If you initiated the break up, you may feel guilty that the relationship didn’t work out. These tips on dealing with guilt after breaking up will help you move forward.
Whether you’ve been married for 20 years or dating for 2 months, guilt after breaking up with someone you once loved is difficult to deal with.
Here’s what Moreen (not her real name) says:
“I have been married for 21 years. ..my husband is very selfish with his time. He would much prefer to be alone than with me. We have to end this facade of a marriage…. He has destroyed my self-esteem. I’m leaving and he has me feeling guilty about it. Please help me.” – from my article on breaking free from an emotionally destructive relationship.
Dealing With Guilt After Breaking Up
I always recommend reading books when you’re dealing with life or love problems – the insights can be invaluable! In this case, I suggest Rebuilding: When Your Relationship Ends. It’ll help you deal with the guilt that arises after a break up, and help you find freedom and self-forgiveness.
Try to break up as gently and lovingly as possible
Even if your relationship has been unhealthy for years (or decades!), you need to end it kindly, gently, and compassionately. This isn’t just for your partner – it’s for you, too. Healthy closure is important for your emotional health. You’ll have an easier time dealing with guilt if you know you handled the break up with compassion, love, and kindness.
If you think you’re betraying your partner, read 5 Reasons a Break Up Isn’t a Betrayal.
Know that your partner can take care of him or herself
You are not responsible for your partner, no matter how long you’ve been together. Sometimes relationships end, and people are left to take care of themselves. It’s sad, painful, and often heartbreaking…but it’s part of taking a chance on love.
It’s also helpful to try and figure out why you feel guilty after breaking up. Was your partner financially or emotionally dependent on you? Was he too needy? Or, are you dealing with guilt because you have a “guilty nature”? (Some people feel guilty for things they didn’t do wrong).
Your partner isn’t a child who needs you to take care of him. Your partner is a grown adult who can stand on his own two feet. Feeling guilty about breaking up won’t help him move on – it’ll just keep you both mired in the past. You have to trust that your partner can and will stand on his own.
Be aware of emotional manipulation
Your partner may deliberately try to make you feel guilty for the break up. You can’t control how your partner acts or what he says; you can only be aware of the feelings of guilt that will arise after breaking up. Being aware of manipulative and controlling behavior will help you see that feeling guilty about breaking up is normal, but not healthy! You need to deal with guilt after breaking up – and part of that is being aware of how you’re being manipulated.
If your partner is manipulative, read Is He a Control Freak? 4 Signs a Man is Trying to Manipulate You.
Make sure you’re not using guilt to avoid the break up
Something in Moreen’s comment made me wonder if she’s hiding behind her guilt. Her husband hasn’t treated her with love or respect for over 10 years, yet she’s letting him make her feel guilty about the break up. He’s manipulating her now, and has been for years. He destroyed her self-esteem and made her feel insecure about their marriage…and now he’s making her feel guilty for wanting to break up.
I think Moreen has begun to believe her husband. He hasn’t loved her, and she doesn’t feel worthy of love or a happy, healthy relationship. I think her feelings of guilty for breaking up are a way to stay in the hell she knows, instead of leaving and trying to build a new life for herself.
For more tips on coping with break up guilt, read Are You Wrong or Selfish for Wanting a Divorce? It Depends.
What do you think – how will you deal with feeling guilty after breaking up? Comments welcome below.
I'm glad you're here! My name is Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen; my husband Bruce and I live in Vancouver, BC with our critters. We can't have kids, and are learning to accept whatever life brings - both good and bad. I have an MSW (Master of Social Work) from UBC, and degrees in Education and Psychology. I hope you say hello below - I can't give relationship advice, but writing can bring you clarity and insight.