Research has shown that when people are being asked about regrets they have, they regret not so much on what they HAVE done, but on what they have NOT done: education they haven't pursued; career-ladder they didn't follow; intimate relationships they didn't manage to develop & maintain; children they didn't have and personal development they haven't taken the time to develop.
Why do we regret whatever it is that we DIDN'T accomplish?
The reason is simple: looking back, we often know that it almost unlikely to "bring back" to our lives whatever it is that we regret not having accomplished.
Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse treating the terminally ill, author penis ting review
of the book "The Top Five Regrets of the Dying" summarizes the first five regrets which were mentioned by people she treated.
Let me emphasize here these five regrets and illustrate the toll they have had on intimate relationships:
1. I wish I had the courage to be true to my self, rather than doing what others have expected of me
Many are NOT true to themselves within a relationship. They are afraid of being criticized and judged, and most of all - be rejected and abandoned. They have learned, at an early age, that expressing their needs and desires cost them dearly. As adults, they therefore tend to "accommodate" to their partner, out of fear that otherwise they won't meet their partner's expectations. At the end, they are unable to develop and nurture a healthy relationship of give & take, and often feel unsatisfied in whichever relationship they have.
Being true to yourself means: removing your masks and behaving according to your authentic self, out of a sense of self-worth and empowerment. When you are true to yourself you can be true with your partner. You can then develop an authentic, healthy and a satisfying relationship.
2. I wish I wasn't working so hard
Many devote so much time to their work that they don't invest in the relationship. They justify it to themselves by stating that 'Time is money"; that "They must bring income home"; that they "Must take care of their career".
But at the end of the day, those who have taken their work to an extreme, focusing mainly on it and neglecting their relationships, come to regret it - regardless of whether they are being abandoned by their partners or live together as two strangers under the same roof.
If you are sincere about your relationship it is imperative that you make the time to be there for your partner; to share time and interests together; to feel that the two of you build a life together. Talking openly with one another about how to go about maintaining a good relationship while the two of you are working (or studying) is crucial. Open communication - in which you express yourself freely - is crucial to developing and maintaining a healthy and satisfying intimacy, in which the two of you can support each other and be there for one another in spite of your busy work and/or study schedule.
3. I wish I had the courage to express my feelings
Many deny and repress their feeling and emotions in order to "live in peace" with their partners. It goes without saying, that not expressing oneself is part of not being true to oneself. This leads them to live life in which their self-expression is limited. Not allowing themselves to express feelings and emotions often results in feeling embittered, angry, blaming their partners for "not letting me express myself".
Expressing your feelings openly in the relationship is healthy. You express "who you are", rather than wearing masks and hiding your "true self". Expressing yourself is part of being authentic - which is a key to developing a healthy and a genuine intimacy.
4. I wish I have maintained more contacts with my friends
Many in an intimate relationship neglect to keep old friendships. They either don't feel the need for, don't make the time for, or abandon their friends "on the altar of the relationship". It might also be that their partner is a jealous person, insisting and demanding that they will stop seeing old friends - men and women alike.
With time, as the relationship progresses, having neglected old friends might boomerang back at them: they have no one to support them when they need support; they develop bitterness towards their partner who "made them" cut all previous contacts, and so on.
Keeping your support and friends' network is important. Even when you enter a relationship you are still an individual on your own right. A support system is important to all of us - and abandoning your friends in order to "pacify" your partner might often hurt you in the long run. Expressing your need and desire to keep your friends, making the effort to keep in touch with them and being true to yourself about your needs and desires is key to maintaining a satisfying, long-lasting intimate relationship.
5. I wish I would have allowed myself to be happier
Many don't realize that being happy is a choice. Many are being stuck in old patterns of behavior. The fear of change drives many to wear masks and not be "who they are" in the relationship.
One regret many have is - "I wish I had a better intimate relationship"; "I wish I knew how to keep my relationship". Why didn't they? Because they were NOT true to themselves; because they sacrificed themselves at the altar of the relationship; because they didn't have the courage to be who they are; because they were NOT authentic and did not express their true feelings, needs and desires.
Don't wait until it is too late!
If you feel that any one of the five - or a combination of - plays a role in your life and affects your success at intimate relationships, now is the time to make the necessary changes so that later on in your life, looking back, you will be able to tell yourself: I don't have regrets; I've done all I could to develop and maintain a satisfying relationship with which I am happy.
The Top Five Regrets which I have summarized above as related to a successful intimate relationship can help you consider how you "do" you own relationships. They can motivate you to think upon and reflect whether you allow yourself to be "who you are" in a relationship - or not; whether you allow yourself to express yourself or not; whether you are true to yourself or not.
Becoming aware of the ways in which you approach relationships and interact with your partner is a key to being able to develop and maintain a truly satisfying intimacy.