship.
Second chances are a part of life, regardless of what the world tells you. Whether you take the chance on yourself and your partner, or just you solo, you have exciting adventures ahead! I know there is no greater challenge than that of the heart, and in the end, it will all be worth it.
Until next time,
Love well, friends!
Quean Mo xx
*When I describe people as ‘healthy' in the context of relationships, I am referring to those who possess constructive qualities, rather than destructive ones: honesty, respect, ability to work on the self, compromise, communicate, and set boundaries. There is no power dynamic, no disempowerment.