When Should You Give Someone a Second Chance?

It’s as simple as answering three short questions.

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You clicked on this article for a reason — someone in your life messed up (like, big time). Now, you’re faced with a dilemma: Should you give them a second chance, or should you walk away from the relationship, so that you never have to deal with their baggage ever again? On one hand, you care deeply for this person — otherwise, this wouldn’t be such a tough decision. But on the other, you have to take care of yourself and recognize that sometimes, enough is enough.

Determining whether this person deserves a second chance can be a bewilderingly emotional experience. To get through it, marriage and family therapist Aida Vazin recommends asking yourself just three questions before coming to a decision:

#1. How Severe Was the Transgression?
“There are certain things in all types of relationships that a person simply doesn’t do,” Vazin emphasizes. “Let’s say this person stole money from you, or slept with your significant other.” Wrongdoings this severe, she says, simply aren’t deserving of a second chance.

#2. Have You Addressed This Problem Before?
“Giving someone a second chance is contingent on how well you verbalize where you stand on things,” Vazin explains. “Let’s say (as an example) you have a friend who’s chronically late. Have you actually told that person to be on time? Have you talked about how you can come to an agreement? Has this conversation taken place?”

If not, you can’t reasonably expect this person to fully understand the extent of their crime, so they probably deserve another chance to get it right.

Still, Vazin suggests proceeding with caution. “People have to change internally — they have to reevaluate their value systems and their non-negotiables,” she says. “If they’re simply saying, ‘I don’t want to lose you, so I’m going to change,’ that’s usually a temporary fix, not something that’s permanent or lasting.”

In other words, be vigilant when dealing with someone who’s hurt you.

#3. Did You Come to a Compromise?
Let’s use the same example: Say you have had this conversation, and your friend continues to arrive late to everything. “You need to make peace with the fact that this is what you expect from that person,” Vazin says. “Are you going to be able to accept that? Say they have 15 great traits, five good traits and seven bad traits. Does the good outweigh the bad?” If not, kick this person to the curb.

Above all, though, Vazin recommends putting your best interests first. “Friends and partners are a support system that we choose,” she explains. “The significance of having a strong, healthy friend group is crucial to your well-being as a person (not only your physical health, but also your mental health). Because of that, make sure to choose people who you can walk side-by-side with — people who add value to your life — not people that you need to carry on your back.”

Remember, it’s your life, and you wear the pants.