Life Skills

Coping with Relationship Regrets and Mistakes

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Regret and Mental Health

Regret occurs when an individual feels that they have done something wrong, and wishes to take back their choice. Regret can often be a positive, motivational force, that helps with reflection and subsequent self-improvement. However, when regret is persistently experienced, it can become damaging to one’s mental health. 

Constant feelings of regret can lead to:

  • Self-doubt
  • Decreased self-esteem
  • Feelings of shame
  • An increased risk of depression and anxiety
  • Depression and anxiety. 

These emotions can feel overwhelming, and may lead a person to feel the need to harm themselves. If this is the case, it is crucial that you contact someone that you trust for help.

Relationship Regrets

Relationships often provide people with their most cherished memories, but they can sometimes also lead to intense feelings of regret and shame. Some common examples of relationship regrets include premarital sex and infidelity.

Regret regarding Premarital sex

Virginity loss holds immense cultural and religious significance. In many religions, virginity loss is also often seen as a sacred milestone, especially for unmarried females. In addition, many also relate virginity to purity and self-worth. 

For that reason, there is often a stigma associated with those who engage in premarital sex. With intense stigma, one may develop feelings of regret and shame.

Coping tips that may be helpful in dealing with this regret include:

  • Avoiding rumination on the past
  • Treating yourself with kindness
  • Talking with someone who you know will not shame you
  • Seeking professional help if you feel that your mental health is declining

Coping with Regret about Infidelity

Infidelity can be described as the act of secretly engaging in romantic or sexual activity with someone other than your partner.

While it is possible to heal the relationship, it may be challenging, and the decision also up to the affected partner.

However, things that you can do include:

  • Sincerely apologising to the affected partner
  • Giving the partner some space to process their emotions if necessary
  • Understanding that making mistakes is okay, so long as we learn from them
  • Recognising that it is impossible to change the past
  • Investigating your motivations for being unfaithful, in order to avoid similar situations occurring in the future


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Carpenter, L. M. (2005). Virginity Lost: NYU Press.

Goodman, W. (2020). How to start healing from infidelity. Retrieved May 5, 2020, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/healing-together/202003/how-start-healing-infidelity

Greenberg, M. (2012). The psychology of regret. Retrieved May 5, 2020, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/the-mindful-self-express/201205/the-psychology-regret

Guitar, A., Geher, G., Kruger, D., Garcia, J., Fisher, M., & Fitzgerald, C. (2017). Defining and Distinguishing Sexual and Emotional Infidelity. A Journal for Diverse Perspectives on Diverse Psychological Issues, 36(3), 434-446. doi:10.1007/s12144-016-9432-4

Heitler, S. (2011). Recovery from an affair: what both spouses need to heal. Retrieved May 5, 2020, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/resolution-not-conflict/201111/recovery-affair-what-both-spouses-need-heal

Newall, N. E., Chipperfield, J. G., Daniels, L. M., Hladkyj, S., & Perry, R. P. (2009). Regret in later life: Exploring relationships between regret frequency, secondary interpretive control beliefs, and health in older individuals. International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 68, 261-288.

Peterson, T. J. (2016, July 7). Guilt: A distressing effect of anxiety. Retrieved from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2016/07/guilt-a-distressing-effect-of-anxiety

Schafler, K. (n.d.). The difference between guilt and shame. Retrieved from https://www.katherineschafler.com/blog/the-difference-between-guilt-and-shame

Snyder, D. K., Baucom, D. H., & Gordon, K. C. (2008). An Integrative Approach to Treating Infidelity. The Family Journal, 16(4), 300-307. doi:10.1177/1066480708323200