Romantic regrets loom large

KATHERINE FEENEY
Last updated 09:24 05/12/2012
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JE NE REGRETTE RIEN: Is it better to regret the lovers we've never had, or the lovers we've had, who've left us to rue the day?

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They say you ought not to regret the things you've done, but those you did not do. Lovely sentiment, sure, but how well does it fit with love and sex and life's fleshiest pleasures? What are we more likely to regret - the lovers we've never had, or the lovers we've had, who've left us to rue the day?

It's the time of year for reflection. We're all looking back at the months before now. Hopefully, there's more to it than a mull over the men and women we've loved, lost or lusted after. But seeing as I've brought it up...

Research from America has confirmed we're most likely to regret things of a romantic nature. A newer study confirms regret relating to sex exerts significant influence over our lives.

Most literature will tell you regret is important because it induces corrective functions and smooths the decision making process. And there's always a process. Even if it's rash and wild and fuelled by booze or lusty energy, when it comes to deciding whether sex should or should not happen consequences are weighed, opportunity-costs evaluated and outcomes anticipated.

However we're not entirely rational. Painful as it is for this lover of economics to admit, humans aren't always going to make optimal choices. This is especially true of the decisions we make about love.

One of the chief regrets I hear from readers relates, unsurprisingly, to marriage. Not necessarily the act of matrimony itself, but the consequences of it - to wit monogamy. People are fond of sending me papers proving humans aren't designed to have one sex partner forever. Sometimes the literature is passed as justification of an affair. Other times it's to explain gross promiscuity pre life commitment

But I also hear from those who have slept around and wish they didn't. I've heard from the born-again virgins who abhor their past deviance from the straight and pure and narrow path of saving oneself for one person. In a different yet related vein, I read mail from people who regret sleeping around unsafely and now have the terminal illness to prove it.

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Recently, for a side-project, I've been speaking with people who are in twilight of life. Their regrets are crystallised by the acute awareness that comes with age and the observation of passing time. Some tell me they wish they used their young bodies more. Women especially regret not making love to young men when they were at their most beautiful. Men meanwhile regret not expressing their love properly, be it physically, emotionally or otherwise.

It gets you thinking.

And that was before I read this article yesterday (who knew there were 15 types of sex one must have in their 20s?).

So let's talk regrets, do you have a few? What are they, what's at the heart of your regret and what have you done about it?

- Sydney Morning Herald

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