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Regretting Lost Loves - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Ever wish you could have a “do over?” Many of us wish we had made better decisions in life but a new study reveals that Americans have the greatest number of regrets about romance.

So, what exactly is regret and why do we have so many regrets about our love life?

Regrets are those beliefs that we could and should have done better in a certain situation. We torture ourselves endlessly with recalling, reviewing and criticizing ourselves for not making a better play. We beat ourselves up for not getting it right the first time.

I’m not surprised that most Americans cite their love life as the biggest area of regret since relationships often only seem clear when we are out of them! That twenty twenty hindsight is often hard won and without it, we often make disastrous mistakes in love that costs us in profound ways—time, money, sleep, our dignity and shear suffering when we’re with the wrong person. Most of us make decisions about partners with our emotional brains and not with our analytical minds leaving us vulnerable to the partner who is adorable but terrible for us. Once the charm wears off, it is easy to see our bad choices.

Do men and women regret different things?

They both flag relationships as their top area of regret but I do believe that women are more likely to ruminate about their lives then men are. We love picking ourselves to death over our bad choices. Forty four percent of us regret a past relationship decision with only 19% of men sharing the same sentiment. A woman has twice the emotional memory in her brain as a man and she remembers every detail of the relationship or encounter. Women are built for relating, remembering and regretting!

On the other hand, a man is more likely to define himself through status and power. Work is where most men direct their regret with thirty four percent of men regretting their career decisions. Twenty seven percent of women reported similar regrets.

Are we more likely to regret things we’ve done or haven’t done?

We tend to regret both the things we’ve done and the things we didn’t do. But our missed opportunities are the ones that stay with us. We are haunted for many years by what might have been, whom we might have loved and what kindnesses we might have extended to another person.

When people regret their past relationship decisions, they are often haunted by the relationship that never completely came together or that ended prematurely—for whatever reason. Especially when there is lost potential, many people, especially men, seem to hold on to the dreams of what might have been. In fact, they may have gained a new appreciation for that person and how they felt when they were with them. That silent regret may never be shared with another person but they often feel that they should have fought harder to keep the relationship or to tell her how he felt.

Here's how you can avoid feeling regret?

In every decision, you need to consider what you will regret in the long run. I call it the ten-year rule.

Here are three points to keep in mind:

Years from Now: Will you be proud of the decision you made ten years from now or will you regard your decision as immature, ill advised or even self-indulgent?

Value Based Decisions: Decisions we make reflect our goals. Make sure that you keep your goals in mind when you make a major decision. For example, is being a great dad more important than that promotion?

Avoid Temporary Temptations: Yielding to short-term temptations that are bad for you can lead to a lifetime of regret. The bottom line is to make the best choice at the time and to make each experience count.

What can we do if we have a regret we can’t get over?

Practice Self-Compassion: Remember to practice self-compassion when you review your life’s decisions. Part of being effective is remembering that the right decision is often unclear at the time we are making it. All you can do is to make the best decision with what you know to be true or accurate at the time. Everyone falls short and everyone makes an occasional bad call. But the true measure of a life is how you handle your failures, not how you handle the applause when you win at life.

Forgive Yourself: Forgiving yourself is the key to overcoming regret. Seventy percent of us walk around with guilt and regret our entire lives. Be honest with yourself, learn from your misfires, forgive yourself for your shortcomings and move on. Life is to be lived in the moment, not in the thousand regrets that rob us of today.


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