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Second Chance Romances | Giving The Trope A Second Chance

The second chance romance is a trope I have a peculiar relationship with. I'm not head-over-heels for it the way I am with elopements and fake dating, but I don't dislike it as I do secret babies and love-at-first-sight. Rather, I'm simply lukewarm towards it.


Second-chance romances are, as the name implies, stories in which the characters are given a second chance at love. This could be after their partner's death or a separation, in which they gradually become ready to be in a relationship again, but it can also be rekindling a past flame after time apart. The latter example may play on lingering feelings after a breakup or a situation where the feelings were mutual but went nowhere because the circumstances weren't right.


This trope also mingles well with particular pairings like enemies-to-lovers and popular romance setups like returning to a vacation spot where the love interests met years ago or attending an event and running into a past crush.


However, there are uses of it that do not inspire those warm and fuzzies for me.


In the spirit of the trope itself, I want to give second chance romances a second chance and see if I can reestablish good terms with them.


Why Second Chance Romances Work

No matter the genre, earning forgiveness and rebuilding trust is a prevailing character motivation.


We're human. We all make mistakes, misspeak, misunderstand, and mess up. And often, we want to fix things. We yearn for that second chance.


Redemption being at the core of the story or a subplot woven into it can add a layer of reliability. At one point or another, it's something we all yearn for.


This can be especially true in romance. Many of us have that story of the one that got away. That one person we connected with on a deeper level. The chemistry was intense. There were undeniable sparks. But for whatever reason, things just didn't work out.


The character may have been dumped, were the one to end the relationship, or the breakup could have been mutual with no hard feelings—though other feelings might still linger.


Even when time has gone by and we've moved on, there may still be a persisting what if? When we catch their favorite song on the radio or a memory surfaces on Facebook, we might pause for a moment and wonder what life would have looked like had you stayed together, where you would be now.


Writing in itself can be means of wish fulfillment. The stories we tell can be redemption arcs for ourselves, granting the ability to rewrite the past.


We see this all the time in romance. An author may base a love interest on someone they were intimate with, or at least take inspiration from them, and the relationship. It can be like having a second chance with this individual.


Readers take similar comfort in these stories. Seeing characters who remind us of ourselves going through situations we have experienced instills hope that everything will be okay. There is solace in knowing you're not going it alone, even if only vicariously. That you're not the only one with those thoughts running through your head or having those feelings.


Second-chance romances are also laced with nostalgia. When you have love interests reconnecting and mending their relationship after years apart, there may be flashbacks to awkward slow dances in the middle school cafeteria, barrel rolls into the pool before remembering your iPod shuffle was in the pocket of your swim trunks, or when the most exciting part of a field trip to the local art museum was actually the giant powdered candy dispenser in the gift shop.


This nostalgia creates a sense of coziness and make us long for the good old days, forging a special connection to the story. Because maybe you do still think about that kid who sat next to you in math in the seventh grade and wonder what he's up to now. Or that former coworker who you think like-liked you back but neither of you had the guts to make that crucial move before one of you left the job and you lost touch.

Second-chance romances evoke sentimentality and wistfulness in stories that can be easy to connect to because redemption is some frequently longed for. The appeal is in this connection between the reader and the character.



They also have the potential to raise the stakes and make things all the more complicated.


When you're getting together with someone you've known for a long time, or are rekindling a romance with someone used to know, there's a history. It's probable that they are familiar with your baggage.


This past can be a source of conflict. Part of a character's arc might be needing to prove they have changed or matured after all this time. Memories can resurface, dredging up the past and reigniting old arguments that were left unresolved.


There may also be a period of getting to know this person again because they're not who they were. When they crossed paths, Character A may have been hopeful to reconnect with bubbly, perky, Character B who they dated in their teens. But now at age 38, Character B is often stressed because of their albeit successful career and has mellowed in some aspects, and these shifts in their personality may have Character A second-guessing this second chance.


The character's friends might be shaking their heads in disapproval at the situation because they saw what happened the last time they and their love interest were together.


In an instance where the second chance involves someone learning to love again after a devastating loss, their new partner may feel like they're competing with their late spouse.


While we may dream of having a second chance with a certain someone, it may in reality be more arduous than amorous at times. Overcoming these obstacles and fighting for that happy ending can make for a compelling narrative.


Why Second Chances Don't Always Work

Despite the positives, second chance romances have their flaws. There are things about this trope that cause me to have mixed feelings.


Primarily, it comes down to the redemption aspect.


Concerning second-chance romances, the amends needing to be made often relate to the reason the love interests broke up.


This can work in a lot of instances. One character may have been too wrapped up in their career and was unable to invest in the relationship, so they need to prove they are ready to commit. It could be that a misunderstanding drove them apart, and the atonement comes from finally being willing to sit down and hash things out. One party may be in a 12-step program to overcome an addiction.


When there is genuine growth and a desire to become a better person not only for the character's love interest, but for themselves, I find the story more enjoyable.


Some transgressions, however, cannot be forgiven as easily. There are those I would imagine are more widely agreed upon, whereas others can be subjective depending on personal experiences and preferences.


As I'll touch on more in an upcoming post, a major turnoff for me when it comes to romance leads is deliberate cheating on their love interest. It does not matter if it is an intoxicated one-night stand or a lengthy affair, I find it tremendously hard to support that relationship.


I've read a handful of second-chance romances in which infidelity was the reason the relationship failed the first time, and in most cases, I had a hard time rooting for the main couple, namely the person who strayed knowing full well what they were getting into. If they were truly dedicated to their partner, they wouldn't have crossed that line.


That said, I know people who have gotten back together after instances of cheating and are doing okay. They were able to work through things and reestablish that trust.


On the other hand, I don't think I could be as forgiving in a situation where someone's actions were a decision made knowing I would be hurt.

When it comes to second-chance romances, much of it depends on why the couple did not work out the first time. What caused the split if there was one.


Everyone deserves happiness and love in life. But when it comes to second chances in romance, some are not as worthy.




Second chance romances are popular for a reason. Relating to the characters' desire to make amends for the past and give things another shot or hoping to catch the one that got away can resonate with readers. It validates their feelings.


For some, though, it's better to move on and leave the past behind. Letting go can be the right choice, even if it's not the one we want to make.


Characters determined to make up for their mistakes and rebuild the relationship can be inspiring. It's a journey of growth.


Coming all this way and overcoming the obstacles placed before your love interests and between them and saving their romance is one of the truest marks of the happily ever after readers most want. And if written well, it's the ending your characters deserve.




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