This One Goes Out To All Those Relationship Regrets

Posted on July 5, 2011 by

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relationship regret

If I only... If I only...

There is not one relationship that I’ve had prior to my current marriage where I haven’t wished I could have done something differently. And sometimes that regret even means wishing that I had dumped a crappy boyfriend sooner than I actually had. (I excelled in sticking it out with crappy boyfriends.)

I’m not alone, I know. There’s always the one that got away. Or there’s the old flame that you fantasize about and now stalk on Facebook. Or there’s the old boyfriend you dream about time traveling back to 1988 just to explain why you dumped him at the school dance. Well, according to a new study (via Jezebel) by researchers at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 44 percent of the women interviewed were regretful about relationship mistakes. This pile of regret is huge compared the men interviewed. Only 19 percent of the men experienced relationship regret.

“It speaks to something psychologists have known for a long time. Women are typically charged with the role of maintaining and preserving relationships, so when things do go wrong, it’s very spontaneous for women to think, ‘I should have done it some other way,'” said senior study author Neal Roese, a psychologist and professor of marketing at Northwestern. “It’s how men and women are raised in this culture.”

Men, on the other hand, were more likely to have regrets about work or education — 34 percent compared to women’s 26 percent, the study found.

And good for men. Their abilities to compartmentalize allows them the gift of getting in and out of a Target quickly and efficiently, but also allows them to move on from relationships with a swift bang. (This is not male bashing, here. This is just seeing men’s qualities for what they are.) Regrets can be useful, psychologists say. They help you (hopefully) choose what not to do the next time around. It’s only problematic when your regrets swallow you. I know plenty of people who live in the past. If I only did this… my life would be different. Do we have that much control over our lives to know for sure? Some people are certain. Me, not as much.

I was much, much younger when Boy came into my life. Boy was a 24-year-old clubber I worked with at a health food store in San Francisco. Boy told me dirty jokes in the cold room as we stocked the strawberries and figs. He followed me around the store, asking for kisses. He muscled crates of apples off carts with his broad shoulders. I was living with someone at the time and because I didn’t want to cheat, I passed up what could have been a steamy affair. Friends knew my feelings for Boy, but they convinced me to stick to my morals. “Don’t cheat,” they said. “Break up with the live-in boyfriend first.”

For all sorts of reasons, I didn’t break up with the live-in boyfriend and when Boy really approached me, as in no more teasing, as in let’s mess around because I think I, like, love you–I shot him down. “I have a boyfriend,” I said. “I can’t.” I’ve always regretted that. I was only 26 at the time. Yes, in a committed relationship, but not married. I fantasized about Boy often, but never had the courage to jump forward and say, “Hey, I think I love you too.” But Boy steamrolled through life. Boy was a slice of wild. I had a cozy life with my not-so-stellar boyfriend. Sometimes comfort locks you in, doesn’t it?

I left the store and lost touch with Boy, but heard about a year later that he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. I spoke to him briefly on the phone but there was nothing to say. He was angry–and who wouldn’t be knowing about your own death sentence? I wrote him a letter towards the end, one that he probably was too sick to read, and in it, I told him I loved him. Like good songs do, Erykah Badu’s song, “See You Next Lifetime” gave me some solace when he died only four months later. But now, at 40, I still go back to that time, wondering how it could have been between us – no matter how stunted our relationship or affair would have turned out because of his tragic diagnosis.

Should we use this post as a confessional? Okay. What are your regrets?

(Image: Google images)

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Posted in: Death, Relationships