How to Have All the Romance and None of the Regret

how to live without regretsDo you have any relationship regrets? Things you said or did you wish you could take back? Things you didn’t do that you wish you had?

You might think, “Well sure, James. Most of us do.” And you’d be right…as long as you take into account a surprising statistic.

On average, women are roughly two times more likely to have romantic regrets than men.[i] (In contrast, men tend to have more work-related regrets.)

And what’s really fascinating is that the longest lasting, most powerful romantic regrets are not about mistakes. They’re about missed opportunities.

Which means you’re more likely to kick yourself for NOT flirting with the cute guy at Starbucks than for making a fool of yourself if you do.

It’s all about risk. Short-term risks, like embarrassment at a failed flirting attempt, carry more weight in the moment than long-term risks, like regret. Fear of failure can be a powerful motivator.

But I tend to agree with Lucille Ball who famously said, “I’d rather regret the things I’ve done than regret the things I haven’t done.”

At the end of the day or the end of the decade, wouldn’t you rather look back and know you were daring enough to go for it? Even if you don’t always succeed, wouldn’t it be better to regret the things you tried and failed than to regret the things you were too afraid to try?

If so, then you’re ready for a crash course in regret-free romance. Below is a three-step plan to help you carpe that diem.

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Get Him to Invest in Your Relationship

How To Get Him To Invest In The RelationshipWomen want commitment; men want freedom.

Everyone knows that.

Everyone knows women who’ve struggled to get a marriage proposal out of a long-term relationship. Everyone knows men committed to the bachelor lifestyle.

At a glance, that distinction comes across as absolutely, indisputably true.

But generalizations can be misleading.

They’re particularly misleading when they suggest there’s nothing we can do.

If he won’t commit, why bother trying to make him? If she’s only interested in a wedding ring, why lead her on?

The truth is this:

About 90% of the population ends up getting married at least once in their lives.[1]

That’s most of us. Clearly, we figure out how to balance our competing desires for freedom and commitment.

The investment model of relationships explains how.

According to this model, four factors predict whether a relationship will last:

  1. Satisfaction
  2. Investment
  3. Alternatives, and
  4. Commitment

A relationship where both parties are satisfied, have a significant investment in the relationship, and don’t have any real romantic rivals is likely to show high degrees of commitment.

It’s their interdependence that makes a couple strong, not the depth of their feelings for one another.

Which explains why a man can love you deeply but still hold back from making a commitment. It’s because at least one of these four factors aren’t where it should be.

The beauty of this model is that it doesn’t depend on gender distinctions to explain why some relationships crumble and others go the distance.

For example, a man who has a number of beautiful women on his arm is less likely to commit because of Factor #3: Alternatives.

The more quality alternatives he perceives he has—even if it’s just the imaginary alternatives of an online dating app like Tinder—the less committed he’ll feel.

This works for women, too.

Women who have a number of men vying for their interest can afford to be choosier. They’re unlikely to commit until they’re sure they have identified the best possible option.

Factor #2, Investment, explains why men often fight to stick together just as hard as women do.

When a man has invested a lot in a relationship, he’s more likely to work at staying together even when things get tough.

A married man with a house and kids will find it harder to separate than a co-habitating man who’s never merged his finances with his girlfriend.

Divorcing couples are more likely to be childless than to have children together, [2] suggesting that children are one of the biggest investments a man can make in a relationship.

On the other hand, women who don’t have a lot invested in a relationship are more likely to leave if things aren’t going well. A breakup may break her heart, but it won’t break the bank.

These days, women are more likely to initiate divorce than men. The reason—at least, according to The Washington Post—is because of the third factor:

Satisfaction.

Life is too short to feel as if your soul is being suffocated, explained one woman.[3]

How To Get Him To Invest In The RelationshipAs information on healthy relationships has become widely available, more and more women are realizing they don’t have to put up with dysfunctional relationships. They have the right to be happy. If they’re not as happy in their relationship as they were when they were single, they’d rather be single.

Fair enough.

How to Use This for Enhanced Commitment

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One Relationship Risk You Should Take

taking risks for a relationshipsLet’s talk about the risks you take in your romantic life. I’ll start with a quick story…

Jill just finished a one-on-one review with her boss. She’s venting to a friend in the break room.

Her boss gave her some criticism. He said she’s not “applying herself.” But she’s frustrated because she simply doesn’t know if putting in extra effort will pay off.

“I would work a lot harder if I knew it would guarantee a promotion or a raise,” she tells her friend.

Lance, a coworker, is pouring a cup of coffee within earshot. He understands completely. “Yeah, and I’d ask you out if I knew you were going to say yes,” he thinks to himself.

Jill and Lance are both wrestling with a common problem. We all struggle with feelings of uncertainty. No matter how brave or bold you are, it’s hard to commit when there’s no guaranteed payoff.

There’s a word for that. Risk. And if you deal with a risk like Jill and Lance, you’ll miss out on a lot of life’s rewards.

That’s especially true in relationships.

Of course, in a committed relationship the stakes are a little different. The temptation to avoid risk in a relationship goes more like this: “Prove that you’re really into me first, and then I’ll be more selfless, giving and transparent.”

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How to Find Common Ground Fast

how to find common groundFinding common ground is one of the fastest ways to build a feeling of warmth. It’s how we establish familiarity with people we’ve just met. It’s also a surprisingly good way to restore feelings of connection with an existing partner.

But how do you find new common ground with someone you already know?

Even if you know someone really well, there are always new things to learn. The trick to getting to know someone better is to find out what you have in common. Here’s an easy way to do just that.

1.What’s your favorite thing that happened in the past week?

Invite him to play a ‘free association game’ that starts like this. You ask him this question: What’s your favorite thing that happened in the past week? There’s no right or wrong answer, so there’s no pressure.

You listen to his answer. This is important. Really listen.

When he’s done, share any connections you have with his memory. That’s what free association is.

For example, if he mentions a slice of apple pie he had at a certain diner, and you’ve been to that same diner with friends, you mention that you’ve been there but that you never tried the apple pie.

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