How To Deal With Romantic Regret - How To Win a Man's Heart

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August 11, 2014

How To Deal With Romantic Regret

# 1. Follow the 6 steps towards healthy healing

Kristen Brown

There can be an awful lot of pain associated with the end of a relationship. I understand completely as I have been there a few times myself. What I have learned in my evolution, is that what we choose to think about the ending can and will directly affect our healing time. In every piece of life, we have the unlimited ability to choose our responses and perceptions. Thus, since emotion follows thought, we are actually “choosing” our emotion as well.

This is not to say that we rush through our healing. Rushed healing or covering up is not healing, it is repression. Repressing what pains us will most definitely show itself later in relationships that follow. This is about taking the time to do an “Exit Interview” and get absolutely clear. In my definition, an Exit Interview is when we deeply ponder all aspects of the relationship- physical and spiritual- and we determine through a healthy mind what was theirs to own and what was ours to own. When we can become radically clear on the realities that be and then work towards forgiveness, we are setting ourselves directly on path to healing, empowerment and the attraction of a new and better partner for ourselves.

6 Steps to Healthy Healing

1. Determine if healing is truly what you want. If the answer is yes, make a firm commitment toward it and don’t look back!

2. Accept only your pieces. Do not accept blame where it is not warranted.

3. Forgive yourself for doing the very best you could at that time.

4. Look for and focus on the blessing(s) in it. In all life’s upsets, there is always a blessing. Sometimes our mind/ego wants to trick us into thinking there isn’t one, but alas, if viewed closely, you will find at least one and oftentimes many!

5. Locate the places where you can see this end as the Universe actually working for you, not against you. What has the Universe done for you that perhaps you were unable to do for yourself?

6. Treat yourself gently and with compassion. You are the only person who can heal you. Be your very own best friend.

When the demise of a relationship can be processed through love rather than fear, the healing time shortens and an empowered self emerges! It’s time to reclaim your power and your life!

Kristen Brown, Certified Empowerment Coach/Mentor – www.facebook.com/SweetEmpowermentLifeCoaching

# 2. Follow the 4 tips listed below

June Meyer

A break up is never easy – especially for the hurt party. Sometimes the reason for the break is apparent and understandable. Yet, other times the she has no idea what happened. The result is staying stuck , not letting go, and not moving forward from the broken relationship. She spends sleepless nights reviewing the relationship trying to find the reason why. The result is constant self-criticism and doubt and a never-ending barrage of self flagellation. “If I had only …..” “What if I had…” “I should have…” “If I only was…”

How is it that some people can move on seemingly unflawed while others stay stuck in a whirlwind of “what if’s?” Here is some food for thought.

1. Some people are just more resilient than others. Resilience is a process whereby a person is able to deal with negative consequences, adapt to stress and adversity, and develop a plan to move forward. The ability to live a resilient life is the product of positive parental influences, an optimistic personality, secure self-confidence , strong self-efficacy, the awareness of what psychologists call “negative self talk,” emotional regulation, and the development of healthy communication and problem solving skills. In short, resilience is a learned behavior. If you came from parents who did not teach or role model life skills, you never had the chance to learn to be resilient. Counseling is a positive and proactive step toward acquiring the skills and attitudes to help you bounce back more easily.

2. You have fallen in love with his best potential – not him. A former client coined this phrase, and it is SO true. After you have healed from a broken relationship, have you ever looked back and thought, “I can’t believe I did not see the flaws! What was I thinking about.” Be sure to acknowledge the unhealthy patterns in the relationship and stop looking at only the positives. No relationship or person is perfect so be sure to acknowledge that.

3. You fail to acknowledge and own how you contributed to the demise of the relationship. It takes two to tango. A relationship’s failure is the result of the dysfunctional dynamic between the two individuals. So instead of imposing blame, consider what you could have done differently. Were you overly emotional or impulsive? Did you fail to communicate effectively and ask for what you want and need? Did you try to control, manipulate or minimize your partner? Did you fail to admit when you were wrong and apologize? If we are honest with ourselves and own our mistakes, we can change our behavior for future relationships. Looking at it from this perspective, the lost relationship served a purpose, and you can more easily let go.

4. You love to play the victim. We all have friends or family members who win the Oscar for playing the victim. Of course it is normal to be hurt and sad after a break up, but if you cling to this role, you will always perceive the other’s behavior as hurtful, and will never be able to let go of the malice and move on. In the end, when all is said and done, we are all responsible for our own happiness. So step out of that role and take charge of your life.

June Meyer, MA, LPC, LMHC – www.junemeyertherapy.com

# 3. The best way to dissolve a complex is to feed it what it needs.

Dr. Margery Runyan

Regret is a natural reaction to past actions. Associated with shame and guilt, regret can paralyze our bodies in a posture of pain. The memory remains in the energy body as a complex that refuses to dissolve. The complex also takes up residence in the physical body and drains our life force. We cannot seem to find joy in the present moment because we are stuck in the filing cabinet of the past. In my experience, the best way to dissolve a complex is to feed it what it needs. Most complexes want to be acknowledged and grieved. They desire closure and then freedom to rest. What they really need underneath is peace. Close the filing cabinet and integrate them into the journey. What have I experienced that gives me more strength? How can I transform my suffering into compassion?

One helpful practice from Buddhism is breathing in and out through the Heart Chakra between the breasts. Breathing out compassion for all sentient beings and breathing in their compassion for us. Gradually the Heart Chakra opens like a flower. Om Mani Padme Hum. Aum, to the Jewel in the Lotus. This mantra helps to rescue us from the sea of suffering and achieve Buddhahood.

Dr. Margery Runyan – www.twindreams.info

# 4. Take some time to reflect on the relationship as it really was

Dr. Christina Robert

Oftentimes after a breakup the memory of the person and the relationship will often become better than the reality. The truth is, the relationship ended for a reason. If you are having a hard time moving on and enjoying life again, take some time to reflect on the relationship as it really was. Make a list of the reasons why you broke up. Make a list of reasons why it was not working out. Think about whether or not those things would actually get better.

Another reason for not being able to move on is often related to the “I’m sure it could work if…” syndrome. If he were to agree to counseling (which he didn’t). If she would only see how great the relationship was (which she clearly doesn’t, otherwise she wouldn’t have ended it). The what-if are most like probably-won’t.

A book that I really found to be enjoyable is “He’s Just Not that Into You.” It will help with the wake-up call that you just might need.

Chances are if the person you were in a relationship with wasn’t willing to make the changes necessary to be in the relationship at that time, then he or she probably won’t make those changes the second time around.

Take some time for you. Find out what you like to make yourself happy rather then looking for a second coming of the past to make you happy. If were the one who was left, then take some time and think about what it would be like if he or she asked you back? Would you do it? Perhaps, after some soul searching, the answer might actually be no.

Dr. Christina Robert, www.singlemomontherun.com

# 5. If you become lost in regret, perhaps your ideal love is only ideal in the past, or in your imagination

Theresa J. Crawford

For every romantic story with a happy ending, there are probably many more that end so messily that we wonder what in the world ever happened to us. This has happened to me, more than once. I was finally able to let go of relationship regret when I realized that what these relationships were trying to tell me was the story I was telling myself, about, well, me. And when I listened, and payed attention, I was able to learn what I needed to learn about how to better love myself.

What relationships really do is mirror back to us who we are, what we want, and what we believe about ourselves, our relationships, and even our world. What you really believe about love is what is going to show up for you. If your relationships never seem to get past a certain stage, what is it that you believe about yourself, and your lovability? If you become lost in regret, perhaps your ideal love is only ideal in the past, or in your imagination.

When a relationship ends, instead of falling into regret, move forward and ask yourself some important questions. How did this relationship make you feel? Did it remind you of any other relationships in your life? Did you like yourself in this relationship? When I went through a divorce, years ago, I realized that my relationship with my ex was much like my relationship with my older sister, where I didn’t really have a voice, and didn’t really get to show up.

I was brought up believing that love meant sacrifice, that love meant putting the other person first. I know now, that I have to love myself first, because as well as I love myself, this will be reflected in all my relationships.

As we put our energy into getting to know and love ourselves, we will find regrets fade as the lessons we learned become fodder for our growth. In every relationship there are things to be learned, if we seriously put thought into what went well, and what didn’t. If you want someone to be more responsible, be more responsible to yourself. If you want someone to pamper you, pamper yourself. Give yourself permission to be selfish and take good care of yourself, and good things will follow.

Theresa J. Crawford, MA – www.crawfordtherapy.com

# 6. Find meaning in your mistakes

Debra Eng

Regret is like a hamster running on its wheel. It goes around and around, leading nowhere, futile and exhausting. Whenever we find ourselves buried in regret, ruminating about the past and “what-ifs”, we need to stop ourselves and ponder these questions- What am I supposed to learn from this relationship? What can I learn about myself? My interactions with others? How am I dealing with my emotions, my ability to communicate, maintaining healthy boundaries?

If we do not learn from our mistakes, then we are bound to repeat them. Finding meaning and/or learning from our mistakes, allows us to move forward and grow, no matter happened. When we find ourselves back on the hamster wheel, we can gently stop and remind ourselves that we have learned what we needed to and we can move forward.

Getting caught up in unproductive judgments and regret traps leads us to feel badly about ourselves, stuck, and miserable. When we find lessons in our experiences, it is easier to move forward with a sense of knowledge and hope that things can be different next time. While we can’t change the past, we can let go of the need to punish ourselves over it. We can focus on improving ourselves and being as health as we can be. The result will lead to your being happier and attracting healthy people into your life.

Debra Eng, LCSW, LCAS – www.debraeng.com

# 7. Start introducing things that are fun and fulfilling to you

Brett McDonald

Regret is not a function of how severe your past mistakes are. Some people make very egregious mistakes and have very little regret, while others spend considerable amount of time and energy lamenting the smallest of errors. What determines your tendency to either ruminate about the past missteps or move on quickly has a lot to do with your personality predisposition and the amount of need-fulfilling nurturing you have ongoing in your life. Further, some people are more likely to dwell when they have hurt others, and some are more likely to dwell when others do something to hurt them–this is also a personality variable.

You can’t do much to change your personality, but you can do a lot to change the level of nurturing you receive from other ongoing sources in your life. If you were unlucky to be born with a ‘ruminative’ personality, you can counteract this by focusing on building the nurturing you receive from others, from yourself, and from goals and activities that give you emotional footing in the present. Often, the ability to let go of the past has everything to do with the present– are you seeking out and inviting those things that keep you emotionally fulfilled and enriched? If your answer is ‘no’, then you can expect to stay stuck in the past for a long time. Unfortunately, the more energy and attention you spend on regret, the less energy and attention you have to spend on meeting your needs in the present.

A good way to get started reversing this cycle is to introduce things that are fun and fulfilling to you, and then your energy and attention will naturally move away from rehashing the regrets. Start a hobby, contact an old friend, take on a volunteer position, indulge in a creative endeavor–discover your needs and be proactive in meeting them, and getting over the past will get proportionately easier.

Brett McDonald, M.S., LMHC – www.thedragonflyretreat.com

# 8. Follow the 3 tips below

NaKaisha Tolbert-Banks

It is never easy to feel rejected, to lose “the one” you loved and thought would be your husband, wife, partner, or soul mate forever, and it comes to an end, with you left single and unattached. This can definitely be one of the more difficult aspects of relationships. Romantic regret comes in many different packages. Think about that one romantic regret you had. The emotions that were a result of that relationship ending, the thoughts you had which were even more damaging; “What was it about me that made him leave? Am I not good enough? If I would’ve done X, Y, and Z he/she would’ve stayed. If I were prettier, thinner, smarter, richer, had bigger muscles…. The list could continue forever. At the end of the day, romantic regret is a CHOICE to remain stuck in the muck of the past relationship.

So, what do we do with this regret, these negative feelings, these self-pity parties we are having since the relationship ended? Here are three (3) tips for engaging in self-help and working to begin to see the brighter side of your situation. It may not be easy at first, however, it will get easier. Again, it’s a CHOICE to hang on, and it’s a CHOICE to let go.

1. Laugh – sounds a bit silly, a little strange, and pretty darn simple. At the end of the day, laughter brings clarity and oftentimes it clears a path to a view we have not seen before. Laughter reduces stress and tension, and can offer you the opportunity to see this romantically regretful situation from a different perspective. Again, it’s a CHOICE… choose laughter.

2. Positive Affirmations – incorporating positive thoughts into your already negative or not-so-good situation can only be a help. Affirmations such as: “I am a good person. I deserve the best. I will be in a positive, healthy, and happy relationship. I am focused. I am happy!”

3. Remain faithful to your personal truths – knowing and understanding what you deem as important, your core values, your personal truths, will help you to decipher why you may be having regrets, and how you can best navigate your way through this muck of regret you are experiencing. At the end of the day, your personal truth is just that… it’s yours and you have the ability to change your situation for the better.

NaKaisha Tolbert-Banks, LCSW – www.duogiggles.weebly.com

# 9. Follow the 5 tips below

Dr. Tammi Baliszewski

I believe there are two ways to live life: as a victim or empowered. One stance is filled with guilt, regret, judgment, and as if one is “at effect” of life. The other posture is living as a student, willing to take responsibility, and a “learning orientation” to life.

When we look at our relationships mistakes and/or bad choices, and then spend time replaying scenarios, contemplating “what if ‘s”, or “how could I have made it work,” we stay stuck in the past, are not available fully to ourselves, or to another.

If you find yourself looking in the rear view mirror of your life, and feeling remorse, one way to turn the tide in a more positive and empowered direction is the following five step process: identify your judgments; forgive any perceived mistakes; consider the deeper truth; contemplate the learning’s; and then set new intentions.

1. Identify Judgments

I am judging myself for not being more available in the relationship, I am judging myself for not being more grateful, I am judging myself for being stupid, and making so many mistakes.

2. Self Forgiveness

I forgive myself for judging myself as not available, I forgive myself for judging myself as ungrateful, I forgive myself for judging myself as stupid. I forgive myself for judging myself as worthless, and making so many mistakes.

3. Consider the Deeper Truth

The truth is I was doing the best I could at the time. The truth is I was as available and grateful as I knew how to be. The truth is I am worthy. The truth is I want to learn how to do things differently and better.

4. Contemplate the Learning Opportunities

I have learned I want to live life with a more open heart. I have learned that mistakes don’t make me bad, they make me human. I have learned I want to be more gracious, present, kind, and grateful.

5. Set Intentions

My intention is to release any judgments of myself and others. My intention is to relax, forgive myself, and love myself. My intention is to open my heart, be more available, and enjoy being me.

When we choose to LEARN from our past rather than JUDGE it, our heart softens. This in turn increases our vibration, and creates the space for a more positive and empowered future. It also helps us manifest happier, healthier, and more fulfilling relationships.

Dr. Tammi Baliszewski, www.tammibphd.com

# 10. Follow the 5 tips below

Alisa Ruby Bash

Break ups are known among experts to be one of the most substantial triggers for underlying mental illnesses. Research shows that severing a passionate relationship sparks the same chemical reaction in the brain that addicts withdrawing from heroin experience. Almost everyone knows through first hand observation that breaking up can be excruciatingly hard to do. Typically, men and women handle heartbreak differently. Women tend to process their emotions with friends and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, experience the loss, and often move on quicker. On the other hand, many men in pain attempt to distract themselves through other means such as work, partying, or moving on to other women. Although the heart does heal with time, why are there so many who just can’t seem to let go, or stop ruminating about what might have been?

Although every relationship is different, some more serious, others more casual, letting go of a dream is gut wrenching. Very often, individuals project their fantasy ideal partner onto the other in the beginning of a relationship. In other words, they envision their new partner as an imaginary soulmate, instead of who they actually are. Carl Jung coined the term Anima for our ideal, imagined other half. When we are just young children, we begin to create an image in our mind of our ideal partner. As we experience our first sexual attractions, our brain stores sensory memories of what this dream man or woman would look like, act like, even smell like; and we imagine our entire lives spent in bliss with them.

Later, as adults, every time we enter a new relationship, subconsciously, we are hoping that our new love interest will actually be the soulmate incarnate. Therefore, when something resonates with the blueprint we have in our mind, many people fill in all the blanks of who and what they are hoping their new partner will be. When we do this, we attach so much more meaning to things working out in the relationship. If things go awry, it can be devastating because we are mourning the loss of an entire imagined life of happiness, not just what really existed. Essentially, we are mourning a ghost, as this person never really existed in the first place.

When it feels almost impossible to stop thinking about someone, or to move on, some cognitive behavioral tricks may help. First, it is important to come to terms with what you really want, and what you believe is best for you. If the answer is moving on, the following 5 tips can help.

1. Allow yourself a specific amount of time that you feel is enough to mourn.

2. Every time you catch yourself yearning, imagine a big red stop sign. Get the image crystal clear in your mind. STOP!, yell silently to yourself.

3. Think of what you learned and write a list of your top 10 qualities that you want in a new partner. Narrow it down to the top 3 essentials. Carry it with you on a tiny piece of paper.

4. Start trying new activities. Whether it’s a dance class, yoga, art, cooking, anything new and fun, now is the time! Call a friend, or do it solo. Cultivating a new interest can be empowering, inspiring, and may even help you make a new friend.

5. Finally, if all else fails, try therapy. There are plenty of groups and qualified therapists that can help you through this difficult phase. Be gentle and nurturing with yourself. Honor your loss and strength, and recognize that with a little effort you will heal from this.

Alisa Ruby Bash, LMFT – www.alisarubybash.com

# 11. Look forward with hope, rather than backward with regret

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 realise 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.sydneyprocesscounselling.com.au

# 12. “Make friends” with your feelings

Dr. Annie Ready Coffey

Still telling yourself, “If only I hadn’t taken that job across the country?” “If only she’d chosen me for my dedicated work ethic?” Feel like you were dealt a bad hand because the person you love just doesn’t feel the same way about you? Whatever the reasons for your romantic regret, remember that some people are better than others at moving on in life and they usually end up happier.

See this spectrum before you: At one end (we’ll call it the negative end), there’s the way Mark Zuckerberg was portrayed in The Social Network – numbly pressing the Friend request and hoping his first love would accept him again. At the other end (we’ll call it the healthy end), there’s you reminiscing about and learning from a person you shared your life with for however long you did.

Dr. Sue Johnson, one of the main originators of Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) and a recognized relationship guru says, “When we are able to have a more secure bond with a partner, we not only love better, we deal with the loss of love better.” So, when you hear the latest social media news pointing out that people become depressed by and obsessed with the posts of past partners, you know it’s not just hype. Healthy life-leading means you know how to connect with and separate from people and that you are able to live the life you have in front of you.

What makes people different? Truthfully, some people are luckier than others the first time around. They might have been at the right place at the right time and they also may have been in sync with the person with whom they fell in love. For example, maybe they knew they were going to take turns accepting career advancements. Or, maybe they easily agreed about when to get married and/or whether they wanted to start a family.

Other people might be able to love and be loved, but they get stuck if and/or when the relationship doesn’t go the way they wanted it to go. They wind up hurt and angry and even hopeless about whether they will ever trust enough to fall in love again.

In order to begin healing you have to start by regretting less. I would encourage you to “make friends” with your feelings. Get them out! Externalize them so you won’t be possessed by them. If you like making art, create a visual journal of the person who “got away.” If you’re a natural talker, record a bunch of Voice Memos on your phone. Comment on what comes up as you review old concert or movie ticket stubs, hand-written letters, or print-outs of e-mails and texts. String them together in an album in order to see the trajectory of your love. Free-form rap or sing about this person until the story is told.

Whether you end up with a shrine of bound volumes of Loves Lost or an audio archive of your Greatest Hits, hopefully you will see and appreciate the good in your past relationships or be grateful that you unburied the bad which you’d “forgotten” was there. Review, accept, move on.

Dr. Annie Ready Coffey – www.replenishmentandchange.com

# 13. Self-discovery will free you from the past, make you healthier emotionally and physically

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

# 14. Follow the 3 tips below

Ebony Huckabee

The end of a relationship can be a very painful process. It is very common to feel sad, angry, hurt, lonely, and confused at the same time. Romantic regret can be defined as a negative feeling that may involve self-blame, feeling a sense of loss, and wishing you could undo the past. Extensive periods of regret can have negative consequences, such as decreased self-esteem, stress, depression, and lowered immune system functioning. According to research conducted by the University of Illinois and Northwestern Universities, 44% of women and 19% of men experienced romantic regret. The reason for this discrepancy may be attributed to women putting more emphasis on past and present relationships, while men are more likely to move on faster. So, how deal with romantic regrets?

1. Don’t bring the past into the present- realize that you cannot change the past, and focus on the present and future. Blaming yourself only brings about negative feelings, which make moving forward more challenging.

2. Learn from the situation- spend time figuring out what thoughts and behavioral patterns worked and didn’t work in past relationships. It is not helpful or effective to bring the same negative patterns into new relationships.

3. Focus on yourself – take time to discover who you are, what you want, and what makes you happy. It is important to realize that you are complete within yourself, and do not need another person to complete you. Spend time with positive friends and family who support you and your decisions.

Ebony Huckabee, LPC, CHLC – www.raphaccs.com

# 15. Take an authentic inventory of the situation

Lisa-Merlo-Booth

Breakups are seldom easy and can often be riddled with countless regrets and “what ifs:”

• “What if I had been nicer?”
• “What if I had seen the red flags sooner.”
• “What if I had appreciated what I had when I had it?”

The reality, though, is that sometimes we need the gift of time and maturity in order to gain perspective and grow. Often when we’re in “it,” we can’t see things accurately. Only hindsight is 20/20. And occasionally, even then, the clarity can be a bit fuzzy as we look back through a rose colored lens.

If you’ve ended a relationship and you’re struggling to get through the regrets, then it might be helpful to take an authentic inventory of the situation. Too often, when something ends we have a tendency to romanticize it or paint a more positive picture than the actual experience. Take some time to write about what led to the break up, what the relationship was like when you were in it and what you liked and didn’t like about it. Look at how happy/unhappy you were when you were in it. Look at the other person’s role in this relationship—the good, the bad and the ugly. Look at your own piece in it as well. Where were you difficult to be with? Where were you great to be with? Was this relationship cherishing, easy and great to be in or was it hard work with some highs and a lot of lows? Be honest with these answers and don’t just romanticize things because it’s over.

Once you’ve done an honest assessment of your part as well as theirs, read over what you wrote with a compassionate lens. Have compassion for your decisions and your behaviors while in the relationship. Remember that some of our greatest upsets result in our biggest lessons. Don’t waste the experience by wallowing in regret and staying stuck in what might have been while you fail to create what can be.

Own your piece, acknowledge (to yourself) the other person’s piece, and see each experience as a stepping-stone to the next one rather than a dead end that ruins your life. Making mistakes is part of being human. Rather than sitting in regret about them, allow mistakes to be golden nuggets of life lessons you carry along the way and catalysts for change.

Forgive yourself for your mistakes, learn from them and do things differently moving forward. Refuse to allow regrets to keep you stuck or that twenty-pound weight on your back today will become a hundred-pound weight next year. Own it, learn from it…and let it go.

Lisa Merlo-Booth, M.A. – www.lisamerlobooth.com

# 16. The key to recovery and resilience is learning

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

# 17. Understand that recovery and healing is a multi-layered process

Brooke Campbell

Any form of unresolved issues can be challenging to know how to navigate. People often struggle with letting go and leaving situations, moments, and relationships in a messy state. As a society, we like clarity and knowing what’s ahead of us.

When we face conflict, adversity, and obstacles, people often retreat avoid, or become aggressive. This first step in recovering after a broken relationship is mourning the loss. Accept the messiness of the situation. Feel the pain. Acknowledge you are in a vulnerable place and be kind to yourself.

Once we feel the initial emotions after a break up, we cleanse ourselves of the unwanted debris that often lingers after a relationship ends. Underneath sadness, guilt, shame, anger, and disappointment is the fear of being alone.

The number one greatest fear people experience is being alone and feeling abandonment. Once you allow yourself to be alone, without the need to be in a relationship, you are on the path to recovery and healing.

When we’re alone, we’re able to reflect, gain insights about ourselves others, and we develop the clarity we were searching for all along. Being alone is crucial after a breakup.

Take this opportunity to deepen your relationship with yourself. Be conscious of what energy, intentions, history, and thought patterns you bring to a relationship. Now is the time to cultivate a love for self.

After the love for self is acquired, work on building a positive support system of people you trust. Your supports will serve as your safety net when you feel vulnerable at times. Overall, know that you are worthy of love and belonging, regardless of any past relationship.

Brooke Campbell, M.A., RDT-BCT, LCAT – www.creativekinections.com

# 18. Try to obtain closure and come to terms with the very end

Dr. Giselle Leon Jimenez

Breaking up a romantic relationship is a very stressful and anxiety provoking situation for both members of a couple. We are social animals and we form deep attachments with other humans particularly our birth parents and our love interests. It is only natural to feel sad, regretful, angry and sometimes resented at the end of a romantic relationship. The pain associated with a brake up is very similar to the pain of loosing a love one to death or to the uncertainty of quitting cigarettes or a drug. It is a mourning period for both parties since the rupture of the emotional and physical attachment creates uncertainty and anxiety. One of the most helpful behavioral tasks to do after a relationship is over is to try to obtain closure and come to terms with the very end.

Sheltering a false sense of hope might not help

You move forward especially if you were not the person who ended the relationship. This is not easy to do but it can send you well into the road of recovery. This symptoms and pain will be temporarily. There are organic and physical reasons for the way we feel after a break up. Give your brain the chance to adjust back to its previous state, the state before falling in love with someone. Weaning yourself from the state of euphoria that loves creates is a difficult but manageable task once you become aware that your symptoms of sadness are real, honest and painful. Keep in mind that by healing from this break up, you will give yourself the opportunity to fall in love again; hopefully forever.

Dr. Giselle Leon Jimenez – www.leonfamilytherapy.com

# 19. It’s time to reclaim you

Judy-Lipson

I know it’s hard. You were so happy and you felt so good when you were together. You want it all back: the person, the happiness, the serenity, everything. It seems to all be rolled into one beautiful uncomplicated package: HIM (or her). Of course, you have already forgotten about the complications of your relationship: the disappointments, the arguments, the tension and the drama. What you do want back is your contentment and the buzz of love.

If a relationship has ended and you find yourself pining for the other, recognize that much of what you miss is the exuberance, love and creativity that you felt while you were involved. The great news is that this state of happiness, that you feel was lost, is still there. It has been yours all along. Your partner had provided you the gift of being a mirror of who you really are. It’s not the partner who is necessary for you to continue to experience yourself; it’s you.

The ease in letting go comes when you realize that your relationship provided a mirror to know yourself. The warm feelings that you had for your partner were real, but they were also you experiencing your own nature, and the love you have for yourself. It is this that is missed. It was really you all along. Remember that you don’t need another to make you whole. You never did. A relationship isn’t two people coming together to form one. It is two people who come together to share life. It is within this model that you support each other through life’s experiences and find added opportunities to appreciate yourself. This mirror is the gift that your loved one provided to you.

Now it’s time to reclaim you! Find an expression of your soul’s creativity in activities that used to bring you joy. This might be art, dance, music, volunteering with the less fortunate or time in nature. Any activity that helps you remember your True Self will help you to let go. Welcome back to your life!

Judy Lipson, M.A. – www.spiralwisdom.com

# 20. Feeling into the pain of loss, rejection and grief can stop this stuckness

Margie Ulbrick

Life is dynamic. Change is part of life and the ebb and flow of relationships is no different from this. But it can be devastating to lose a relationship. It is a common enough feature of human nature to want to hold on, to cling to the past and imagine what might have been. (Entire books have been written on the phenomena of people going back in life to find an ex!) Some times this can cause us to remain stuck and prevent us from fully committing in a new relationship or it can simply be the pattern that develops as a way of thinking; a continued wishing for what we cannot have, a grass is always greener mentality. Intuitively we know this is not good for us but we still seem to be stuck in relentless regret and what ifs.

There are complex psychological reasons for staying stuck in an addictive pining for what is not real. After all, it is a fantasy to imagine what might be or what might have been because it is clearly not what is! Staying stuck there prevents us from being present to what is actually going on right now. It is a way of defending from feeling (perhaps fear of being hurt if you commit to a new relationship, perhaps feeling the full gamut of your abandonment wound or the pain of losing other things/people in life, or the pain of mourning a period in your life, say the loss of youth or child-bearing years). The list is endless. But the truth remains! When you choose to stay stuck in the past you also refuse to allow yourself to be real in the present. But I don’t feel like I have a choice, I hear you say.

We always have choice but sometimes we don’t feel like it. The relationship itself has been lost but it may also serve as a replacement loss, that is, it becomes the focus and other associated losses are not recognized and grieved. Therapy can be invaluable here in helping us see and understand ourselves more clearly and with more compassion.

It may help to ask how does it serve me to keep me thinking about this old relationship? What does it stop me from feeling/facing now in the present about my current relationship/life?

Feeling into the pain of loss, rejection and grief can stop this stuckness. As always, feeling the feelings is a way of moving through them. But if you are stuck here in the past, be sure to contact a therapist to get support to understand yourself and to find the way to greater freedom, peace and happiness in your life.

Margie Ulbrick, LLB/BA/GD SOCSCI – www.margieulbrickcounselling.com

# 21. The only way through grief is to face it and feel it

Chris Adams Hill

Relationships are complicated and depending on when or how they end we can experience lots of powerful emotions – including sadness and regret. Sometimes we did actually make an error of judgement or an honest mistake and other times we just look back and doubt ourselves or question our decisions. The reality is that we can’t undo the past and focusing on it creates anxiety, depression and keeps us stuck. We wish things were different now and so we cling to the past. These regrets then become the “coulda, woulda, shouldas, and what-ifs” that haunt us.

The only way to resolve the pain we experience when a relationship ends is to grieve the relationship. If we stay stuck in this grief process, we are often stuck in the “coulda, woulda, shouldas, and what-ifs”. It can be difficult to get out of this cycle of self-blame and doubt, but it must be done in order to move forward. The stages of grief include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Part of working through these stages includes acknowledging that we often wish things in the relationship had been different, or we had done more or less of something. We want a magical “do over” so we can see if it would have made a difference. Well, the fact is that we don’t get do overs in life. As long as we focus on the past, or on our doubts and regrets, we increase our anxiety and depression and miss out on the opportunities we have in the present to create the life we want.

The only way through grief is to face it and feel it. We must look at all the ways our lives are different and feel the pain that goes along with the changes – even if some of the changes are actually positive, we can still grieve them. There are no shortcuts or easy ways out. Grief is painful, but it is less painful than remaining stuck indefinitely and missing opportunities to love and be loved in the present because we’re stuck in regrets from the past. If you feel stuck, make a decision to change and look for support from a professional who can guide you through this process. Lastly, please remember that acceptance, the final stage of grief, is not the same thing as approval. In other words, you don’t have to be “ok” with the relationship ending, but you come to terms with your regrets, and stop fighting against the reality of your life right now. This frees you to focus on the present, find joy in your life, increase your self confidence, and begin building a life you love.

Chris Adams Hill, LCSW – www.southvalleytherapy.com

# 22. Working through an unresolved past relationship with a Registered Therapeutic Counsellor may help you move forward

Karleen Nevery

Today, influenced by an array of self-help books and motivational TV personalities, we are flooded with reminders to live mindfully, be present, and to challenge our mind’s propensity to look backwards and forwards. And still, when a romantic relationship ends, this way of being can seem impossible. Our past can become a powerful force, luring us to re-examine actions and to question choices made. This review can be a healing process, but for some, the grief becomes a block creating the excruciating pain of regret that can sabotage our lives.

Kevin and Stacey enjoyed a passionate five year romance while med students, which joyfully resulted in the birth of their daughter Rebecca. After an amicable break up, Stacey remained single, avoided dating and focused on her career and daughter. Her life gradually became smaller and she spoke often of her past with Kevin. Gradually her friends tired of it and stopped introducing her to their single male friends. Alternatively, after the break up, Kevin enjoyed a period of dating before meeting the woman he would later marry. One decade later, Kevin and Stacey entered family counselling to support their troubled teenaged daughter. When they reflected about their time together, Kevin tearfully shared his gratitude of his years with Stacey and Rebecca, while Stacey focused on their choice to separate through a veil of regret.

Through ongoing individual counselling, Stacey recognized she had been telling herself a story about her relationship with Kevin that was only partially true. She became aware that her story had been blurred by beliefs she had not been aware of; beliefs that she developed by observing her parent’s life long, troubled and incompatible marriage. One belief was that children need to live with both parents while another was that breakups are a sign of failure, and that staying together equals success. In order for Stacey to heal and move forward in a healthy way with a new partner, she needed to unpack her story, challenge some of her beliefs and access compassion for herself that was not available when she was living in a stressful home with her unhappily married parents.

If you are feeling lonely and stuck, working through an unresolved past relationship with a Registered Therapeutic Counsellor may help you move forward.

Karleen Nevery, MTC, RTC, CPA – www.karleennevery.ca

# 23. Nourish your body and soul with kindness and self-love

Rima Danielle Jomaa

I see this often in my practice and with those I know. Feelings of regret, confusion, or dissatisfaction over past relationships is normal to a certain extent, but we must deal with those feelings appropriately before they overtake us and impact our life in a negative way. People who ruminate over past relationships have a tendency to not be present in the moment or their current experience. They usually understand that it’s silly to continue the endless cycle of replaying the past, but it becomes compulsory in many ways. They find themselves obsessing over their exes current life and relationship status or imagining how their present situation would be different if things ended differently. This is a mental trap because, in these moments, we forget (or we won’t acknowledge consciously) the reasons we were unhappy and why things didn’t work out in the first place. The process of letting go of a failed relationship is similar to the grieving of death. We all handle it with varying time spans, different degrees, and with different stages, but we must grieve appropriately for the relationship that no longer exists just like we would the loss of a loved one.

Another common thread I see when people ruminate over their exes is the refusal to see their role in the downfall of the relationship. When a relationship fails, the cause is typically the stress-ridden interactions and lack of communication between the couple. It is necessary for both partners to assume responsibility and learn skills to better approach relationships in the future, versus pointing out the faults and shortcomings in the other. Too often, we expect that the “other” will come in and make all of our dreams come true, while we sit back and delight at our luck. This expectation is not only selfish, but it sets us up for failure in any relationship. If we don’t have the capability of fulfilling our own happiness and dreams, we certainly can’t expect someone else to be able to accomplish the task. We must better ourselves from the inside out by getting in touch with our true Self. We can do this by getting back to the things we love, exercising more, exploring our spirituality, and more.

My best advice is to recognize when your reaction to the situation has far exceeded that of being a normal reaction and is having negative effects on your current relationships. Then, take the steps to fully heal by finding a personal therapist you connect with to process your grief, your regrets with the relationship and other things in your past, such as past trauma that may be affecting your ability to be in relationships, by practicing yoga, meditation, or other forms of healing, by nourishing your body with healthy, healing foods, and by reaching out to your support system when you are having a difficult time. Finding love again is simply a process of learning to love yourself first, and learning to find fulfillment from within. Then you can learn to be happily with another.

Rima Danielle Jomaa, MFT – www.CostaRima.com

# 24. To avoid becoming stalled in the breakup process, it is important to honestly assess your motivation for exploring the past

Dr.-Kristin-M.-Stover

The end of a relationship can be a difficult and confusing time. While our heart is hurting, our brain is reviewing every memory in an attempt to make sense of it all. All of our relationship have something to teach us about ourselves, including the components of our sense of self-worth, our beliefs about ourselves, and our definitions of love and respect. The information gained from these emotionally charged situations can, if taken in the right context, be the fuel for serious emotional growth. But what happens when the desire to learn from the past turns into the inability to moved forward in life?

In this scenario, the desire for knowledge and growth turns into an opportunity to damage our self-esteem. Initially, we want to understand why the relationship did not work. Under the guise of progress, we look for things about ourselves that we can change. But all too often, the desire for growth morphs into a desire to act in any way that will preserve or resuscitate the relationship. Sometimes fueled by a belief that we are unlovable or damaged, we look for anyway in which to change in order to continue the approval of someone else.

To avoid becoming stalled in the breakup process, it is important to honestly assess your motivation for exploring the past. Are you revisiting a relationship in an attempt for emotional growth or as means of creating a persona that you believe would gain the approval of your ex? If your goal is self-growth, then your questions will be rooted in understanding you- your needs, your self-concept, and your well-being. The focus will be on celebrating your strengths and understanding your weaknesses, rather than understanding the wants and desires of your former love.

Dr. Kristin M. Stover – www.kristinstover.com

# 25. If you find yourself struggling to let go of a past relationship, you may simply be missing the other half on the equation- you

Amy Joyce

When a relationship ends, people can get stuck in the hurt and sadness by focusing too much on the “other” person. Ruminating about what he or she was like, how attractive they were, how they loved, their qualities, etc., can all be endless laments about the other.

The piece often missing is remembering that you were the one to give the other meaning and value in your life. You allowed for love and intimacy to happen. Self-reflection is a necessary part of moving on. Good questions to consider are: What have I learned about myself through this experience? What do relationships mean to me? What am I looking for in future relationships? What needs can I meet for myself ? What healthy accountability do I own for my part in the relationship dynamics?

While no doubt, part of loss is the missing of the actual other, but that is not nearly the whole story. There are always two people in a relationship who created it, therefore there are always two people in the relationship who must be taken into account for the ending of it.

Words worth remembering: the most important part in healing from the wounds of a past relationship is a healthy focus on yourself.

Amy Joyce, MA LMFT – www.connectingrelationstherapy.com

# 26. Ask yourself the 3 questions below

Sharon Huey

Regret. It’s painful to think about, excruciating to re-live, and often times can get us stuck in a rut when we least expect it. In losing a loved one, it’s often feeling like we could have been or had ________ if we had just done _____. You can fill those blanks with a lot of different things, but the bottom line is that we end up feeling unsatisfied, unhappy, and unfulfilled with where we are now.

We want to move forward to something better and different but feel stuck in knowing how. But, though you have no control over the past, you do have a say in what you do with your future.

Here are a set of questions to help get your mind going on what you’re unhappy about in your current situation, and also how to change it.

1. In the situation that’s bothering me, what is it that I wish I had done differently? The battle won’t be won until you know exactly what it is that you wish you had done, not because you can fix what happened but because there’s no way you are ever going to let this happen to you again.

2. What is it that I would have had that I’m no longer able to have? Regret is painful because not only does it bring up whether you made the right decision, but there’s also a loss that something didn’t happen. Grieving is a normal part of feeling regret, and an important one, in moving to a different place.

3. Knowing what I know now, what could I have actually done to change the situation? What can I do next time? Our sadness with regret is mixed with a lot of other emotions – anger, frustration, and guilt to name a few. The biggest gift that we can give to ourselves is to get as specific and clear as possible on what we would do differently next time.

Lastly, we can be patient with ourselves. Romantic regret is especially painful because of the connectedness we created with those we loved (or still love) has been broken and many times there’s still a need to be able to connect with others we care about. Allow yourself to be surrounded by those who love and care for you and know that as you take care of yourself, things will get better.

Sharon Huey, M.S. MFTi – www.sharonhuey.com

# 27. The hurts of the past may just be the price you had to pay in order to get to a better future, a deeper relationship, and a new knowledge of yourself

Laurel-A.-Fay

Despite what people may tell you, everyone has at least one relationship regret. In my almost 20 years of being a therapist, I have never met a client who didn’t wish they had done something different in a past relationship – it’s totally normal. The problem arises when you can’t let the regret go; when it keeps you tied to the past and prevents you from moving into the future. In this case, it’s important to identify exactly what the regret is about. Did you behave badly? Break someone’s heart in a way you’re ashamed of now? If so, perhaps you can make amends to them – write them a letter or email. If contact is not possible (or might make things worse for that person – definitely something to consider), then write a letter anyway without sending it. Pour into it everything you wish you hadn’t done, and what you would have done differently. This simple exercise can be a powerful aid in letting go.

But what if the relationship regret is that you’re afraid you’ve let “the one” get away? Many people struggle with this fear – oftentimes it’s an early or first love, and immaturity kept one or both people from being able to sustain the relationship. If this is your struggle, try to take an honest look back at the relationship, not just the best of times. Chances are that there were some valid reasons why the relationship didn’t last, despite the powerful feelings you remember. Sometimes even the most intense connection isn’t enough to keep life in a relationship; this is especially true if it lacks trust, honesty, empathy, or compassion.

Finally, take an aerial view: could there be another reason why you find yourself stuck in regret? Sometimes, even unknowingly, people keep themselves tied to the past – even a bad past – because it’s more familiar than an unknown future. Being bound to a regretful past can keep us from taking new risks, meeting new people, and daring to be vulnerable in a new relationship. If you’ve been hurt in the past, sometimes this can feel safer… but the truth is that it’s also pretty lonely. Depending on how long it’s been, you can use the passage of time to your benefit. What have you learned in the time since, and what will you do differently in your next relationship? The hurts of the past may just be the price you had to pay in order to get to a better future, a deeper relationship, and a new knowledge of yourself. Think about what it would mean to free yourself, and what you could gain… and when you might be ready to try to let yourself live without the regrets.

Laurel A. Fay, M.S., LCMFT – laurelfay.com

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