The Simple Concept That Stops You From Making Regrettable Relationship Decisions
Regret isn't normal, nor does it lead to a happy relationship.
Everyone will tell you sleeping with your ex isn't a good idea. You broke up for a reason, right?
But yeah, I went there. I ignored all the sound advice around me and dipped into the ex pool for one night of fun.
I could justify my actions, though. That's the problem. I could justify it by saying my last boyfriend had dumped me, humiliated me in public by cheating on me, and I was feeling vulnerable.
I could justify it by saying this is what I needed to make me feel human again. I needed (not wanted, but needed) a connection with someone.
I try not to live with regret.
But if I could turn back time or advise my younger self, I would suggest against doing this. It was acting irrationally. I wasn't thinking. I was becoming overtaken by this short-term heartbreak.
I made permanent decisions on temporary emotions.
I would love to say that one-off occasion was the only time I did this. I can't do this.
But I have learned if you want to salvage and grow your relationships and make decisions you won't regret, this is the path to success.
Defining the idea of permanent decisions in relationships
When we're talking about relationship permanent decisions, we aren't talking about every single action we take. They are all permanent decisions.
Everything we do is, by definition, a permanent decision.
Because unless we have a time machine and can stop ourselves from doing everything, it's all permanent.
I realised this pretty early in my "recovery" process, as I will call it. If you take the mentality that everything we do is a permanent decision, you become trapped in overreacting and irrational decision-making.
It's the idea of YOLO on steroids. You can easily justify your ill-thought-out decisions by hanging onto this idea.
So what is a permanent decision in this context?
A permanent decision refers to a major life decision with long-lasting consequences and flow-on effects.
These are decisions that change the fabric of your entire relationship.
It's not a decision about whether you and your partner eat a roast chicken dinner or Spaghetti Bolognese on Friday night. It's decisions like:
As you can tell, each decision is vastly different and pertains to different areas of the relationship. Yet, what all these decisions have are the following traits:
- They require planning to some degree - from extreme planning to momentary planning
- They all have an impact on the strength of the relationship
- They are decisions with significant consequences - every area of your relationship and life can change from this decision
- They are decisions you hope your partner will take time to consider before making them - you hope they weigh up the consequences, benefits and impacts of making this decision without you
Defining the idea of temporary emotions in relationships
Once again, we all have temporary emotions. Every emotion is temporary if you really want to get down to the nitty-gritty of it all. Again, this is a technicality that traps us into thinking it's ok to act upon impulse.
Temporary emotions refer to situations where your emotions become heightened by short-lived events in your life. It's the idea that we derive temporary emotions from momentary situations.
These heightened emotions are often accompanied by:
- High levels of stress and anxiety
- High levels of discord between people - arguments, tension, friction
- Sleepless nights
- Inability to stick to the usual routine
- Elevated times where life doesn't feel normal or predictable
Short-term relationship events occur more often than we can give them credit for. They can happen to the relationship, in that the event hasn't happened within the relationship. Or it can be something occurring within the relationship.
These could be any of the following (and there are many more we could add to the list):
Sick loved one - You, your partner, one of your family or friends
- Grief - Passing of a loved one
- Cheating partner - Discovering what happened, discovering the other party
- Children - Pregnancy, birth, expanding the family
- Changed housing conditions - Process of buying a house, moving or selling a house
- Changed working environments - Redundancy, new job, returning to education, short-term projects at work with tight deadlines
- Fire, flood or drought - Natural or manmade disasters that affect your relationship's way of living
- A fight between you and your partner - Big fights, especially the first one, can feel life destroying
All these events can last the lifetime of your relationship, sure. But, as a general rule, they usually end quickly (in the grand scheme of how long we live). Or we get used to them and we no longer suffer temporary emotions from these events.
What's the problem with making permanent decisions on temporary emotions?
Here's how this system of decision-making destroys relationships.
When you make a long-term decision from a short-term event, you're setting yourself up for disaster.
You're making decisions when you're lacking clarity, logic and the knowledge of what the situation is going to be.
You're taking situations at face value rather than giving you and your partner time to figure out what you want to do.
It's acting on impulse.
Sometimes acting upon impulse is ok, by the way. A spontaneous love-making session on the couch is one of those times. But these moments aren't those types of impulses.
This impulse decision-making causes you to make big life decisions you come to regret.
For example, using the list mentioned earlier:
- Buying a house with your partner - You bought a house because you were evicted from your rental property the day earlier and happened to see a house for sale. You bought the house you couldn't afford because you felt devastated your landlord evicted you.
- Divorcing your partner - You decide to file for divorce because you had one fight with your partner. You don't consult a therapist or even talk to your other half about what happened. You jump straight to the final result without even trying to work through the problem.
It's easy to regret these major life decisions when the heightened emotion levels itself or dissipates altogether.
And it's easy to push people away when you're so quick to make irrational and illogical decisions because of a short-term issue.
Steal my mantra
Say it with me; don't make permanent decisions on temporary emotions.
It's easy to say, but what does it mean in practice with your partner? For me, it took a little while to evaluate my irrational behaviour and learn how to correct it.
Now, I don't even need to think twice. I trust my instincts. I trust my reactions. I know I don't jump to decisions without thinking. It's wonderfully liberating.
Here are the approaches I took to save my relationship and adopt this approach into my entire life:
- Talk to your partner about it - Include them in this conversation. You might find that you do this together, or one encourages the other. This could be a deal-breaker for your partner, too, something you're unaware of. If your partner knows you're actively working to fix it, it gives your partner the confidence for that the situation will improve.
- Write the instinct on paper - We all have impulses and we often feel like we need to act on them now before the moment vanishes. Write the impulse down, ink it to paper, and let it sit there for a minute/day/week/month. You haven't lost the idea or impulse, you're simply shelving it for a moment to marinade.
- Start a healthy pros and cons list - Every impulse is a decision with reasons to do it (pros) and reasons not to (cons/consequences). A list of each will help you slow down, truly think through the decision, and stop you from jumping on the impulse. It forces you to stop and switch from emotions to logic.
- Walk away for a minute - Every relationship will face a moment where the other person, or outside source, will put you on the spot. You will have to make quick decisions. Sometimes, you need to walk away to block out the noise. Sure, there are some decisions where you don't get this luxury. But when you can, ask for a moment and the other person's patience, and take it.