8 subtle behaviors of men who secretly regret their life decisions, according to psychology

Has a guy you’re close to been acting up lately?

Maybe he became more withdrawn, irritated, or harder on himself than usual.

Whether he’s your boyfriend, casual buddy, or relative, opening up about what he’s going through might not come naturally to him.

Instead of asking for support, he sulks in misery, further drowning in a pit of despair.

It sounds dramatic, but you’d be surprised by how deep of a mark remorse leaves, especially when you don’t acknowledge and process it in a healthy manner.

Here are 8 subtle behaviors of men who secretly regret their life decisions, according to psychology.

Noticing the clues makes you better equipped to lend a helping hand.

1) They’re very self-critical

If you believe you’ve made a dumb choice in the past, you can become (excessively) self-critical moving forward.

Men who harbor regrets often dwell on their perceived failures and shortcomings, to the point where nothing they do is good enough anymore.

Their constant rumination creates a negative feedback loop where they replay their mistakes in their minds.

Instead of learning from these experiences and moving forward, they become fixated on what went wrong.

According to psychology, many people use guilt as misguided motivation to improve behavior.

They think that if they shame themselves enough for messing up, they might be able to avoid repeating that mistake in the future.

Unfortunately, the tactic often has the opposite effect.

Regret fuels a nagging feeling of inadequacy and erodes confidence.

Left unchecked, it leads to depression, stagnation, and strained relationships.

In short, nothing good can come of it.

2) They don’t like to talk about certain topics

When I started to date one of my now ex-boyfriends, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that he was open about his past.

He talked about his previous partners and the role he played in the break-ups.

Plus, he seemed fine with how things went down. Like he processed those romantic entanglements, learned from them, and moved forward.     

Before long, however, I discovered that there was one particular girlfriend he didn’t like to bring up.

Whenever I asked about her, he had good things to say, yet he wouldn’t go into detail about how their relationship ended.

It took some prodding, but he eventually admitted he cheated on her.

They broke up as a result, and I guess he never really forgave himself for it.

He corrected his behavior and never strayed again.

Even so, he was still hard on himself for hurting her and ruining what seemed to be a wonderful partnership.

If there are certain topics someone doesn’t like to talk about or actively avoids bringing up, it might be because they trigger feelings of regret or disappointment.

Something to keep in mind.

3) They have difficulty making decisions

Men grappling with regret can find it challenging to make decisions, fearing that they will make the wrong choice once again.

Psychologists point out that people may procrastinate making decisions to prevent experiencing regret.

If they already regret previous choices, decision paralysis is even more prevalent.

How can you tell whether a man is struggling with decision-making? Easy:

  • He delays decisions, even for small or routine tasks
  • He frequently asks for others’ opinions and advice instead of trusting his judgment
  • He second-guesses himself or changes his mind after making a decision
  • He over-analyzes his options, obsessively weighing the pros and cons
  • He avoids committing to plans, relationships, or responsibilities (out of fear of making the wrong choice)

If the man in question isn’t known for being indecisive, such a behavior change is a big red flag.

4) They’re not particularly excited about the future

Another subtle sign that a man secretly regrets his life decisions is that he has trouble finding the motivation to pursue new goals.

Men who are disillusioned by past failures can experience a lack of enthusiasm to move forward.

They fear they’ll repeat their mistakes, so they prefer to stay in their cozy comfort zone, with little to look forward to.

According to psychology, regret has damaging effects when it keeps people from re-engaging with life.

Has the man you suspect can’t cope with regret started to isolate himself from his loved one?

Did he abandon his hobbies or lose interest in stuff he used to love?  

Is he saying “no” whenever you propose fun future activities?

I hate to break it to you, but you have reason to worry.

5) They’re salty about others’ success

While some men keep their frustration inward and blame themselves for past mishaps, others turn it outward, toward people who don’t deserve it.

This projection of regret can manifest as resentment of those who appear content with their lives.

Seeing their peers achieve things they want reminds them of their own perceived failures and missed opportunities.

Bitterness ensues.

Furthermore, regret is tricky to process.

Rather than focusing on their negative emotions, some men wrestling with remorse will divert their attention to what others are doing, and feel even worse when they see them succeed.

They might even develop a sense of unfairness, believing life has treated them unjustly.

That brings me to my next point.

6) They blame others for their circumstances

I once dated a guy who, by outside markers, had a pretty good life.

He had a well-paying job, lived in a nice apartment, and had a wide circle of friends.

(Also, he was dating me, what more could he wish for?)

Still, whenever we talked about the past, he seemed resentful.

Turns out, he made several bad decisions along the way. Instead of taking responsibility for them, he blamed everyone else for his “misfortune.”

His parents. His bosses.

The universe.

He struggled with regret but condemned others for his circumstances, probably to alleviate his discomfort.

Psychologists insist that, in order to change, we have to acknowledge that we have more control over our lives than we’d like to admit.

The guy I was seeing adopted a victim mentality that stunted his growth.

If you believe someone you care about might follow the same strategy, help him break this damaging cycle.

Only by owning up to the role he played in his past can he feel more hopeful about his future.

7) They engage in escapist activities

According to psychology, escapism is when you use an activity or behavior to escape reality, at least for a little while.

If a man is secretly in pain, he may divert his mind from the stress associated with his regrets by engaging in activities that provide temporary relief:

  • Substance abuse
  • Excessive gaming
  • Binge-watching
  • Doom scrolling
  • Compulsive shopping

While a little escapism usually does no harm, a lot can be problematic, leading to increased isolation and the neglect of real-life responsibilities.

Has anyone you know been engrossed in distractions lately?

Perhaps you can engage him in a conversation about what’s really going on.

8) They rely on external validation

Men who secretly regret their life decisions can begin to rely on external validation to compensate for their dissatisfaction.

It’s because they want to feel valued during a vulnerable time when they struggle to find that value within themselves.

By seeking approval from others, they momentarily boost their self-esteem.

Someone battling regret might go to great lengths to present an idealized version of his life on social media.

Or, he might start to take on too many projects at work. Not out of passion, but because he craves praise and recognition.

Alternatively, he might need extra reassurance from his partner or loved ones.  

Regardless of his approach, you’ll notice that he becomes clingier and doubts himself more than usual.

See if there’s anything you can do to help him out.

Bottom line

If a man in your life exhibits one or more of the behaviors above, he might secretly battle regret in either his personal or professional life.

Your first job as someone who cares about him is to get him to open up about what he’s going through.

Once he admits he has a problem, he will be more likely to embark on a journey of self-acceptance and healing.

Make sure he knows you’ll be by his side every step of the day. 

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