The 5 Biggest Regrets People Confess to After a Breakup, According to Therapists
When reflecting back on your relationship, you may wish you'd done things differently.
Sad as it is to acknowledge, most people will experience heartbreak multiple times throughout their lives. Sometimes a breakup feels like the right decision, but other times, we may reflect back and wish there were things we'd done differently. After all, hindsight is 20/20, and it can be hard to recognize what mistakes you're making when you're in the moment. To help you avoid missing certain issues, we talked to therapists and other relationship experts to discover the most common regrets people have after a breakup. Read on to find out what people wish they'd changed when they had a chance.
Not addressing red flags early on
When you're in the beginning of a relationship, you could be tempted to brush off certain issues. But you may regret letting some of those things go—especially if they end up being major contributing factors in ending the relationship.
David Tzall, PsyD, a licensed psychologist based in New York City, tells Best Life that after a breakup, people often wish they hadn't avoided addressing these problems with their partner early on.
"Ignoring problems or red flags in a relationship can cause them to escalate and become much more difficult to solve," Tzall explains. "Some people may regret not having addressed these issues sooner, as they may realize that if they had, the relationship may have had a better chance of survival."
Letting egos get in the way
In any relationship, there will be times in which you need to meet your significant other halfway. But some people are not willing to do so until after they break up.
Kerry Lauders, a mental health officer at Startups Anonymous, says many people often wish they hadn't let their ego get in the way once their relationship ends.
"Some people may regret allowing their pride or ego to prevent them from apologizing, compromising or expressing vulnerability, which could have helped the relationship," she says.
Failing to set boundaries
Boundaries are important in any relationship, but some people fail to establish them before lines get crossed. This can lead to major problems and ultimately, the demise of a relationship, according to Lee Phillips, LCSW, a psychotherapist and certified couples therapist.
"People may find themselves wrapped up in regret because they did not set clear boundaries on what they needed from the beginning and throughout the relationship," she says. "Therefore, the person may feel they lost themselves in their former partner and this led to the lack of self-care."
Phillips advises all couples to set personal boundaries at the beginning of an intimate relationship and throughout it, when needed.
"Prioritize your own needs and values, and set boundaries by practicing saying 'no,'" Phillips suggests. "Ask yourself, 'What are my personal goals and values in a relationship? Do I want to spend more time with my friends and/or family?' Tell your partner in advance. The more you remind yourself of your values and plans, the more likely you are to prioritize them into your routine."
Not communicating effectively
Good communication is also essential for any healthy relationship. Nancy Landrum, MA, author, relationship coach, and creator of the Millionaire Marriage Club, says many clients come to her to reflect on communication issues they had with partners in their past.
"Several times I've heard this regret: 'If my previous partner and I had learned these respectful ways of communicating we wouldn't have broken up,'" Landrum says. "Learning how to communicate using respectful language and how to manage strong emotions like fear, hurt, and anger are essential skills for any relationship you want to last."
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Ending the relationship at the wrong time
While there are many mistakes people wish they hadn't made in a relationship, sometimes the biggest regret is the way it ended. Lauders says she finds that people often wish they had ended their relationship sooner than they actually did.
"Some people may regret staying in a relationship longer than they should have and may feel that they wasted time on something that was not going to work out," she explains.
But this can also go the other way, too. People also commonly regret "ending things too quickly out of haste in a reactive moment," according to Jennifer Kelman, LCSW, a therapist with JustAnswer.
"This happens when there is a lot of fighting in the relationship and one 'throws their hands up' and blurts out that they are done," she says. "Things may not be thought through and this abrupt ending may leave one feeling alone, regretful, and feeling like they made a mistake."
To avoid this regret, Kelman advises people not to make major decisions in the middle of an emotional moment. "Sometimes taking that deep breath and a pause can help one in the moment to be still without making a quick choice to end things," she says.