Family Secrets

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Should You Give Your Ex a Second Chance?

What are the odds that ‘Act 2' will result in a happy ending?
infidelity, cheating spouses, parenting, marriage, therapy
Do you still harbor a secret desire to give your ex a second chance?

If you're like many whom I have counseled, even as you assure your friends and family that you made the right decision to split up with your partner, you still secretly ask yourself:

Why didn't I try harder to make the relationship work? Shouldn't we give ourselves another chance to get it right?

Sometimes our memory plays tricks on us, tempting us to remember the best of times and not the worst. Recalling the sweet occasions (during which your ex-partner was loving, charming, or thoughtful) and conveniently forgetting the painful and persistent impasses, you may long for the chance to re-connect. So what are the odds that an "Act 2" with a partner from your past will result in a happy ending this time around?

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I have had a number of clients tell me that their decision to break up or get divorced may have been made too abruptly. They confess that if they had understood then what they realize now, they might have been able to get through the crises that led to the split-up. They tell me that they might be more tolerant of an unfaithful, overly critical, or un-ambitious partner-now that they realize that "nobody's perfect." Or they assert that they're now more willing to look at their own behavior-and to see that if they commit to changing their ways they could improve the relationship they previously gave up on.

It is certainly feasible that when both parties return to a prior relationship with fresh insight and realistic expectations, a new beginning is possible. On the other hand, one or both of you may discover that without the excitement of your initial chemistry, a loving connection may no longer exist. Having gained an expanded awareness while apart from your partner, you now may be able to see the dynamics of your relationship more objectively-and conclude that this is not what you are willing to put up with anymore.

Even those of us in the mental health field acknowledge that it is not always possible to predict the outcome of a particular relationship. When it comes to restoring a past connection, anything is possible. Still, I believe that the essence of a relationship doesn't change. So, going back and trying again may set you up for a second bout of disappointment. Although you may have learned to better appreciate the partner you gave up on, or may have strengthened your own abilities to be open and compassionate, that may not be enough to make it work. What is it that makes relationships truly healthy and strong? A satisfying sex life, common interests, and enjoyable times together can contribute to a good partnership or marriage; but what really connects partners to one another in a healthy way is their shared values. If the two of you don't value the same essentials in life, no degree of trying or committing to change will help when things get rough.

With that said, giving your ex-relationship a second chance can provide a good opportunity to reassess it-and to then move forward or give it closure.

- Dr. Ana Nogales

Ana Nogales is a clinical psychologist and well-known media personality, columnist, speaker, and advocate for victims of domestic violence.

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