Pursue your dreams. Go for the things in life that you want.

I’d bet good money that at some point in basically everyone’s life, they’ve heard that it’s never what you’ve done that you regret, but instead it’s the things you missed out on that will haunt you. There are a bunch of quotes floating around from everyone from Mark Twain to random articles across the interwebs stating this much.

Go to college. Travel the world. Move across the country. Take chances. You’ll learn from any mistakes you make, but if you don’t take any risks, well, that’s what you’ll regret.

I’ve got to say, I think these words of wisdom, this general idea, can be applied to more than just the career decisions and life choices we make. This solid advice can apply to relationships as well.

It’s not necessarily the ended relationships we’ll regret, but the ones that never actually happened. The relationships of the people we actually date get to run their course. You’re together, and then, for whatever reason, you’re not. There’s not really a lot of “what ifs” floating around.

The relationships (well, more the idea of them) that haunt us are the ones that didn’t actually happen. You know the ones that I’m talking about. Those people you really wanted something to happen with, but for whatever reason, you didn’t actually pursue it. Maybe you figured there was no point. You were in a relationship. They were dating someone. The timing just never worked out, and you never put forth the effort to make (or at least try to make) everything work out. In the moment it’s easier to accept blaming this nothingness on outside forces than it is to risk getting turned down, but as time passes, the outward rejection would be easier to move on from than always wondering what would have happened had you made the effort.

And that’s what leaves us in this strange territory where the person (or people) you’re thinking about years from aren’t the ones you had romances with, but the ones you wish you’d been involved with. You’re haunted by the specter of love that could have been but never had the chance to form.

It turns out the unknown is the most tormenting of all. Facts don’t keep you up at night. They’re easy to process and move on from. But thinking about and analyzing what you could have done to at least attempt to pursue a relationship – that’s what will get you.

What does that mean for you and me? Well, I guess it means that we need to be a bit braver in life. They tell you to go for your dreams for a reason. Take that advice seriously for all parts of your life. And when deciding whether or not you let someone know how you feel about them, think about this: If you don’t express your feelings to that person, are you going to be thinking about that and regretting not doing anything for the next several years? Is it easier to live with the possible disappointment of someone not feeling the same way or to be haunted by the fact that you never found out either way?

Author: Dani Howell

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