I think there are a lot of men and women out there who have divorce regret. The vast majority doesn’t admit it, to themselves or to anyone else, but I feel for people who have regret. They wish they could turn back time. They say things like, “I wish I would have tried harder” “I wish I would have appreciated him/her more” “I didn’t know how great I had it” “I was so stupid” “I thought he/she was the problem, but really it was me” and this guy, whose comment on Divorced Girl Smiling honestly made me want to cry. “I’ve Broken My Own Heart” he writes:
Hello everyone. I’m one of those sorry SOBs that cheated on his wife of 20+yrs and two kids, with her “best friend”, married the best friend the day after my divorce was final and….have regretted it every single second of my life ever since. Yep, you get what you deserve in this life. I’d give anything to go back in time, knowing what I know now, and love my 1st wife like she’s never been loved, honored, appreciated, respected, or admired in her life. But, I can’t. I’ve screwed up beyond words. I had the best life anyone could have asked for. But, I was….bored with it all. People kept telling me how blessed I was, but I couldn’t see it. I was blind by selfishness. So, I threw it all away for someone that I thought was my “soul mate”. Oh, how I was wrong. So wrong. 5 years later, I still can’t ignore the overwhelming guilt and shame of what I did. Only for a couple of minutes a day does the memory of my 1st wife, kids, and family leave my mind. She was my soul mate and truly my true love. But I threw her away. I can’t put into words how I’ve broken my own heart, but I know it pales in comparison to how I broke my soul mate’s heart. I’m so sorry sweetness. If you ever read this, I’m so sorry.
What would I like to say to this guy? First, reading this broke my heart and I don’t even know you! Oh, how I want to hug this guy and tell him that after five years, he really needs to start forgiving himself and accepting what is, not trapped in the frustration of not being able to change the past.
Here are some things that might be going on with him. The reason I say “might” is because I am not a therapist and I know nothing about his situation other than what he wrote. He was unhappy and “bored” in his first marriage, so he cheated and thought he found happiness with someone else, only to realize shortly after that he wasn’t happy with her either. So, why is he unhappy? Does he have childhood issues that haven’t been resolved that is causing the unhappiness? Is he unhappy with himself, his professional life, life in general? Is something missing? Because I feel like now, twice, he feels like the grass is greener. What gives? Unless the second wife is a complete nightmare, there is something deeper going on, because why else is he again wanting what he doesn’t have?
There is also a component of self-hatred here. Why is he still punishing himself after 5 years? He talks about guilt and shame. He needs to find a way to forgive himself. Maybe that means therapy, maybe it means telling his first wife and kids how genuinely sorry he is for what he did, maybe he needs marriage counseling with his now wife.
Whatever it is that he needs, he needs to take some action, so that his now life starts working for him. Otherwise, he will remain in this state of divorce regret, self-loathing, hopelessness and unhappiness.
He should reflect on his mistakes in a productive way—not a way in which he beats himself up. God forgives, so why can’t he forgive himself?
Here is some advice is for anyone with divorce regret. I feel like regret—any regret is a huge waste of time. It is a non-productive emotion. No one can turn back time and reverse a decision, an action, something you said. So what is the point of being mad at yourself for making a bad choice? You can’t take it back. All you can do is work on yourself so that your decisions are better in the future.
Trust me, I’ve made some really really bad decisions in my life, and I have so many regrets that I cannot even count them. But, I have made numerous wonderful choices that resulted in the most beautiful and precious things in my life. It starts with my children. How can you regret a marriage that gave you such gifts? You can’t. You can only learn from the choices you made and try to make better ones in the future.
It’s really funny because as I get older, I just want to be younger again, but really I don’t. I only want to be younger so I can look better and have more time. The reason I don’t wish I was younger is because I wasn’t as wise as I am today. And maybe I will say that 5 years from now, 10 years from now, 20 years from now. Most likely, that will be the case. Only I will be even older. So, is it a lose-lose? Actually, I view it as a win-win.
In closing, this sweet man who can’t let go of his divorce regret needs to take some action to make his life work. That might mean working on his marriage or it might mean divorce. He needs to find a way to be happy and instead of focusing on his mistakes every minute, focus on having gratitude for his children, possibly his wife, his family, and all the other meaningful people and things in his life.
Big hugs to this guy. Stop regretting the past, start accepting things as they are, and start living for today.
Jackie Pilossoph is the creator of her website, Divorced Girl Smiling. The author of her novels, Divorced Girl Smiling and Free Gift With Purchase, Pilossoph also writes the weekly dating and relationship column, Love Essentially, published in the Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press. Pilossoph lives with her family in Chicago. Oh, and she’s divorced.