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Stop wasting time regretting what you did a year ago. Start doing what you have to do now, so that in a year’s time you won’t regret what you did today. – Stephen Covey. 

I was mired in regret for nearly a year after a certain relationship. I wanted so bad for things to work out with this guy, and I did everything I could think of to make that happen. Looking back, I’m almost embarrassed at some of my antics that I now recognize as hopelessly desperate. Way after any sane person would have, I gathered up what little self-respect I had left and walked away. More accurately, I allowed him to fade away.

In the weeks and months that followed, I analyzed that relationship in my mind even more than I did when we were still involved. I would sit and think about what I could have said or done differently to increase my chances of a desirable outcome. In hindsight, so many things are maddeningly clear and I would be devastated thinking of the mistakes I made regarding that relationship. Why hadn’t I been more unavailable?, I’d think. Why had I been so nice about that? Why wasn’t I kinder to him about this? Why did I ignore that phone call? Why didn’t I know they were more than friends? Why did I respond to that text? Why did I believe that lie? Why didn’t I wait just a little bit longer for him to come around? Why was I so terrible at this game?

The regret weighed on me for months. I would come across some piece of advice and think about how it applied to that relationship and how I wished I had heard it sooner. I would watch movies about a dating couple and see similarities (that were probably not even there) and imagine we could have had our happily ever after too. I would hope that I could somehow get a second chance to start over with him just so I could do things right from the beginning.

I regretted and regretted some more, going over and over in my mind every little word, action and event between us. I’d all but absolved him completely of any culpability in what went wrong. Somehow, I’d determined that I was totally at fault for the negative outcome because he would have treated me better if only I would have acted differently. I would think about what I could have said here or what I could have done there. I obsessed thinking : “if only”.

The odd thing was, even when I had moved on to another relationship, I was still obsessing about that past one. I wasn’t hoping for another chance to do things right with him, but older and wiser, I was upset that I didn’t know better back then. I was upset that I’d wasted so much time on the futile task of trying to get that man to love me. I was upset that I didn’t see the signs. I couldn’t believe I’d been so stupid about him.

Then one day, talking to a friend about my regret, she got me thinking when she said “What’s the point of still mulling over the situation? You learned the lesson. Now, forgive yourself and let it go.”

She was right. Sure, I made some mistakes, but he was the one who had been a jerk to me. I had found it in my heart to forgive him, so when was I going to find it in my heart to forgive me? How long was I going to beat myself up for not knowing better and not doing better? My dad used to always say, “make the best decision with the information you have at the time”. That’s all any of us can do right? Sometimes the decision we make will prove to be a great one and sometimes it will prove to be an awful one, but oftentimes in the grand scheme of our life, it falls somewhere in the middle.

The only thing we can do with the past is move on from it. Spending time being sad about a situation I couldn’t change was emotionally draining and when I decided to stop doing that, I began to feel better. It’s hard to feel good about yourself when you’re beating yourself up all the time. Acknowledging mistakes is one thing, wallowing in self-pity and and being upset at yourself about old stuff is quite another. Even in the most ridiculous situations, there’s always something positive to give yourself credit for. At the very least, I don’t regret having an open heart and being so willing to love because now that I have better judgment I am able to love a man who truly deserves it. Had I shut down my emotions like I so desperately wanted to back then, who knows what I’d be dealing with now?

Though I’m certain there were some things in life I could have done without, if given the chance, I probably wouldn’t change a thing. Going back and changing anything would mean going back and changing me and possibly changing the good things right along with the bad. I hate talking about lessons learned in a relationship, but we really do learn from every failed (and successful) relationship, right? And after we’ve learned whatever lesson we’ve gleaned from an old relationship, the only thing to do is to let it go and focus on living and loving now in such a way that won’t leave us with a lot of regrets later.

What do you think? Have you ever struggled from regret about a past relationship?

Follow Alissa on Twitter @AlissaInPink or check out her blog This Cannot Be My Life

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

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