I will never forget the day I left my house. My home, so perfect in every way. The beautiful kitchen we designed ourselves. The large yard where we’d sit on a warm summer’s eve. The recroom I turned into a studio. My eyes are watering… how I miss my home.
Rewind three years earlier to the day my husband and I first moved in. I put the key in the lock, turned and knob, and … oh my! I was silent for a long moment.
“What have we done!?!?” I finally exclaimed.
It was ugly. The walls were stained with nicotine. The carpets resembled an outdoor rug. And the smell… I hated it and everything about it. How could we have put an offer on this house??
We painted the walls. Changed the carpets. Ripped out the kitchen. Rearranged the furniture. Got to know the neighborhood. Bit by bit… I fell in love with that house.
Almost a month ago, I said goodbye to my home, and moved thousands of miles away.
I walked up the stairs to our new apartment full of excitement and anticipation. I put the key in the lock, turned the knob, and…. I hated it! This is Southern California… why can’t I see any mountains from my window? Why is there a gargling sound coming out of the bathroom? And where am I going to put my piano?!?
There is was again. Buyer’s remorse.
This time, I knew what was happening, and I wasn’t going to let it last.
Understanding Buyer’s Remorse
Buyer’s remorse is the tendency to regret a decision almost immediately after it is finalized. So uncomfortable, and yet so common, buyer’s remorse can make us regret some of the very best decisions we make. While it may seem counter-intuitive or even irrational, upon further examination, buyer’s remorse makes perfect sense.
This phenomenon is best illustrated, and most common, on large purchases such as a house or a car, yet it can occur in response to almost any important decision. Before we make a final commitment, a lot of options are available to us. Possibilities are abundant and varied. Eventually, however, we’ve got to choose one.
Suppose we find something that we like. Usually, we are fully aware from the beginning that whatever we have found is not perfect. There are some things about it that we like more than others. But, overall, we like it; we decide that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.
Then, a funny thing happens. Suddenly, we are afraid to lose it. Supply is almost always limited. We know that if we wait too long, it may be too late. But, how long is too long? The possibility of losing something we want makes us focus on the positive. “The yard is beautiful… The location is perfect… And the price is just right!” Then, we seal the deal. The papers are signed, and it’s time to celebrate! Or is it?
With the sense of urgency gone, and the possibility of losing what we want out of the equation, a different feeling arises. Our options have been limited. Limited down to one. Ouch. This better have been the right choice.
Remember how you knew that it wasn’t perfect? Here it goes… “The bathroom is soo small… The kitchen cabinets are sooo old… And did you notice the brick color? I am starting to think it was pink!” All the negative aspects, both real and potential, surface at this point. This is completely normal.
The elimination of the sense of urgency brings us back down to a more realistic assessment of our purchase, while our sudden lack of alternatives pushes us towards an even more pessimistic view. The fact is that we can never know if we had made the best possible choice. Even worse, it is irrational to assume that we did. In principle, had we had more time, we may have found something better. At this point, many people try to get out of the deal, or at least hope that they can.
Recovering from Buyer’s Remorse
If you find yourself experiencing buyer’s remorse, here are a few suggestions to help speed up your recovery.
1. Recall the Advantages
Try to remember what led you to this decision in the first place. When under the spell of buyer’s remorse, we tend to overlook the positive aspects of our decision. Try to consciously bring to mind the reasons that you made your choice. List some of the good stuff and try not to take it for granted.
2. Realize That There Is No Holy Grail
Nothing is perfect. Even if you spend a hundred years searching for, say, the perfect house, it is just not going to happen.
The illusion that, had we spent more time, we would have found something with no flaws is just that, an illusion. The truth is that you would have found something that doesn’t have the exact drawbacks of what we ended with – but it would have had other ones!
3. Be An Active Player
Sometimes, buyer’s remorse can make us feel powerless. But often, there is a lot we can do to improve our own satisfaction with the object in question. To some degree, it is what you make of it. For example, if it’s a house, it can be renovated and decorated. If it’s a wedding dress, it can be tailored. There is often a way to make it work for you.
4. Live In The Now
While I was going through my most recent bout of buyer’s remorse, I casually asked my 4-year-old son which house he liked better: the one we used to live in, or the new one?
“The one we have now,” he answered.
“Why?” I asked, curious.
He looked at me with a puzzled expression. “Because this is where we live now.” He replied with finality.
I am often amazed at the natural intellect of small children. My son lives in the now. The idea of preferring something that he no longer has makes no sense to him. He genuinely prefers exactly what he has.
Living in he now brings with it a deep sense of acceptance that will greatly reduce buyer’s remorse, which relies on what might have been. Staying present will not only help you overcome buyer’s remorse, it will also greatly contribute to your overall satisfaction with life and, literally, make you happy.
Take a deep breath. Buyer’s remorse is short-lived.
Often within a few short weeks, your reasons for making the decision in the first place resurface. The trade-offs that you made will once again make sense to you. Chances are that you did not make a terrible mistake. In the meantime, the suggestions above can help speed up the process.
I’d love to hear from you! What were your experiences with buyer’s remorse? What helped you to overcome it?