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Study: Regrets? Women have a few, particularly in romance

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

When you look at the couch and the stomach-scratching blob lying there, do you occasionally wish you’d committed to sharing your life with someone else?

When it comes to regrets — particularly among women — romance is the most common source of that nagging anxiety, according to a new study by a professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

Some 370 adults across the United States — ranging in age from 20 to 80 — were asked in a telephone survey to list their biggest regrets, and the most frequently mentioned issue had to do with romance, said the study’s author, Neil Roese, a professor of marketing at Northwestern.

About 44 percent of the women interviewed listed romance, while only 19 percent of the men mentioned it, Roese said.

Many of the romantic regrets were about “the one that got away, a missed opportunity or someone you knew in college [with whom] it didn’t quite work out,” Roese said.

The second-most common regret centered around family issues, such as a desire to have been kinder to a loved one. Others regretted not going to college or not divorcing sooner, or choosing money over a life’s passion, Roese said.

Roese said many of those who took part in the survey were eager to do so, and some even became tearful as they spoke.

But saying, “I wish I would have,” isn’t all bad.

“Regret is something that can push people into better success in the future,” Roese said. “It’s a motivator. ... It’s a benefit if you take a lesson and move on quickly. It’s a problem if you keep [re-living] that same regret over and over again.”

The study, “Regrets of the Typical American: Findings from a Nationally Representative Sample,” will be published in a future issue of “Social Psychological and Personality Science.”

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