It feels good to experience renewed romance after periods of hardship or separation in a marriage; there is no doubt about that. But, it is best to pause for a while before jumping into a second chance. Second chances are precious opportunities to craft the type of relationships people wish they had the first time around. It is important to optimize second chances, but very often people squander them because they didn’t make critical changes.
Understanding what and how to change often requires time to reflect on what was done poorly before. While reflecting in this way may cause some emotional discomfort, failing to pause and reflect would definitely be a big mistake. Second chances only work out better than the first attempt if both partners identify and improve on prior missteps. So, rather than jumping quickly into a second chance, pause and plan. Listed below are some recommendations for doing just that.
1. Identify what went wrong
Sit down with your partner and identify the key issues that plagued your relationship. Doing this requires honesty, compassion, courage, and patience. You may be tempted to refute your partner’s claims or challenge what they see as your shortcomings, but it is best to show humility and openness. Limit your interruptions and consider their thoughts and feelings gold! Understanding their thoughts/feelings enables you to better identify key changes to make. Know that failure to take ownership over past missteps is a sure way to set your second chance ablaze. So, once you’ve identified what went wrong, spend some time figuring out what you both desire from the relationship and set goals to achieve it.
2. Accept the past
Why struggle against the reality of the past? No amount of wishing away infidelity, financial impulsiveness, carelessness, emotional neglect, or whatever happened, will undo it. It just happened; end of the story. If you cannot accept the reality of what took place and move towards forgiveness, or self-forgiveness, then you might as well quit now. Yes, it takes time to heal emotionally, but part of what helps is learning to accept instead of blame or ruminate on what should have been. Don’t let your second chance wither away under the heat of past misdeeds that cannot be undone. If the relationship is important to you, then agree to forgive and focus your energy on rebooting a healthy relationship.
3. Consider this chance your last chance (it might be!)
I know that sounds extreme, but it is important for you to understand the gravity of your present situation. Your partner has opened his/her heart to you again, but this time may be the last time if things do not change. There is nothing that sabotages behavioral change like lack of motivation and a lack of urgency. You will need both motivation and a sense of urgency to make lasting changes. So, connect with your motivation! What motivated you to pursue the relationship initially? What’s motivating you now even after all the hardships or tensions? Whatever it is, find ways to keep your motivation at the forefront of your mind to encourage meaningful change. It also helps to stay on your toes (so to speak) and have a sense of urgency. Know that there is a limit to your partner’s patience and the sooner you make meaningful change the more they’ll be able to let down their guard and trust your Intentions.
1. Clarify what you value
Having congruent values is critical to the success of any relationship. Identify your core relationship values and share them with your partner.
Determine where your values align or disconnect. If the disconnects are in areas that are unimportant then let them be. However, if the disconnects are in areas that are vitally important to you, take time to find a way to bridge the gap or compromise. Shared relationship values can serve as an excellent behavior guide, especially during difficult times, and alleviate tension or struggles that might occur.
2. Plan for feedback
Schedule set times each week or month to check in and share your thoughts and feelings about the relationship. Share what you think is working and what needs improvement. Put the feedback into practice as you continue shaping your relationship into something that is fulfilling to both of you.
3. Establish SMART goals
I know that sounds like work, but SMART goals will set you up for success in your relationship. SMART stands for specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, time-limited. Having concrete goals help bring clarity, hold you accountable, and position you for success. Be sure to get your partner’s feedback and buy-in. It doesn’t make sense to work towards meeting their needs in a way they see as unhelpful or unnecessary. Team work is critical, so sit down together as you identify and flesh out your goals.
Taking these initial steps can set you down a path towards sustainable relationship change. Until next time, be mindful, love strong, and live well!