Haunted by Regret


Regret. What an ugly word…

Regret is the type of word that leaves a bitter aftertaste when it comes out of your mouth. And it should – because it has such an awful connotation. To regret means to acknowledge that you have made some terrible decisions and to wish that you could go back in time and do things over.

Lately I have been having a lot of regrets.

  • I regret not fighting harder for my marriage.
  • I regret wasting my time on the wrong people.
  • I regret swiping right.
  • I regret making decisions that I am no longer sure I should have made.
  • I regret starting some relationships and ending others.

Recently, on my birthday, my ex-boyfriend appeared on Facebook out of nowhere. We have remained “friends” since our amicable break-up, but had not spoken in months. He is never on Facebook, and if he does log in, he never posts anything. I expected to hear from him that day because that’s the type of guy he is. The last time we spoke was on his birthday back in November, so I knew I would get a phone call, or at the very least a text.

But I didn’t hear from him.

Instead, he chose that particular day, at 12:01 a.m., just 1 minute after the end of my birthday to change his profile picture to one of him and his new girlfriend.


Don’t try to tell me that the timing of that was coincidental!

I have gone back and forth since the nearly 3 years since we broke up about whether or not I made a mistake with him. Art was and is an amazing guy. He is extremely attractive, smart, kind, and funny, in a goofy kind of way. And Art really, really loved me. Unfortunately, I met Art right after my marriage fell apart, immediately when I began dating again. We hit it off from the start, and within a few weeks from our first date he was my “boyfriend.” He came along when I was feeling unlovable and when I was convinced that I would spend the rest of my life alone. Our quick, whirlwind of a romance left no time for me to stop and consider what, if any, repercussions moving on so quickly might have.

Art was extremely chivalrous. He lived a decent distance away from me, but after less than a month of dating, he drove out in one of the worst snowstorms of the last 10 years to shovel my sidewalk, walkway, and car out and to bring me food – and so that we could be snowed in together. Those were the kinds of things he would do to show me how much he loved me. A girl could get used to that.

But as weeks turned into months, and as the initial fantasy began to settle into reality, I began to notice some of the issues in our relationship. At first they were small issues, ones that we would be able to survive – such as the distance between us – annoying, but doable. And his cat – I’m allergic. Being at his house was literally uncomfortable for me. I started getting allergy shots, but they only helped so much. Was I really going to let a cat end my relationship though?? No. But could I see myself living with a cat for the next 10 years? Not really.

Which led to the next issue. Where was this going? And even more importantly, where did I want this to go? After a year and a half together, I had just bought and moved into a new home, and Art had helped me get settled. I bought the house about 2 months into our relationship and picked the location because it was in between where he lived and where I worked. We had discussed our options and had decided that at some point he would sell or lease his condo and move in with me. I mean, we obviously had to move in together at some point if our relationship was going to go anywhere, and according to Art, he pictured us getting married and having a family. That was what he wanted, and at that point, that was what I thought I wanted too.

But Art was a slow mover. He talked about a lot of things. He talked about going back to teaching, his real passion and finally getting out of his boring 9-5 job. He talked about quitting his weekend job, which made it hard for us to get to spend time together or to do anything on the only days we really were able to spend with one another. But that’s all it was – talk. He never made actual moves to change anything. I began to wonder when, if ever, he was actually going to do all of the things he talked about doing.

I began to wonder if I even wanted him to.

Once, before the end of our relationship, a friend of mine was asking me about Art. She had heard I had met someone and that he was amazing. Most people get really excited for you if you find someone after a divorce, so needless to say, I often got a lot of enthusiastic questions about Art. This particular friend asked if I thought we were going to get engaged any time soon. Specifically she asked me what I would do if he were to propose to me the very next day?

Without thinking, I blurted out, “I would run away.”

Ummmm? Ok. Fuck.

Did I really just say that? Did I really feel that way? Yes, I did. But I had no idea why. On paper, Art was nearly perfect. But this wasn’t my first rodeo because I had been married before, so I remembered the way it felt in the months leading up to my ex-husband proposing. I could not wait for that day. Every day that passed was excruciating! The thought of him proposing and of us getting married was everything I had ever wanted. I had zero doubts.

Now, obviously, things did not work out in that marriage, but as I pondered a life with Art, it scared me that I did not have that same level of excitement and of certainty. Was that a good thing? Was it healthy to be uncertain? Maybe not having doubts was abnormal!? Perhaps my history and my old scars were offering me some type of protection by not allowing me to naively throw myself into the idea of happily ever after again. But how was I supposed to know if this debilitating fear had to do with my past or if it had to do with this particular relationship?

Regardless, my inner voice was telling me to run, and I had a hard time telling it to shut the fuck up and just allow me to be happy for a change.

Here I was, with a man most women would kill for, and I was beginning to doubt everything. Suddenly everything he did annoyed me. To be fair, Art was not perfect. He did stupid shit, and he definitely stopped with the “knight in shining armor” routine after the first few months, and sometimes seemed as if he no longer felt that he needed to put in the same amount of effort in general. But he was still a good guy who loved me. So what was the problem?

The problem was that ever since the doubt had crept in, I had started to wonder if maybe, while I was spending my time in what was beginning to seem like a relationship to nowhere, there was someone out there better suited for me, and I was not meeting him because I was, and I hate to use this term, “wasting” my time with the wrong guy.

Once the thought occurs to you that there might be someone else waiting for you, it’s hard to not get that thought out of your mind.

When it was clear that our relationship was falling apart, Art scrambled to prove himself and to prove that he was ready for the next step. He finally put the effort into looking for a new job and he found one that he loved. He began to take time off of on the weekend in order to be able to spend more time with me. He talked about looking into finding a realtor. Unfortunately, it was just too late. It felt like these were all last-ditch efforts that should have been done long before, not done as a way to salvage our relationship. And besides, I was already mentally checked out. I was already wondering who this mystery guy was that was waiting behind door number three. I began to wonder if Art had just been the stereotypical “rebound” guy. I hated to think of him that way, and I only had the best of intentions going into that relationship, but at the end of the day (and the end of the relationship), I had a hard time finding enough things that we had in common that would have enabled us to have lasted. Maybe I had just ignored too many things because I had been so eager to be loved again. I knew what I had to do. I ended my relationship with Art.

And just like that, it is almost 3 years later, and there is Art, smiling, with his pretty, blond girlfriend. And all I can think about is that she must wake up every morning and thank god that I was stupid enough to let him go. What kind of moron would let a guy like him go?? Me. I let him go.

And then the regret seeps in.

Because my reality today is very different from the certainty I felt when I broke up with Art. I was certain that my soul mate was just around the corner. But he wasn’t. It’s been almost 3 years and there has been not one, single, good man to walk into my life. And it is starting to feel as though there may never.

So I think back, and I try to remember what was so bad about that relationship that I decided it was worth giving up? In the moment, I can’t remember anything more than petty shit. Maybe I was feeling a little bored and restless. I had wanted him to show more initiative but then thought of him showing initiative made me panic a little, so he was in a losing battle with me. Perhaps all of my hesitations were due to the fact that I went from one relationship directly into another. At times I wondered if I should have dated more, if that would have made me appreciate what I had found in Art. The truth is I will probably never know what made me feel the way I felt, and that sucks.

About a year ago, when I saw that Art was in a new relationship, I sent him an email. I was feeling pretty depressed, as nothing good had been happening in my life on the romantic front, so seeing him with someone new understandably made me panic. In the email I acknowledged that writing to him was totally unfair. I told him that I was happy to see that he had moved on, but that I needed him to tell me that I / we had made the right decision deciding to break up. I told him that maybe if I knew that he was in a really good place, and that him being with someone new had reconfirmed that him and I were not a right match, that it would somehow make me feel more confident that we had made the right decision. I thought that if he could tell me that this new woman was a better fit, that perhaps it would make me feel more optimistic that my own better fit was out there somewhere.

He wrote me back, letting me know that he had read it, and that he was not ignoring me, but that he needed some time to respond. About a week later he texted me, once again to tell me he hadn’t forgotten about the email, but to repeat that he planned on responding, but just “wasn’t as good as a writer” as I was.

I never heard from him again.

I can only guess that either my question was one that he didn’t want to think about himself, or that he chose not to respond because he thought that his answer would hurt me. Maybe it’s better that I don’t know the reason why.

But on my birthday, when his face popped up, I felt it again. Regret. And then selfishness. Would I still have regret if I were in a relationship right now; if my life had turned out the way I had fantasized that it would when we broke up? Probably not. I’m sure that this is just me feeling sorry for myself, but it still burns.

Regret, more than anything, is a tough pill to swallow, because it implies that if you had just made a difference choice, things would be better. It implies that your current, shitty situation is entirely your fault.

I will never know if I would be happy today had I stayed with Art. Would we still be together? Would we be married? Would I still have that nagging feeling in the back of my mind that maybe he wasn’t “the one” or would I have realized that there may not be a perfect “one.” Staying with him certainly would have prevented me from the many regretful decisions that I have made since him, and certainly would have saved me from unnecessary heartache and disappointment.

I guess I just have to hope that the battle wounds I have accrued since my time with Art, are somehow going to have been worth it in the end. That the many doubts, mistakes, regrets, and heart breaks I have endured since I left him were all to prepare me for my next great love, so that when he does come along, I will have no doubts about him…and I can finally begin to lead a life that is no longer haunted by regret.

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