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Decisions about love cause more regret than decisions about work

Nadine Bells
Shine On
June 5, 2012

Got any regrets? One study claims life's greatest regrets are those related to romance and family.

In the study "Life Regrets and the Need to Belong," lead author Mike Morrison and his colleagues determined that social connectedness plays a huge role in peoples' greatest regrets.

Five-hundred American adults submitted their greatest regrets to the study, which were then analyzed to determine the parts of their lives that were most affected."

"Regrets are actually a window into the concerns and goals most important to us," study co-author Neal Roese, marketing professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, tells TIME. "We are fundamentally social creatures and draw a lot of psychological sustenance out of being connected to others. The regrets we are measuring are a reflection of that."

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The study found that regrets involving primarily social relationships, specifically romantic and family relationships, are felt more intensely than the regrets that aren't as socially based, like work or education regrets. In fact, love regrets outnumbered work regrets by more than 2 to 1.

"Failed marriages, turbulent romances, and lost time with family may elicit regrets that last a lifetime," the researchers write.

Interestingly, women were significantly more likely than men to have relationship regrets than men, with 44 per cent of female participants reporting social regrets opposed to just 19 per cent of men.

"It speaks to something psychologists have known for a long time. Women are typically charged with the role of maintaining and preserving relationships, so when things do go wrong, it's very spontaneous for women to think, 'I should have done it some other way,'" Roese tells USA Today. "It's how men and women are raised in this culture."

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Even though study participants ranked work regrets to be almost identical to love regrets in terms of importance and self-blame, the romantic regrets still proved to rate much higher in terms of social impact and feelings of belonging.

Dr. Laura Berman -- a relationship expert and professor of OBGYN --  offers some advice for keeping romantic regrets at bay that includes turning off the phone, making the most of your workday, and cherishing the little things.

"Remember, you can't be a good friend or lover if you are stressed and overworked, and even Wonder Woman couldn't do a million things at once. Take things off your plate that are only there out of guilt and spend time on your relationship and things that matter to you," Berman writes in the Chicago Sun-Times.

Learning from the regrets of others can also be helpful.

The study was published earlier this year in the Journal of Social Psychological & Personality Science.

How do you deal with regret?

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