HOW TO FIND PEACE IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP DECISIONS
by Annie Gurton, Imago Relationship Therapist on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.
When we look back on our relationships, and our lives, there seems to be clear points when a choice was made, a decision taken, which has had ramifications all down the line. Like dropping a pebble into a lake, the ripples can continue for a long time. Sometimes we are not aware when we are at those vital decision points and choices are made without much thought, but often there is a clear sense that this is an important crossroad. Having made a choice, it is vital that we are at peace with it, and are not forever thinking, ‘If only …’ and ‘I wish I’d chosen the other way …’. This is clearly pointless for there is no turning back the clock, and this negative thinking can in fact taint the choice made. It is important to be able to accept past decisions and not ruminate on what might have been.
If in doubt about which way to go, or if you find yourself wondering how things might have gone if you’d made the other choice, remember that in many ways there is no such thing as a bad decision. All choices have their pros and cons, and there is no way of knowing what unforseen complexities might have arisen if you’d chosen the other path. So take comfort in thinking that the choice you made seemed the best option at the time and it is not a mistake. Try and do your due diligence. This means doing complete and comprehensive research on all the issues connected with your decision
Instinct is an unquantifiable factor and not to be overlooked. Go with your heart rather than your head and you are likely to regret it less. If you can lay your hand on your heart and say, ‘I made choice I felt was best’ you will have less regret.
If in doubt about the choice you made, think about the factors that made it seem the best decision at the time. There are invariably several external (and sometimes internal) factors which sway a decision although we often forget them.
Doubts may arise from comments made by others but remember that this was your decision, and it’s your life. What might have worked for them will not necessarily be right for you. So although it’s often helpful to listen to others don’t let their reflections impact you too much.
Even if you have made a wrong choice, invariably some good will come out of it, even if it is a lesson in making decisions. We don’t learn when everything goes smoothly, we only learn from our mistakes and if life is too smooth and our relationship is utterly conflict-free, we are not growing. Like the oyster needs grit to form a pearl, so we need discomfort and challenge to grow in ourselves. We can reflect and we can improve, and aim to find peace in any discomfort.
If a choice that you made turns out to be seriously disastrous, there is obviously no way that you can go back and change it and we are forced to accept what is and move forward, maybe changing direction but we are unable to undo what has been done. Being able to practice acceptance of what has happened is powerful, and in the same way that forgiveness is a strong gift to yourself, so acceptance of our past is the quickest way to healthily move on.
If you are troubled by a past decision and frequently wonder what it would have been like if you’d taken another road, use these steps to try and find peace:
1. Consciously tell yourself that what is will be, and there is no backward way. You have to get on with things the way they are. So be gentle with yourself but also firm. Treat yourself kindly and attend to your self-care by eating sleeping and moving healthily.
2. Look at the best side of the way things are. With hindsight it might not have been the best choice but you will never find peace if you life in a constant state of regret. So ask yourself what is good about the current situation and your past choices, and be grateful for them.
3. Make your new choices with care and be informed by any regrets from the past. We are constantly having to make choices – that one that haunts you is not the first or last. We make choices every day, small and big, so just try to make better decisions in future.
4. To find true peace in the past and to accept past choices and decisions it helps to be a pragmatist. Accept what is, know that it cannot be changed, look for the positives, and if a late change is possible, weigh it up seriously before taking it.
5. Apply your learnings about life and relationships going forward. Be sure to ask for what you want, and make sure that you are heard and not over-ruled. Take lessons from the past and try not to make the same mistake again.