“I didn’t think there were second chances. Not really,” he said to me on the phone. It was a friend I hadn’t talked to in some time. He sounded happy.
He’d been through a lot in recent years – divorce, layoff, financial problems. And after five years, at the age of 50, he’d met someone he cared about. He was working again, and feeling hopeful about the future. He was living a second chance.
Second chances of all kinds
I thought about his use of the term “second chance,” and all the ways in which it applies. I’d experienced my own second chances – sometimes wasted, but usually, I recognized my good fortune and took full advantage of a new start. Carpe diem.
Life throws a little of everything your way, eventually
When I was in my twenties, I was in a car accident that could have been fatal. A van ran a stop sign, slamming my small car into a tree. I found myself hanging upside down by the seat belt, surrounded by crushed metal and broken glass. I was unhurt.
It took months for me to drive with confidence again, but I did, in part because I felt I’d been given a second chance. I wasn’t going to waste it.
Three years ago, I was in another accident, this time with my son. I was injured, but he was not. There was something more terrifying about that incident; the fact that my son could have been hurt. Again, a second chance, and not a day goes by that I don’t feel grateful.
Second chance at love?
When you lose someone you love, you can’t imagine that you’ll ever fully heal. Or that you’ll be able to give in the same way. The fear of pain (or betrayal) is too great.
My friend isn’t the only one who feels he’s getting a second chance – at a career, and in the world of relationships. It may come as a surprise when you experience it, but it happens all the time, touching off sparks of renewal that brightens all aspects of our lives.
How long before you get a second chance at love? Is love a matter of fate, the chance encounter, or statistically maximizing your opportunity for meeting someone? I’ve always found that timing is a critical factor; you have to be ready to take the plunge, and so does the other person involved.
Second chance in the same relationship: infidelity
What about infidelity? Are you the one who wields the power to grant the second chance, or withhold it? Can you forgive and forget, and should you?
We give second chances to our children, likewise to friends for a variety of transgressions. Employers give second chances to employees who may have underperformed. In all these examples, we recognize that no one is perfect, and mistakes often teach our most important lessons. We forgive; we move on.
Infidelity is a special case
We’ve had our share of spotlight on celebrity infidelity of late. (Don’t we always?) Once again in politics, with the Mark Sanford affair raising debate over faithfulness as well as the issue of breaking faith with a position of trust.
When you’re a public person, second chances are harder to come by. Consequences extend far beyond individual parties.
Realistic or not, we live in a society that expects monogamy. For some, it’s natural to be intimate with one and only one person in a committed relationship. For others, it isn’t. Sometimes the lure of a sexual liaison is too much to resist.
Many couples are discreet, and the incident may go unnoticed. The relationship remains unaffected. If you’re lucky.
And if found out? Is a second chance warranted, and how do you decide? Suddenly you have the power – not fate, not God, and presumably, not public opinion.
Infidelity triggers doubts, questions, and far-reaching implications
If you’ve been on the receiving end of infidelity, there’s no expressing the anger and grief that follows. Because of the delicate nature of the act itself, and the usual deceitful cover up, trust is broken. Without trust, you doubt whatever your partner says, and even what was said in the past. You suspect every phone call, every text message, every late night meeting at the office as being something else…
Your world is upside down, and broken. It’s not so different from hanging by a seat belt, surrounded by shattered glass.
Cheating partner on a regular basis?
When children are involved, or a long marriage, couples generally weigh the implications of breaking up with great care. Particularly if it’s a single incident. But what if it’s not? What if there’s a pattern of infidelity in the relationship?
If you pair up two individuals with different beliefs on fidelity, eventually you’ll have problems. One will “transgress” and get caught, and both will be hurt.
Those who perpetually cheat do so for a variety of reasons. They may thrive on the diversity of multiple partners. Or on the excitement, including the danger of getting found out. Some may be unable to resist an appealing interlude. Or your partner may simply believe that monogamy is not for him or her.
There are as many reasons for infidelity as there are individuals who engage in it. The real question is: can you live with it? Is a second chance actually a second chance, or accepting an ongoing lifestyle that’s out of balance?
How do you decide?
Each of us carries a different tolerance for trust and forgiveness, as well as the ability to examine our own role in the incident. Particularly if it is a single incident. Did we unintentionally drive our partner away? Is there a legitimate reason – physical or otherwise – that a husband or wife might seek contact from someone else?
We have to look inside ourselves and choose. Yes, I had a role in this and can make changes with my partner. Yes, I can accept this, and with time, rebuild trust.
Or, no, I cannot forgive and grant the second chance.
When the world “rights” itself
Second chances are everywhere.
After any traumatic incident – an accident, a loss, a betrayal – eventually, the world will right itself.
Personally, I don’t believe that time heals all wounds, but I do believe we gain the perspective to look at a situation straight on.
Sometimes a second chance encourages us to chase our dreams with renewed vigor. It may involve giving our heart to someone new. Or it may require forgiveness. But no matter what, second chances offer an opportunity to look squarely at ourselves and our beliefs: to pursue what we want and what we need with greater appreciation.
What do you think?
© D A Wolf