Say you’re in a committed relationship and you care about your partner—but—there’s a doubt or a concern of: what if I was meant to be with someone else?
This “buyer’s remorse” feeling can happen as early in the relationship as a first date. You chose someone from their online profile, but you can’t help but wonder about the other options you had for a first date. When this happens, you may be less inclined to give the relationship a chance.
You may know of friends that advise to “play the field,” “don’t settle down,” or “don’t make the mistake I did and commit too early.”
Some have a chronic tendency to want to keep their options open and avoid anchoring in one relationship.
Or you may be knee-deep in a relationship (perhaps married and/or with kids) and you’ve had at least one experience of wondering what life might be like with someone who does meet all your needs or maybe even think of a specific person that was an option before.
If you know what I’m talking about, consider these 3 questions:
1. Is this normal?
In 2012, IllicitEncounters.com surveyed 4,000 married couples, to find over half of them regretted their marriage. Twenty-five percent of over 2,000 couples think they married the wrong person; 11% say they’re attracted to someone else; 10% are no longer attracted to their partners.
The minority group who didn’t claim to be regretful in any way, may not be totally honest (very possible) or have patched things up to now believe their partner is the right one (also totally possible).
The point is, most of us feel doubt, regret, fear, at some point or other (even to no fault of our partner).
Dan Ariely, famously known for his book Predictably Irrational, came into my awareness at UCI as a Dating Site Researcher (that’s the title I gave him) through a youtube video shared in class.
He explained how dating sites give us too many options, having us wonder and doubt, once we make a choice, “was this the right choice?” It came down to the simple idea that we have too many choices. Just like we have too many cereal choices.
Rosie Freeman-Jones from IllicitEncounters.com, said at the time the survey was revealed: “People expect the utmost from their marriage—but humans are fallible, and the very best isn’t always possible when it comes to relationships.”
We feel more confident in our decisions when we have less options to choose from.
Say you’ve got 100 bucks in your pocket, and you were told with that you can go anywhere in the world just this one time, where would it be?
So many places! Then you go to Paris and can’t help wonder if you should’ve gone to Hawaii. They’re both different, and you haven’t been to neither, but now that you’ve been to Paris, as it was your final choice, you can’t help but wonder about Hawaii, especially after your 3rd time in Paris, because the novelty has wared off.
So, it is humanly normal… to an extent.
2. What’s fair game and what’s outright betrayal?
“I’m just looking at the menu, but I’m not ordering from it.”
“It’s harmless flirting. It’s no big deal.”
These statements don’t yell “I’m cheating,” and they don’t necessarily lead to infidelity, but betrayal is a gray area. Because we all feel different levels of betrayal for different reasons. If you’re partner is not okay with those statements, it’s no longer a gray area. The clearer you are on your boundaries with each other, the less gray area there will be.
In a FRIENDS episode, The One With the Male Nanny, Chandler (Matthew Perry) is having to commute to Tulsa for work during the work week and his wife Monica (Courtney Cox) is now working at a new restaurant. She calls him with an upbeat mood while he’s in bed ready to go back to sleep, until she slaps the drowsiness out of him with these words: “There’s this one guy, Jeffrey, he’s the maitre d’. Chandler, you will love him. He is without a doubt, the funniest guy I have ever met.”
He didn’t take that well. As Joey (Matt LeBlanc) later put it, “Being funny is your thing…without that, you just got ‘lame with women.’”
We see Monica shrug this as a harmless comparison. The harmless part about it is that for her she’s not comparing an indispensable trait she needs in a partner. It doesn’t affect her affection to Chandler if he were more or less funny than other people.
Comparisons can be good or bad.
When you compare your partner to other people, in areas that are meaningful to you—as in meeting your needs—does your partner win hands down or do you feel like someone else could do better?
I’m not implying what you are already thinking. I’m helping you lay out all the cards on the table.
If we compare our partner as better, we’re practicing forgivable bias for the benefit or our relationship.
If we compare our partner to be worse (remember, in areas that we need to form a bond with our significant other) then we are playing with fire.
As Dr. John Gottman would say, “A tendency to make such negative comparisons primes the partner for future betrayal. A partner who engages in frequent negative comparisons is feeling buyer’s remorse and believes, ‘I can do better than this.’”
But can you? Is it imaginary? Or is it just meant to be?
I say, when we compare harshly, we make our partners seem replaceable.
3. Does it mean anything?
Of course it does. It means you are searching for something else. Whether that is another person or because you feel resentment, it’s best to address this longing before it turns into something you’ll later regret.
It won’t do any good to ignore how you feel and to ignore your remorse, in hope’s it will go away on it’s own, will only lead you down a default path. This is where you give up control in your life.
It may seem insignificant. But the more you understand yourself, the easier it will be to decide what you need.
Why do you feel regret? What do you need to diminish that feeling?
Why are you comparing your partner to better options? What is it that you’re missing?
There’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s absolutely natural to feel unsure when you feel your needs aren’t being met. There’s nothing immoral in having legitimate needs.
So ask yourself these questions if you’re feeling a bit doubtful about your relationship. Try to be as clear as you can with yourself. That way you don’t live the way you wish to avoid, but the way you truly want.
Originally published at journal.thriveglobal.com