Give Them Another Chance or Let Them Go? Here’s How to Know.

And this can be applied to all types of relationships.

image by Dmitry Schemelev from

Mistakes and slip-ups are part and parcel with being human.

We all have within us, both good and bad.

Each of us can, at times, be selfish, mean, thoughtless, or emotionally unhealthy.

In any loving, intimate relationship, whether friendship, romantic, or familial, there will be moments when these loved ones will disappoint or hurt you (though hopefully unintentionally).

However, merely because mistakes are part of being human, and even though being hurt is a given in all close relationships, this does not mean one should permit, forgive, sweep under the rug, and continue to proceed onward with someone no matter what.

Forgiveness and letting things go can become a slippery slope. One which can lead, if not careful, to settling. It can result in remaining closely connected with people who are not right for you, who do not value you and at its worst, who are even bad for you.

So, how to determine whether or not to give someone another chance versus, if this is the time to let them go?

Is This a One-Off or a Pattern?

The best indicator of behavior going forward is previous patterns and past behavior. So, is the mistake or action over which you are upset something this person does routinely? Or, is it a seeming one-off slip?

If it is something the person did or does regularly, chances are high that, even if they promise to change, they will fall back into the behavior again at some point. Forget words. Watch action and behavior.

Now, if it’s a behavior you haven’t seen before and seems likely a one-time mistake, and, assuming this person shows remorse, it seems safe to trust that it is less likely to happen again.

Are They Open to Feedback or Defensive?

People who are defensive and dismissive are unlikely to change behavior going forward. They are not open to resolving the issue and further, they might not even see it as an issue. They also are not showcasing a sense of remorse, which further increases the likelihood of it happening again.

However, people who are open, receptive, and seem to feel remorse for their actions have a much higher likelihood of growing and changing their behavior going forward. A person who can acknowledge their mistakes is one who can potentially change them going forward.

Have They Displayed Significant Behavior Changes Before? Or, Are They All Talk?

Can you recall specific instances of this person being given constructive or even difficult feedback, and seeing significant as well as lasting behavior changes from them following? If yes, there is good reason to assume they are capable of doing the same now.

On the other hand, if someone always says the right things and blows lots of hot air, though rarely, if ever seems to follow with action and behavior changes? It’s unlikely anything is ever going to change.

Have You Made Clear Already That This is Hurtful or Offensive to You?

If yes and, assuming your request for change is not unreasonable, though they still continue to do it…well, that is telling (in terms of their capability for growth, their respect toward and value for you, and with regard to future behavior from this person).

A few other thoughts on giving another chance or not…

Some things are less forgivable than others. Cheating, abuse, lack of trust, outright cruelty, or complete unreliability, these either tend to be deal-breakers on the first shot or, they become one eventually.

With certain mistakes, hurts, or actions, we might not be able to stick around after the first time because it feels like too much.

A useful way of igniting possible behavior change in others? Enacting and enforcing consequences. For example, saying to someone, “if you are more than fifteen minutes late going forward, I am just not going to wait for you. I will leave and our plans then cease.” This can, assuming the person values the relationship with you and wants to spend time with you, spark a change in their behavior and choices.

The key though to potentially enacting the change in behavior is actually following through with the consequence. If you do not follow through, they learn right away that your consequences are empty, your “no” means nothing, and that your standards are falsely stated.

Consequences are a way of showing others what your boundaries are. Where your lines lie. As well as, a sense of valuing yourself and making that clear to other people.

You might say to someone, “if this happens again, I cannot continue on with you, because to me, it feels as though you do not value our relationship enough at that point.” This can result in behavior change in the other person. However, if it does not, one, you now know where their values truly lie, and two, you must follow through on the consequence posed or else they know you are full of it, and respect can only dwindle further.

So, to assess whether to give someone another chance or let them go, consider carefully the following:

-Is this a one-off or a pattern?

-Are they open to difficult feedback or defensive?

-Have they displayed significant behavior changes before, or are they all talk?

-Have you made clear already that this is hurtful or offensive to you? And yet, they continue to do it?

And, if you decide to give them another chance based on your answers to those four questions, let them know that there will be consequences if they make the same mistake again. That you will not be able to tolerate or go along with it (or, whatever your consequence might be, which is fitting to the situation).

Because you treat other people how to treat you, by what you allow, by what you stop, and by what you reinforce.

Depending on what you tolerate, this is teaching others how to treat you.

Fervent writer. Ravenous reader. Impassioned with words. Relationship researcher. Social Scientist. Social Justice Advocate. Author.

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