How To Let Go of Relationship Regret Using 5 Practical Strategies

by Gideon Hanekom
September 30, 2021

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Regret can suffocate and hurt your relationships. It can make you question your relationship status, where things are at, and make you believe that you need something or someone else. So, to avoid all that, you must learn how to let go of relationship regret before doing something about it.

Rather than allowing regret to grow and cause irreparable damage to your relationship, it’s much smart and wiser to become aware of it, change it, and eliminate it.

Realise that you have the power within you to let go of relationship regret and eliminating it completely from your love relationship and life.

Before we look at a couple of practical strategies for letting go of regret and eliminating it, we first need to consider what “regret” actually is.

We also need to consider any possible benefits regret might have, as well as any long-term consequences to a person’s well-being.

What is Regret?

According to,

Regret is a negative cognitive or emotional state in which we blame ourselves for a negative event, experience a sense of loss or sadness for what could have been, or wish we could undo a previous choice.

Going by that definition, it is easy to see how experiencing regret can potentially have a range of adverse effects on one’s life or relationships.

If you blame yourself for negative events are experiences in your life that have led to the experience of loss or missing out on something, it could negatively impact a person’s mental health, including levels of motivation to adopt or eliminate certain behaviours and habits that can impact your life (now) positively.

how to let go of relationship regret

However, according to the same source mentioned (above), Neal Roese of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, a pioneer in the field of regret research, found that younger people regarded regret more positively than negatively, primarily because of its informative value in inspiring corrective action.

Regret was rated the highest out of a list of negative emotions in terms of fulfilling five functions:

  1. gaining a better understanding of the environment
  2. averting future harmful behaviours
  3. acquiring insight
  4. establishing social harmony and,
  5. enhancing one’s ability to approach desired possibilities (presumably because we regret past passivity)

In that sense, regret can serve a positive function in that it can potentially help us to navigate our world by making better decisions and avoiding bad ones because we have learned from our past mistakes.

However, despite that being the case, there is a question of whether regret can have long-term effects on a person’s overall well-being, and if it does, what with that suggest to us?

Possible Long-Term Consequences of Regret on Mental Health and Well-Being.

Again, regret, according to, may be detrimental to the mind and body when it becomes useless rumination and self-blame that prevents people from re-engaging with life.

That pattern of persistent, unpleasant, self-focused ruminative thinking is a hallmark of depression and may also contribute to the development of this mental health disorder.

Additionally, as noted in the AARP Newsletter, regret can cause chronic stress, impairing hormonal and immune system function.

Regret also impairs recovery from traumatic life events by prolonging their emotional reach months, years, or lifetimes.

how to let go of relationship regret

Looking at that list of possible long-term consequences of regret on a person’s mental health and well-being, and measuring them against its potential benefits, it seems that letting go of regret and learning how to let go of relationship regret particularly, is a wise thing to consider.

At face value, the good seems to outweigh the bad, especially when we talk about the long-term effects of regret.

Adding to that, we know that many issues in love relationships developed over time and don’t really show the effect of their presence until it is often too late.

On the basis of the theories of regret and its long-term repercussions, one could argue that regret could be working beneath the radar in a relationship and be doing enormous damage long before two people become aware of its existence.

As a result, it makes sense to take stock, determine whether one has any regrets about anything in life, and deal with them as soon as possible.

5 Practical Strategies for Letting Go of Regret and Moving Past It

Avoid ignoring regret.

There are two main issues with ignoring regret.

Firstly, ignorance is not bliss.

Whatever we choose to ignore can hurt us, perhaps not in the short run, but often in the long run.

The danger about that is the longer we leave something to fester and grow, the more difficult it becomes to get rid of it and the more severe consequences are most likely to be.

Secondly, pretending that regret doesn’t exist won’t make it go away.

As people, we sometimes have this idea that simply by ignoring something, it will go away but that’s very seldomly the case.

More often than not, whatever we ignore, tend to fester and grow and become worse in time.

So, if you want to know how to let go of relationship regret, it’s important to first recognise that as a couple, you are experiencing this issue of regret and it requires some input and work on your part to resolve it.

letting go of regret

Figure out why you’re feeling regret.

Is the regret coming from recent interactions with your spouse?

Are you feeling regret because you’re comparing yourself or your situation to others?

Regret seems to be a result of counterfactual reasoning.

In other words, the more easily we are able to imagine a different ending, the more probable it is that we will be disappointed by the missed chance, i.e., regret something.

But the real kicker here is that whatever we suppose could have happened or should have happened doesn’t have to be true or factual in the least.

Despite the fact that there is little or no evidence to support the envisioned outcome, we will still experience regret.

So, rather than wallow in could have’s or should have’s, it’s perhaps a better idea to consider how to let go of relationship regret (or other forms of regret in your life) and what you can do to let go of regret and move forward with what is.

Accept your mistakes.

Acceptance is sometimes hard to do, but what is the alternative when something already happened?

You cannot undo the past. You can merely take action in the present with the hope of influencing any future outcome.

But even that is not a certainty.

Also, it’s important to recognise that perfection isn’t attainable – for anyone.

The concept of “perfection” is an oxymoron, it is unattainable.

It is a motivational concept rather than a destination.

The problem is, however, is that we oftentimes hold ideals of perfection in our minds which we apply to our relationship or life, and these end up forming the basis of many of our regrets.

We end up believing that we should have done better, or someone could have done something else.

The issue with that is that it’s a never-ending game. It’s also a zero-sum game because there are simply too many variables to consider.

There is no ultimate perfect decision or behaviour in any given situation because every action will have an equal and opposite reaction.

But even those reactions become actions in themselves which could lead to further reactions.

And on and on it goes.

letting go of regret

So, in the context of a love relationship, when you do something your spouse can react in a thousand different ways all of which will potentially lead to another thousand different reactions to their reactions on your part.

And amidst all of that you can, if you want to, find many reasons to feel regret because you are bound to make a mistake at some point or another.

But, then again, what is a mistake?

Sometimes a mistake is merely a lesson you weren’t planning on learning, but now you have, and who’s to say how that unexpected lesson learned might serve you and your relationship and the nearby future?

So, instead of wallowing in regret, rather be kind to yourself and your partner, so regret doesn’t take over your lives.

Because truth be told, if you really wanted to, you could find a thousand different reasons why to feel regret – but it has no point and serves no one in the end.

Accept that mistakes will happen.

But what matters more is how you react to them.

 Instead of wallowing in regret, focus on letting go of regret and overcoming and moving past mistakes.

As I just pointed out, mistakes can serve as powerful teaching tools.

They can show you what can go wrong, so you can avoid it again.

They can give you important life lessons you may not learn otherwise.

Understand the role of missed opportunities.

Some research that compared regret across time periods suggests that missed opportunities are the biggest reasons for regret.

It’s more common for you to regret not doing something than to regret taking action.

People are more likely to regret activities taken and mistakes made during short periods of time, whereas they are more likely to regret actions not taken over long periods of time, such as missed opportunities for love or working too hard and not spending enough time with family.

That is such a massive wake-up call.

We frequently delude ourselves into believing that the “huge” mistake we made yesterday will still be relevant tomorrow, while we pay little attention to how it will feel someday when we wake up and realise that the opportunities we had to spend time on the things that are truly important are no longer available.

So, try to take advantage of good opportunities instead of letting them slip by.

how to let go of relationship regret

Do you have a particular missed opportunity that is haunting you and hurting your relationship?

In some cases, people regret staying with a partner or alternatively, not giving their marriage enough of a chance.

Regrets about past relationships, cheating, and affairs are common but pointless.

I’m not being callous.

I’m simply being honest.

You are more than welcome to convince me that what happened in the past can either be undone and still impacts you outside of your own mind and memories.

The past can only exist in our mind unless you’re still in it, but then it wouldn’t be the past and you can still do something about it.

Be bolder.

Since most regret comes from not taking action and missing opportunities, cultivating courage can become your best ally in preventing regret from happening in the first place.

What I’m saying is that knowing how to let go of relationship regret or preventing it from happening in the first place, comes down to your willingness and ability to develop the courage to act.

For example, if you’ve been scared to ask for something or change something about your relationship, then it’s time to speak up.

You will never get your needs met if you never let your spouse know what it is that you want. You cannot rely on mind-reading nor dropping hints because it’s an ineffective strategy.

If you’re not happy with the way your partner treats you or the kids, have an open and honest conversation and ask for change.

Again, there is no change without action.

Ultimately, you can’t allow regret to continue to rule your thoughts because it won’t disappear on its own and will only grow stronger if you ignore it.

Sometimes bold is best.

Now, just because it might be a good thing to do doesn’t mean that it’s easy.

So, if you’re in a difficult relationship right now or need support in speaking up to get what you want in order to avoid any regrets later on, perhaps it’s time to ask for help.

Consider therapy or relationship coaching.

Individual or couples therapy may be the key to how to let go of regret in a relationship.

It may be the only way forward for you as a couple and therefore the best thing you can do right now.

how to let go of relationship regret

Effective therapy or relationship coaching can help you learn how to let go of your regret and also prevent it from returning.

As we’ve seen earlier, one of the benefits of regret is the lessons we can learn from past mistakes or inaction.

As a result, a therapeutic process can help make your relationship stronger, help you overcome challenges, and create healthy coping strategies for the future.

Individual therapy or relationship coaching can also help you get to the bottom of the real reason why you suffer from regret.

It can help you uncover years of past mistakes or pain that you’ve buried.

It can potentially show you how to let go of regret, move on and get over your fears.

Take away

If you’re not careful, regret may become a destructive force in your relationships. Take action now to get rid of it before it does harm to you or those you care about. You will strengthen your relationship, and your love will most likely expand as a result of that.

About the author 

Gideon Hanekom

Gideon Hanekom is the creator of, a renowned relationship blog that ranks among the top 50 relationship blogs in 2024. The website shares valuable insights on creating healthy relationships life. Gideon holds a Master's degree in theological studies and transitioned into professional counseling more than a decade ago. In addition, he since completed post-graduate studies in Psychology at Massey University. With over seventeen years of marriage to his wife and two children, Gideon brings both professional and personal experience to his relationship advice. His articles have been featured on respected platforms such as and The Good Men Project.

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