I know a lot of people who think there are no second chances in relationships. If it didn't work once, they ask, why would it work twice? I get that, but, as with most things in life, I don't think there are a lot of one-size-fits-all statements that apply to relationships. I know many a good couples who took a break in college, just to be sure they were right for each other, only to learn that they were, in fact, a perfect fit. But, I also know many who tried and tried to make it work, knowing each time they got back together that the bruises and bandages were becoming more apparent, not less. Yet, they couldn't quite let each other go.
Years ago, when Twitter first came out, my profile read "Always hold them, never fold them." My friend, Sara, and I thought this was hilarious insight into my life because I refused to quit anything or anyone. Whether he be a boyfriend, friend, or anything in between, I believed everybody deserved chance after chance to try again.
One day in 2010, I had to decide just how seriously I took that one-line bio. I'd had my heart broken in March and had prayed, every day since then, that he'd come back. I was certain he'd made a mistake and was just going through a hard time. I was convinced it wasn't about us. For as hard as I'd prayed for it, when he came back in May, I was consumed by anxiety.
He'd hurt me so badly, I found it impossible to relax into the joy of seeing him again. He'd shown so little care for my heart during our initial breakup, I could not trust him when he told me he still loved me.
After we broke up in March, I'd started seeing a therapist for the first time. I told her how anxious I was and that I found it impossible to trust him. How can I be sure he won't do it again? I asked her as I sat on her couch one July day, my knee bouncing with anxiety. Honestly, you can't be completely sure, she told me with gentle eyes, sensing my fragility. But, one thing I can be sure of is this:
If you ask him what went wrong and he can tell you, with certainty, exactly why he broke up with you and why he won't do it again, I trust he's reflected enough to give this another shot. If he tells you he's not sure, but he just really misses you, he hasn't done his homework.
I took her advice that night as I paced my parents' front yard, talking to him on the phone. He'd asked me to move to Atlanta to give it another shot - he was tired of long distance, but didn't want to move to Indiana. I posed his question to her, asking him why he was sure it was right this time, but not last time. Well, he told me without much pause. I just figure 10,000 customers can't be wrong. I waited, wanting more explanation. None came. Huh? I asked him. Everyone in my life thinks I made a mistake, he told me. If every single person I know said I messed up, I probably did.
I remember feeling saddened by the answer, but wanting to get back together so badly, I dismissed the sadness and decided it was romantic. All of his friends and family love me! That's great! I remember telling myself as I laid in bed that night, disregarding my therapist's wisdom.
I moved to Atlanta a few months later and, in retrospect somewhat predictably, found myself in the familiar spot one year later: heartbroken over the same guy. My therapist had been right; he hadn't reflected enough while we'd been apart. He'd just missed me.
I still believe there are no one-size-fits-all rules for relationships, but, as I've gotten older, I've learned a few truths. I now hold my old therapist's advice as one of them. As I've watched a few friends wrestle with the same question, I have passed along her insight, urging them to pay more attention to it than I did. I put it in the same category as he must pursue you and gentleness is manliness. How these things manifest in relationships may vary, but, the end, we all deserve love that is certain, gentle and kind.