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Dealing With Romantic Regret? – 5 Relationship Experts Share How To Heal and Get Over Romantic Regrets

by Lindsey Brock – LCSW, LCASA, Cynthia Pickett – LCSW, LADC, Sally LeBoy – MS, MFT

Dealing With Romantic Regret

“Emotions can get in the way or get you on the way.”

~ Mavis Mazhura

Emotions Can Get in the Way Mavis Mazhura Quote
Lindsey Brock

Relationship regret can feel all consuming, and our well meaning friends who say “just stop worrying about it, it’s in the past” are actually making you feel worse, not better. 

Regardless of what you’re regretting-the late night drunk text you sent him, that one night stand, your choice to ghost someone- here are some tools to help you manage the feelings of regret, embarrassment, or sadness that may be coming up for you. 

Stop judging yourself and work towards acceptance

It happened! Let’s go from there. We waste a lot of energy on wishing things had gone differently, or that we had made a different decision.  That doesn’t seem like a helpful use of energy to me, so try shifting into acceptance. 

Accepting that something happened doesn’t mean you have to like it, that you stand by your decision, or that you would do it again. 

Acceptance means recognizing that your regrettable action happened and is now a part of your relationship history. 

Sometimes I find myself saying, “Okay, this is a thing that happened. Now what?” 

This helps me to move from a place of judgment to a place of acceptance. No one has ever successfully shamed themselves out of a feeling, so try to ditch the judgment, because it’s not helping!

Allow yourself to feel the regret. 

We often work so hard to avoid our regret, guilt, or embarrassment..  But these emotions are just like happiness, joy, excitement, (or any other feelings that we’d much rather prefer to feel). Allow yourself to feel the regret instead of trying to reason with it, ignore it, or dwell in it. 

A place to start: set a timer for 10 minutes, conjure up your regretful memory, and just breathe. 

  • Where do you feel the regret in your body? 
  • What do you notice? 
  • Where do your thoughts go when you feel regret? 

If your mind drifts, gently redirect your focus to the sensations in your body, and allow yourself some space to feel this uncomfortable feeling.  Just notice, no judging. 

Regret can be healthy. 

Regret is such a powerful tool that points us towards alignment with our most true and grounded self. 

Consider regret to be a way to calibrate your moral or ethical compass; we usually feel regret when we make decisions that are not aligned with our most grounded self, but rather from places of hurt, anxiety, abandonment, or fear. 

Let your regret serve as a roadmap to help you come back to yourself; 

  • What would you do differently next time?
  • What did you learn about yourself?
  • Are you surprised by your decision?
  • Surprised by your reaction? 
  • Do you need to make amends?

Try to appreciate your regret for what it is-insight into the type of person you want to be in the world. Make a plan to do it differently next time, and hold yourself accountable to that.

Lindsey Brock, LCSW, LCASA – www.thebreakupcoach.org

Loral Lee Portenier

Life is comprised of opportunities. We are given (or create) opportunities to win and opportunities to lose. It’s a normal and integral part of the human experience.

Romance is one of those areas that are bursting with opportunity. 

Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose. And losing can hurt to the point of being devastating. How does one recover from a devastating loss? How does one let go and move on?

My motto in romance, as well as in all areas, is this—no experience is wasted if we learn something from it. 

Therefore, the key to recovery and resilience is learning. Every experience, whether it’s a win or a loss, is an opportunity to learn something new. And there are three steps to learning.

The first step is to process what happened. 

What worked? What didn’t work? What did you like or dislike? What are you proud of and what do you regret?

The second step is to project your new clarity and wisdom into the future. 

What will you do again? Never do again? What new skills, attitudes and behaviors do you need to adopt in order to enhance your “win” potential?

And third, release yourself from your feelings about your past losses. 

There are many methods to accomplish this, including obtaining professional help. But if you simply focus on the experience as yet another learning opportunity which can be used to enhance your own quality of life now and in the future, it will be easier to release your pain and regrets. 

Tap into your inner wisdom and use the loss as an opportunity to evolve into a higher, more authentic version of yourself.

Dr. Loral Lee Portenier – www.sacreddreamscoaching.com

Sherry Marshall

Research shows that women have double the regrets and more anxiety and guilt than men after deciding to finish their relationship. 

Deciding to stay or leave can be a difficult decision. However, continuing to ‘torture’ yourself afterwards by dwelling on it and being unable to let go, serves no purpose apart from making you feel more unhappy.

Here’s how to heal and move on with your life;

1. Don’t waste your life having regret for the past and fear of the future. 

Focus on the present. If your thoughts and feelings keep recycling over and over, work through each one and then finish with it. Let it go and if you can’t, ask yourself why you keep punishing yourself? Make a conscious effort every day to practice loving kindness towards yourself and forgive.

2. Simply decide to forget regret. 

Realize that we can only make a choice with the information we had at that time. Whether you stay or go, the key is whatever you decide, find a way to be at peace with it.

3. Make sure you do as much as possible to repair the relationship before you decide. 

Be as honest with yourself as possible and face truthfully what you really need and want. Remember that we can only change ourselves, not our partner. When one partner changes, it can really have a positive impact on the relationship. 

Get help, advice and support in implementing new changes and acknowledge all the small improvements. Check your expectations and keep the communication open. Then you can trust yourself to make a clear decision and let go of doubt.

4. Before making a final decision, process everything internally and also talk to a qualified, professional therapist or a close friend if appropriate. 

Regrets are often simply insights that we don’t realize until later. Take the time to rationally and emotionally work through all the pros and cons of your situation. This will ease your worry and help you decide. Healing comes from taking time to work through as much as you can and then you won’t look back with regret.

5. Rather than thinking, ‘I have failed or made a big mistake’ learn from what didn’t work and ensure you make different choices and changes in your current or your next relationship.

6. It is quite common to only remember all the good things about our partner afterwards. 

We over-romanticise, feel lonely and ‘forget’ why we actually made the decision to leave or stay! Look honestly at what happened, the good and bad times and why you are still or no longer there. This will stop your regret.

Sherry Marshall, BSc, MAA – www.naturaltherapypages.com.au/connect/sydneyprocesscounselling

Cynthia Pickett

I am intimately familiar with this topic, at times it can be very hard to just close the door and walk away from another. 

To seemingly make it all look so easy and just move on. But if taken as an opportunity to grow and heal baggage it can be a very rewarding process. 

It is the journey of self-discovery that will free you from the past, making you healthier emotionally and physically, so you can attract a more suitable partner in the future.

I don’t think the way we typically “move on” from relationships in this country is even remotely healthy. I routinely see people breaking up and hurrying to “get back out there” and “get over the last by feeling better with the next.” 

Neither of these methods is appropriate as we carry the baggage of the past with us from one relationship to the next. 

We go from one needy, co-dependent relationship to the next and are only briefly happy until the reality of whom we are dating, or married to, catches up with us. 

Then we beat ourselves up with the “woulda, coulda, shoulda’s” as a way of shaming ourselves which feeds into our belief that we don’t deserve better.

Depending on how deeply connected we were with our last partner it can take years of grieving before being ready to date again. 

The grieving process is never fun but this is how we heal and improve ourselves for the next person. Here are some simple but effective steps to help along they way.

First, make a very detailed list of all the things unsuitable with your partner and the relationship. 

This must be written down pen and paper, and then if it is helpful put it in your phone to have whenever needed. This exercise is not effective if you make the list and keep it in your head! 

Whenever you feel weak, want to call, text, or drive by, pull out the list and remind yourself why the person and relationship was bad for you.

Second, develop a mantra that affirms you deserve better than what you had. 

Repeat it over and over until you start to believe it.

Third, examine and explore the hooks that are keeping you tied to this person. 

“If only I were good enough” means work on healing the things that have happened that say you are not worthy. “Why did he leave me?” means heal the incidents in which you were a victim or abandoned, etc.

By healing the buttons you will be freeing yourself from the past and be on your way to attracting a different sort of partner. 

Please be kind and gentle to yourself during this process as you are working hard and deserve some recognition for it.

Cynthia Pickett, LCSW, LADC – www.cynthiapickett.com

Sally LeBoy

Romantic regret occurs when you look back and feel that you might have missed out on someone who could have been right for you.  Of course, you could also feel romantic regret from choosing the wrong someone, but that’s another column.

Everything is easier in hindsight.  

Looking back provides the distance and context to evaluate situations and people whom we might have misjudged.  Usually in the present moment we experience a lot more emotionality than we might feel given some time and distance.  

Without that emotionality we can think more clearly and so come to regret some of the choices we made in the past.  However, as we’ve all heard a thousand times, no one gets a crystal ball and we have to do the best that we can with the information, thinking and feelings that we have.

I think with romantic regret comes the opportunity to evaluate what lead to your decision to leave that person.  

Sometimes the right person comes but it’s at the wrong time.  Nothing to be done about that.  Sometimes as we become more mature, we regret the loss of people who might have been right for our current mature self.  Nothing to be done about that either.  You were who you were, and you are who you are.  

You can look back and ask yourself some questions that can help you to better understand your choices at that time: 

  • “Was I more interested in fun than stability? “
  • ” Did I put too much emphasis on looks rather than character?”  
  • “Had I just not learned enough about myself to know what would become important to me down the line”?  

Probably lots of yeses, but again, hindsight.

You can’t go back in time; you can only learn from the past.    

There is no way to become wiser other than to live and learn. Letting go of regrets is one of the most important ways to increase your chances of living a better life now. Now is all you ever really have control over.

Sally LeBoy, MS, MFT – www.sallyleboymft.com

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