Should You Give Second Chances?

When someone from the past reappears asking for a second chance, you may wonder whether or not to give it to them. In this article, we give you some pointers to help you make the right decision.
Should You Give Second Chances?
Elena Sanz

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

Throughout life, certain events can happen that turn your social circle upside down. For this reason, you may decide to eliminate all contact with certain people who’ve been important to you up until that moment. Nevertheless, after a while, these people may reappear, trying to re-establish the link with you. It’s then that you have to ask yourself if giving them a second chance is a good decision.

As in almost everything, there’s no definitive answer. It depends on the circumstances, the people involved and, above all, the learning that each one has undertaken during the time of separation. Here are some guidelines that you can apply if you find yourself in this situation.

Boy looking out the window

Do people change?

The first thing you usually ask yourself when weighing up whether or not to give a second chance is whether the person has changed. After all, you don’t want to re-engage in a situation that previously caused you pain or frustration. In effect, to return to the same state you worked so hard to escape from.

People can change. However, they do it when they decide or circumstances force them, not necessarily when they need to.

We all grow, evolve, and acquire a greater awareness of the consequences of our behavior. We all, at some point, can choose to change. Nonetheless, this only happens at the moment we’re ready to face our own shadows.

Change is possible, but it’s not an easy task and requires a certain motivation and tolerance for uncertainty. Therefore, the change must come from within, from a personal introspective process. Rarely will a real change be motivated solely from the outside.

For this reason, you must be careful when someone bursts into your life again claiming to have changed for you. Especially if this happens after a short period of time. Indeed, such a transformation has probably not taken place and the person is just trying to tell you what you want to hear. Under these premises, it’s extremely possible that, if you resume contact, the same old situations and conflicts will reoccur.

Clarify goals and limits before giving second chances

Before choosing to give second chances, it’s advisable to leave some time to reflect on what you can learn from the relationship. Ask yourself what it’s taught you about yourself and what you want in your personal relationships? What things aren’t you willing to accept back into your life?

Whether it’s a friendship, a partner, or a family member, you have to know on what terms you want things to happen. Next, it’s essential to have an assertive conversation with the person and make it clear what you expect to receive and what you’re willing to give. This offers them the opportunity to explain their point of view and their intentions, and whether or not they choose to accept your conditions.

Don’t be afraid to stand firm in your convictions. Don’t fear shutting the door on that person for good if they try to overstep your personal boundaries. Remember that your only responsibility is toward yourself. In addition, if they’ve really become aware of their mistakes and have been transformed, they’ll understand and share your goals.

Seated couple talking

Make a decision

It may be that, after a sincere conversation, you come to the conclusion that you don’t want to resume contact with that person or that you only want to restore contact under different conditions than those that they propose. This might be either because you’ve verified that there’s been no change in them, or because you’ve simply realized that you no longer have anything to contribute to each other.

In this case, stay true to yourself and your decision. Ending a relationship or a friendship that could’ve been the source of many beautiful memories may not be an easy decision. However, it might be necessary. If this is the case, don’t let them manipulate you with guilt or pity. Remember that it’s possible to be firm without hurting anyone, and you can protect your interests without being unfair or selfish. It’s all about being assertive.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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  • Mayer-Spiess, O. C. (1996). La asertividad: expresión de una sana autoestima. Desclée de Brouwer.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.