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Do You Have Regrets?

Do you have regrets?

How do you deal with regrets in your marriage? In this week's Art of Relationships episode, Chris and Tim talk about affairs, missed opportunities, emotional absence, and more.


Intro:

Welcome to the art of relationships. This podcast is produced by the Biola university center for marriage and relationships. For additional resources on healthy relationships, like videos, blogs, or events near you. Visit our website at cmr.biola.edu.

Speaker 1:

Well, welcome to another art of relationships podcast with Dr. Tim Muehlhoff. and Dr. Chris grace is so nice to be with you. Yeah, it's good to be with you, Tim. And, uh, we've spent a lot of time, uh, going back and forth on a number of topics throughout this podcast, Tim, that affect relationships. And, uh, you have one that you thought of that would be awesome for our listeners. Uh, so why don't you introduce the topic for the day?

Speaker 2:

Yeah. You know, you and I have spoken at a ton of marriage conferences because we are marriage experts Chris.

Speaker 1:

Regardless of what anybody else or our wives say.

Speaker 2:

Nothing's easier than fixing somebody else's marriage.

Speaker 1:

Exactly.

Speaker 2:

But when we have spoken at these conferences and, and people come up to us and often have a very common refrain and the refrain is, man, I wish I were to heard this 20 years ago. I would have loved to have heard this the first year of my marriage. And what they're talking about, Chris is regrets.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 2:

And again, I think all of us feel that you and I feel that there's things we could do just go back chasing things now that we've lived through, you know, the first five years of your marriage, teenage kids and all that. So it's very common, but we came across a very interesting website based on research, predominantly from Cornell, where they asked older Americans, do you have regrets? And they actually categorize a ton of them. We won't hit all of them, but we thought boy this would be a great podcast to just go back and take a look at some of the regrets that they mentioned. And you, and I kind of kick it around this way. I've thought about doing a podcast with a psychologist, Chris, because regret is something you guys take a look at it within psychology.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, we do. It's that kind of, if regret, I think everybody understands that we, when we feel it, we know it and it's just such a common human experience. Psychologists know it is this idea of a sense of loss at what might have been right? You, you have these dreams or you wish you could undo some, you know, choice that you made and it's that feeling, you know, it's both Tim, it's both an emotional state and a cognitive one where it bottom line, you begin to blame yourself for these bad outcomes. Right. And if only I would have done it differently, I wished I could go back and relive this. And I think for a lot of older people, um, the pain says that I just don't think there's any hope for me when it comes to this. Cause I've lost too much time too late. So Tim, I think when, when we looked at this website and we're going to talk a little bit about regret, I think psychologists want to say, yeah, you know, you need to get your hands around, what might have been, and being able to release that younger people can do that. It could actually be helpful to help them refocus. Right. And maybe take corrective action if you're young enough. And so I don't think younger people suffer as much from the, the regrets that older people do. So, but let's talk about some of those regrets.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. So one was a, I thought very interesting is that there was a generally a regret about individuals that had gone outside the marriage. And that could be an emotional affair that could be a physical affair. And they later had regrets about that, that they wished they hadn't done it. Chris, are you aware of this interesting movie called late night? Emma Thompson and John myth?

Speaker 1:

I've heard of it. I haven't seen it, but...

Speaker 2:

Noreen and I watched it on a plane. This was obviously pre COVID. Um, and so John Lithgow has an affair with Emma Thompson while he's married to another person. And then they start to have problems, Emma Thompson and John Lithgow. And he said this, he said, you know, when I committed that affair, I feel like I racked up bad karma. I felt like now I had these regrets that I couldn't go back and address. And I thought that was interesting. So we know from research credits that if you go to a couple that's at the low point of their marriage and you say to them, what are the chances do you think of this marriage surviving? And then later thriving, most couples at that low point would say, we just don't have very much hope at all. But then this really cool study, five years later with these couples receiving help and that help could be marital counseling, it could be reading books going to a marriage conference. It was 80% of those couples now felt in year five that their marriage was not only surviving, but that it was good.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 2:

That is staying in it for the long haul and pushing through those really hard times. And I think this is what the very first ones getting at is some people would look back and say, well, I have regrets for not pushing through the hard times and even going outside the marriage to meet my needs. I now have regrets about that.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. And it, it only makes sense to Tim, doesn't it? That, um, when, when there is true regret or true guilt, like we understand what marriage is and you and I hold to a very high view of marriage. Right. And then when you violate that in some way, shape or form, uh, it's something that you feel deep, it almost violates a moral principle. That's part of this grander scheme of thing. We would say God's designed. So it's Tim, it's no wonder feel that, but if you can get over, if you can overcome it by taking the proper steps, right. Forgiveness and seeking forgiveness. And, um, Tim, I think some people just have a hard time even forgiving themselves when that happens.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. And you and I were talking about this, cause we obviously looked at the list and you and I made the point that spiritual battle, which has been a topic on our podcast in the past, we even did a whole conference going deeper on this issue of spiritual battle. We did it two years in a row, crazy popular, uh, couples came in droves. So with all of these regrets, we're going to have to make a distinction between godly sorrow, which can be of the Holy spirit or spiritual attack. Yeah. So if, if you've been unfaithful in your marriage, if you have not followed through, on your wedding vows...No doubt there's going to be godly sorrow. Now that godly sorrow, if it starts to bleed into certain areas, right. If you think, okay, God doesn't love me anymore. God's given up on me. Yeah. Then, okay. That's a sign of spiritual battle. Yeah. If you start to think, okay, I was unfaithful in my marriage and the marriage cannot be saved or B uh, she'll never trust me again. Or he'll never trust me again. That starts to feel like spiritual battle. And of course, trust has to be rebuilt. Of course it does. But when you start to think in catastrophic thinking, uh, I'll never, God will never take me back. The marriage can never be fixed. I've crossed the line. I can never go back. Then, don't you think, Chris, that that's probably a spiritual battle.

Speaker 1:

I think it is spiritual battle, Tim and I think our enemy takes advantage of the fact that not only would the opposite spouse have a hard time forgiving the cheating spouse, but the cheating spouse has a hard time forgiving themselves. And they begin this, you know, kind of spiral down. Like I will never be forgivable. This is something I've that I've violated. Right. And, and I think Tim, I think he started to also kind of go into this notion of not just what is godly sorrow. And we would say that most likely comes out of what's called real guilt, right. Or even healthy guilt. There is such a thing as healthy and unhealthy, but we would say that false guilt is, is, is like the precursor to spiritual battle because false guilt is the sense that, you know, it's not, what's true and accurate, right. It's usually the fear of maybe disapproval in disguise. And that's where your enemy comes in. He loves disguises. He loves hiding. And, and then going at your disguises. So if you're really dealing with false guilt, Tim, then I think the enemy can easily go in there and say, because he deals in things like lies. And this isn't about truth. This is about lie that you've bought about the inability, for example, to feel forgiven. And that violates all of our scriptural knowledge of what God has said through Jesus is available to each of us. And it's this forgiveness of sins that's whole and complete. It doesn't mean we don't deal with consequences, but good night, uh, Tim, I think this is where our enemy and where the, where the battle does come in. It's during false guilt, not healthy.

Speaker 2:

Let me make a quick comment about the, uh, the research we're going to be quoting. There are literally 31 regrets, and now we're not going to cover all of these regrets, but notice in the research and this comes from again, Cornell, they said the number one biggest regret. So they started with the biggest, and that was this idea of being unfaithful to wedding vows and cheating. I would just say this to listeners and to ourselves included, listen to these older Americans, right? We get this weird idea via Hollywood that affairs and extramarital things are passionate and great. And, um, and, but now, um, older Americans are stepping up to say, listen, if we're talking to regrets, one of the biggest regrets I have in my life is not being faithful to my spouse. Listen to what they're saying,

Speaker 1:

Tim that's great advice. And, and I, and I, and Tim, we would also make a distinction here. I think you would agree with. And that is these older adults...I think if we may be parsed down just a little bit further into the cheating, they would say, it's not just a physical affair. For many, it could be an emotional affair, right? I mean, it's this distancing from your family or from your spouse to find comfort in the arms of somebody else or just in the presence of somebody else. It doesn't have to be physical. And I think many people express regret that I was not there. I was emotionally checked out. I was unavailable and I found connection at work with somebody else.

Speaker 2:

So Chris, I want to butcher this study, but you've mentioned it before. Okay. So remember on college campuses, they went up to men and women and they said, what would be more hurtful? And to the men, they said, okay, would it be more hurtful if your partner partner was emotionally unfaithful or physically, do you remember this? Okay. And what did they say?

Speaker 1:

Well, no, I almost all the men felt the physical affair was most harmful, hurtful, painful to them. And for a majority of women, while the painfulness of a physical affair was great, it was actually exceeded by only one other thing. And that wasn't emotional affair where they weren't available for them because they were having an emotional affair with somebody else, a friendship, uh, you know, just kind of a deeper connections, a connection with somebody. So

Speaker 2:

In life. Yeah. It's always, always a good principle. When you're thinking about buying a house, you were thinking about buying a boat. You're thinking about making a career move. It's always great to talk to somebody who's done it. Right, to first say, I think I'm buying a boat and somebody looks at you and says, you might as well just dig a big hole and throw your money in that hole right now. Right. It's always good to get advice from. People went ahead of you. That's the beauty of this Chris is we are looking at older Americans who just said, there's going to be 31 of these categories, but we're starting with the biggest one. Cheating is what I would go back and change. If I could go back, let's just pay attention to that and listen. And that's the book of Proverbs, right? It is a community I think is really good. Okay. We've got more, we've got more, um, bunch of them said that if I ever did a podcast and didn't treat my podcast host well, affirm him, comment on him that I wish I could just go back and

Speaker 1:

I'll be I'll I'll I'll sit here and wait for that.

Speaker 2:

Holy spirit Chris. I'm just, I'm just get being a vehicle.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. I appreciate your sensitivity to God's spirit.

Speaker 2:

Here's a huge one that kind of hit personal for me. Uh, not visiting a dying relative. So you you've heard me say this before. Uh, I was not particularly close, close to my dad and, uh, uh, for a multitude of reasons, my fault, as well as his fault. Um, but he got a stomach cancer was dying very quickly and a good friend of mine, Tim downs grabbed me and said, look at me, I'm telling you right now, as your friend, get on an airplane before the chemo starts, before all the craziness go and reconcile, go and tell him the things you appreciated. Chris, I did that. I booked a ticket. I went, uh, while he was lucid and, uh, probably the most meaningful conversation I ever, ever had with him. And it wasn't, we didn't, we didn't fully reconcile it. Wasn't this now everything's right. But then when it hit, he went downhill very quickly and died. I, um, was at a family life, marriage conference, Chris, when he died, it was that sudden. And so then I had to zip back right for the funeral, but here's my good friend, Tim downs, who said, Tim, you do not want to live with this regret. And I thought that was so good that I listened to him. And then I just went up there and it was hard. It was a hard weekend, but I got a chance to say things to him while he was healthy enough to receive it.

Speaker 1:

And I think the, the sad part about situations like that are, are, there are many people on the other side who felt that knew that Tim, but they didn't act on it. And I think the sadness is trying to figure out how do I deal now with maybe the guilt, the shame, uh, wishing I could do it over. And, and that's where, again, going back to this notion of, we don't want to let our enemy gain a foothold when forgiving of oneself is extremely important. And, and, and Tim, I don't know if, if, if you let's say you didn't listen to Tim's advice and you didn't go, um, and your father died fairly suddenly. And now you're at the funeral. My guess is the struggle for you would, would be in forgiving, forgiving yourself. I don't think anybody else would hold it over you against you. And, and I think Tim, for people that find themselves in that situation, it's learning how to navigate. What does it mean? Why did I make a certain decision at the time? And usually we want a simple answer. Like, Oh, I just didn't like him. Oh, I just ran out. Oh, I regret that. I didn't make the time. When in reality, there's a lot of complexity, a lot of feelings, right? A lot of emotional relational baggage that you're sorting through and making decisions. And sometimes you have to give yourself a little bit more credit that it really wasn't just a simple, Oh, I just had an airplane flight and I decided not to go. It may be much more complicated.

Speaker 2:

So Chris, you remember that passage from James where James says, come now you who say today and tomorrow we'll go to such and such the city and gain some profit, um, stay there for a year. And then James counters and says, but you have no idea what a day will bring. And that is the wisdom of the book of Proverbs and the book of James, right. To say, so I agree with you. It's not a magic thing. Just get on a plane and everything's going to be fine, but don't assume you have all the time in the world. I think that's is a very good impetus to begin to work on these kinds of things. Right. Do you ever watch last chance U? You, you know, that Netflix series where they go to a program that's really struggling in football program. And so they picked one hit right in Oakland right here. And here's a, here's a man who's playing football and they're interviewing him. And he said, you know, I never went back to my dad and said, Hey, it's okay. You struggle. And I still love you. And then, uh, his dad got into a bar, fight. Gun was pulled and he was killed instantly. And here's a man, uh, who just immediately the tears well up. And he goes, I just never got a chance to do that. So I think we just need to know, be, get, get it in, works, get, get the gears going. You're going to have to address this are regrets going to becoming.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, that's good. So I constantly find myself, Tim wanting to make comments towards those who are in that situation and how do they process what becomes real and what's false and what's healthy and what's unhealthy. And you know, cause some of that for him is, is healthy to experience at some point. But if he continues carrying that on for five, 10, 15 years at some point, right then it's unhealthy at some, some level. So Tim, there's lots of regrets out there. And I, this is a great theme. It's trying to figure out what is godly sorrow, you know, sense in which sometimes Tim, it feels to me like time periods are important, right? There's a moment and times in which you immediately instantly regret what you're about to say. So you say it and you instantly go, the words are still in your mouth and it's instantaneous. I should not have asked her age or why did I comment on whatever? And that, and then in shorter time periods, I think we regret maybe actions that we take. Psychologists have found this: in short time periods, people, regret actions that they took. Like I shouldn't have turned if I would have only gone and followed my route. If I'd only done and played this, if I had only continued down this and, and they regret... When older people or the longer it has been, people began to regret things that they didn't take. They you know, they, they see more of the options out there and they're like, ah, I didn't do this. And I regret that. Or, and so it's interesting how you regret and a shortened time kind of frame those maybe decisions and actions that you did take, but over a longer period of time, as time goes on, I think people begin to maybe regret more actions that they didn't take. And this is one of those Tim, especially with the dying relative, and there are others out there.

Speaker 2:

All right, let's do another one. I thought this was a good, based on the Cornell research found that people who spilled the beans on something, they were asked to keep private often had regrets later in life. Let me give you a great illustration of this. This just happened last week, I had confided to a friend, uh, something I just said, Hey, this just between you and me. He said, yeah, it's just between you and me. So we go out and have breakfast and I just, I brought it up. I decided to bring it up. They're good friends, but I had asked him to keep it in confidence. So I bring it up and I just start to talk about it. And obviously my wife knows about it. The only person didn't know about it was the spouse of my friend. And she literally looked like, I'm sorry, I I'm a, I don't know what's going on. And I looked at my friend and he looked at me and he said, dude, you said not to say anything to anybody. And I looked at him and I was like, man, thank you for doing that. Yeah. And that was a really cool moment of like, so imagine that you don't do that. Imagine you're given a confidence and you spill the beans...oh my word.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. Tim, it's a social contract that I make with, we make with other people. And that contract stipulates things like I'm being vulnerable right now and holding you in such high esteem that I want you and you alone to share this joy. It could be joyful to share this burden. It could be just something that you are even regretting yourself. Then you share that. And I think Tim, that, uh, the regret that comes in later in life is when you recognize that you weren't faithful to a friend, it's similar to cheating, right? I mean, it's the same thing. If, if my wife tells me something in confidence and I go tell you or somebody else like what Chris did, you, you know, you, you, it, it, it's similar to a, an emotional kind of cheating.

Speaker 2:

So there's a theologian named Frederick beaker. And he said, we constantly edit our lives all the time we edit, we filter. We're constantly doing that. He said, life is so much more enjoyable. When you have a small cadre of friends that he said, you can be unedited with Chris that's trust. And, you know, being Christian professors at a Christian university, having a podcast, speaking at Christian marriage conferences, there just comes a time. You can't be transparent anymore because people would just be bitterly disappointed. That's why pastors often have confidence that are in different churches. And so to have somebody that you can sit down and say, man, I'm having a bad day. And I want to share a heretical thought with you, right. That really needs to happen in confidence. And I'm not going to be judged. And I know that what I say stays in this room and that's a gift.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. And it's a gift when you find relationships like that, that you can trust in and you have that confidant and that person. And, and I think you could tell right away who, for many people who is that in their lives that they can turn to and know with confidence and what a joy that is, right. To have a friend in need to have somebody there who reaches us in those deep places. And, and then the sad part, Tim, like you said, these older people are regretting that they didn't keep a secret, which usually involves violating some contract in a relationship that they had that was close and they just simply blew it, messed up and may not have even known it for years that, Oh gosh, I forgot. Even that I shared that with somebody.

Speaker 2:

And this is again to bring it back to the spiritual battle aspect. So there are things in the past that I've said and done that out of the blue, they tend to come. Sometimes you just think about it. You go, Oh, I cannot believe I said that. I can't believe I did that. But then we have this way of moving on. Right. Spiritual battle is when the adversary tries to get a foothold and won't let you move on. Right? Like how can you, what an idiot to say that, how could you have said that? And now you think that you're, um, speaking at marriage conferences and you did this. That's when I think now we're in spiritual battle territory, right. I think so too, Tim. And

Speaker 1:

I think there's only really one way to overcome that. It's obviously in spiritual ways that we overcome spiritual battles, right? And we turn to the keeper of all of our secrets, the holder of all of our pains and joys, the Lord that, you know, we turn to him and, and I think that's where we find this beautiful model of, of, of forgiveness, right. Of shame-free living who says and holds and crowns us and says, no more, you, you don't live in that world. It does require sometimes actions. And so Tim, I think if somebody is struggling in this area or has messed up, I think one of the best things they could do is just go to that person and confess, you know, if we confess our sins, we know that God is faithful and just to forgive us. So all of our trespass and purify us from all unrighteousness and what a great friend who would be able to say that really hurts. It's going to take some time, but thank you for sharing that and, um, and confessing that. And I appreciate it. And, and that's the, the rebuilding of a relationship that can happen.

Speaker 2:

And that's what Paul says in Ephesians lavished grace. That word lavish, that actually was a technical book keeping term. And there was an, uh, so, uh, in Greek society, it was like to exceed a number is lavished. So think about that. I often say to people at conferences, how many sins do you think you have to commit before God gives up on you? He's like, I'm done, dude. You said, you're not gonna look at pornography anymore. And here you'd looked at it 50 more times I'm done. Paul says, no, no, no. Think of a number right. 58 times. And lavish means it exceeds that number. That's really cool to think of it that way.

Speaker 1:

It is. And it's a great verse, Tim, out of a Ephesians right. And it just talks about such love, such you know, amazing things. He lavished upon us in all of his wisdom and insight basically saying, you know, and that's just pretty cool. He made known to us all of these cool things and he lavished upon us such amazing grace. So well, Tim, it's been good to talk about some of these regrets, I think because they do have an impact on our relationships, uh, for long periods of time, unless we are intentional about working with them.

Speaker 2:

And I think we're going to continue this conversation.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, let's do it because they've got a bunch. We won't get to all of them, but yeah, that's good. Let's do it again. Hey, Tim's gonna talk with you. You too, Chris. Hey, check us out at cmr.biola.edu. If you want more of our resources, we got blogs. We got guest bloggers. We've got more podcasts. Uh, Tim, there are resources out there. Marriage conferences and things that we do even during tough times when things are shut down, we're still doing a lot of events and a lot of things. And so go to cmr.biola.edu and check us out.

Outtro:

Have you ever been asked to mentor a young married couple were afraid to say yes? The center for marriage and relationships is here to help the CMRs marriage mentoring curriculum covers important topics like communication givenness and the ever important sexual intimacy. It even provides tips on when and how to refer a couple for professional help sound. Interesting. Check out the resources page on our website at cmr.biola.edu.

 

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