Marriage Max

How to Stop Feeling Guilty After the Breakup

Written by on September 22, 2011 in Breaking Up, Letting Go, Separation & Divorce with 12 Comments

If you feel guilty after breaking up with someone you love, these tips will help you replace guilt with self-forgiveness. Life is too short to spend in a relationship that isn’t right for you.

On my article about healing from an addictive relationship, a reader says she feels so guilty about breaking up with her boyfriend of four years. She can’t be with him anymore – but she can’t quite let him go, either. Sound familiar?

“This is all you have,” says radio therapist Laura Schlessinger. “This is not a dry run. This is your life. If you want to fritter it away with your fears, then you will fritter it away, but you won’t get it back later.”

Are you frittering away your time and energy, feeling guilty because you broke up with someone? Stop it!

I know it’s easier said than done – which is why books like The Little Black Book of Big Red Flags: Relationship Warning Signs You Totally Spotted… But Chose to Ignore are incredibly helpful.

And here are a few tips on overcoming guilty feelings after a breakup…

How to Stop Feeling Guilty After the Breakup

Identify appropriate guilt

You should feel guilty about the breakup if you did something wrong, such as using your boyfriend for his money or professional contacts and then breaking up with him. “Real” guilt is an appropriate and healthy response for wrongdoing. If you weren’t your best self in your relationship, then you need to make amends.

This doesn’t necessarily mean getting back together with your boyfriend or girlfriend, but it could mean apologizing for whatever you did wrong. But even if you didn’t act well or make the best choices in your relationship with your boyfriend, you still need to forgive yourself and move on.

Identify inappropriate guilt (you’re being manipulated)

Do you feel guilty because your ex-boyfriend is manipulating your emotions with apologies, pleas, or promises for the future? Do you feel guilty because your parents or friends wish you were back together with your boyfriend?

If your ex is threatening suicide, read What to Do When Your Boyfriend Says He’ll Kill Himself If You Leave.

Remember what you did right in your relationship

How to Get Your Ex Back
Stop regretting the breakup - do something about it!

What Men Secretly Want
Get insight into his thoughts, needs, and desires.

7 Secrets to Fixing Your Marriage
Free marriage advice from Mort Fertel.

To stop feeling guilty after breaking up with someone, focus on the things you did well! Remind yourself of the times you were loving, attentive, generous, kind, and compassionate in your relationship. Even if you initiated the breakup, you didn’t ruin the relationship.

The relationship was already ruined…you just decided to end it for good and move on. That is not something to feel guilty about.

Remember that the relationship breakup happened for a reason

You had your reasons for breaking up with your ex-boyfriend. Even if your friends, family, coworkers, or ex-boyfriend don’t understand those reasons doesn’t mean the breakup less valid. To stop feeling guilty after breaking up with someone, you need to trust that you made the right decision. Listen to your gut.

There was a reason you had to let go of the relationship. Though it’s painful now, it’s the right decision in the long run.

Figure out who is making you feel guilty about the breakup – and why

Does your best friend wish you and your ex-boyfriend didn’t break up because she has a crush on his brother or best friend? Is your mother crushed that you broke up with your ex because she wants grandchildren? Is your ex making you feel guilty because you made his life sweet and easy, he walked all over you, and he misses you underneath him?

One of the best tips on how to stop feeling guilty after the breakup is to figure out who is behind your emotions. Then, you need to stand up to or stay away from that person.

“When you dare to follow your dreams, dare to suffer through the pain, sacrifice, self-doubts, and friction from the world, you will impress yourself,” says Dr Laura.

Impressing yourself is more important than impressing all the ex’s, parents, friends and coworkers in the world!

Sometimes people feel guilty because of codependency issues. Read Co Dependency in Love – How to Untangle a Codependent Relationship.

Are you stuck in the past?
How to Let Go of Someone You Love

Do you feel guilty for breaking up with someone, even though you know it’s better to be apart than together? Comments welcome below…

guilty after breaking up

laurie blowing kiss

How are you? All comments welcome!
I can't give you advice,
but writing can help you gain insight.
Peace and blessings,

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12 Reader Comments

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  1. Laurie says:

    Dear Emily,

    Thank you for being here, and for opening your heart. It sounds like you’re grieving the end of your relationship — both your friendship and your intimate relationship. You feel guilty for hurting someone you love so much, yet you had to break up with her.

    The grief you feel may not be a sign you should have made more of an effort in your relationship. I don’t know if you made the right decision, but I am 100% sure that every decision comes with a cost or even a sacrifice. Your decision to break up with her has repercussions for both her and you. This doesn’t mean that you made the wrong decision.

    Not feeling attracted to your partner after years of being together is normal. That’s why so many couples get divorced! But, when you marry someone you commit to staying together despite your feelings. You weren’t married to your girlfriend – but if you were, I would encourage you to remember that love isn’t about feeling attracted to someone. Love is about acting with integrity, communicating honestly, and committing to someone despite how you feel. Love isn’t just about sex.

    It’s possible that you need some time away from your partner, to figure out your feelings and thoughts about relationships.

    What do you think?

  2. Emily says:

    I’ve been reading all sorts of things online to try and take away this guilt but nothing seems to be making it any better. I’m gay, and recently broke up with my girlfriend of nearly 3 years. It really was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, because there was a time when I was madly in love with her, and she still feels that way about me. I’ve started to feel over recent months that maybe I see her as more of a friend than a partner, as I didn’t feel attracted to her in that way anymore. But there’s the problem, she was my best friend, and I feel so alone now even though this is what I’ve wanted to do for a long time. It kills me knowing that I’ve broken her heart, to see her cry was the worst feeling. How can I adjust from being in a serious relationship to being on my own? I’m only 20 and this girl was my first love, sometimes I’m unsure if I should have made more of an effort to fix it, or if I have really done the right thing. We had planned our lives together and now none of it will happen, I hate myself for crushing her dreams of a life with me. I could really do with some advice :(

  3. Laurie says:

    Dear Allison,

    I admire you for making the choice you did! I think you did the right thing. He could be the sweetest, kindest, most lovable boyfriend in the world — but you need to follow your heart and gut, and grow the woman you want to be.

    If you don’t listen to your instincts, you’ll stay in relationships that aren’t good for you. If you don’t trust yourself, you’ll make decisions that can negatively affect the rest of your life.

    You did the right thing by breaking up with him. The consequence of doing the right thing is feeling bad that you hurt him. But, the alternative is worse: living in a relationship with someone you don’t want to be with. The next steps are more serious: marriage and kids.

    Here’s an article I just wrote today, for another reader who feels guilty about a breakup:

    That article isn’t about overcoming guilty feelings, as much as learning to live with them.

    I hope it helps, and that you are able to move forward into a healthy, happy frame of mind.

    Let me know what you think.


  4. Allison says:

    Hello Laurie,

    I’m 23, my very recent ex is 24, and we were together for 6 months. He is everything a girl could ever want and was an amazing boyfriend who I loved. But I just graduated college and I really want to live on my own and become the type of person that can stand on their own two feet. (Also, Can’t forget the sinking reality that my feelings for him had changed and I no longer could see a future together.) I ended our relationship kind of abruptly, and he was devastated. It was a little scary how devastated. However, I can’t stop feeling bad for hurting someone who really didn’t deserve it. How can I stop feeling guilty for hurting someone who I care about?

  5. Laurie says:

    Thank you for that wonderful advice, Hanna! It applies to all sorts of life situations – not just feeling guilty after breaking up with someone you love.

  6. hanna says:


    It seems as if the relationship you had with her was a lie/joke to her. You do not need that type of person in your life. Believe me things happen for a reason, and as soon as you get over her and get better, don’t be surprised if you see that things will not work out for her..then you get a call. You stay strong. It will work out for you. Don’t let your future relationships suffer from this one. People enter our lives for a reason, and it isn’t always for the reason we thought. I truly believe in karma, and what goes around, does come around. You will find the right one for you. Take your time, and don’t jump into anything.

  7. Laurie says:

    Hi Haydon,

    There’s nothing wrong with breaking up with someone when you’re not ready to be in a relationship, but it can be really hard to stop feeling guilty for hurting him.

    I’m glad this article helped you, and hope it helps other people too.


  8. Haydon says:

    oh! this helped so much I was dating my boyfriend for about 6 months, and I really liked him but I didn’t feel ready for a relationship. There was really nothing wrong with him, but I just panicked and felt so bad that I did that, but now I feel so much better!Deep sigh of relief!

  9. Chris says:

    I just broke up with a guy I’d been seeing for a little over two weeks. He was really into me, we had a lot of things in common and got along well, but I just wasn’t very attracted to him physically. After he dragged me to a party (under the guise of a date) and got wasted, he opened up about his underlying self-image and confidence issues. He then told me he really liked me and wanted to be a couple and then left me to find my own way home alone (I had to get up at 8 the next morning) because he “hadn’t seen his friends in months.” I broke up with him later in person in a public, but somewhat secluded, area and tried to be as gentle and humane as possible while still being respectful and telling him the truth. He looked deeply hurt and couldn’t even look at me and wanted to get away from me as soon as I let it out. I told him I still really care about him and would like to be friends and he said he’d need time, which is understandable. Now, I just feel like the guilt is eating me up to the point where I’m crying over hurting him. I’ve been in his position and I can’t help but imagine him crying and blaming me the way I would after being dumped. I don’t want him to hate me the way I hated my exes for dumping me. I don’t want to be the “bad guy.”

  10. Wendy says:

    my boyfriend of two years let me for another girl because i accuse him of seeing another girl. Since then i have been trying to get him but he refuse to come back to me, and I feel guilty about because I think the breakup was my fault.

  11. Sil says:

    I understand your situation, i’ve been through with your situation before, SHE IS NOT FOR YOU!! cry first..that’s the first step, try to share it with your trusted friend, it will help you to release the pain.. for now you feel the difficulty of losing her,but BE POSITIVE.. one day you will smile again… PRAY AND PRAY…. it will help you a lot..Godbless!

  12. eko says:

    I am seriously heartbroken right now and need help.
    I am 28 years old. The lady whom I love so so dearly and have been with for 3 years, whom also loved me beyond words (or so I thought) just travelled during the yuletide to see her parents. Only to call me and told me that some other guy was coming to ask her hands in marriage and her parents have accepted. I got scared and angry. Gradually, we both started reducing the number of calls we made to each other… before then, whenever we were apart, we talked to each other almost every 30 minutes. At first I thought it was one of our usual quarrels (because we always had quarrels and after a while either she or myself calls back to reconcile), but when I did not receive any call from her after almost 3 weeks I got really, so I checked her out on facebook. That was when I got the real shocker of my life, she had already pasted the other guy’s picture boldly on her facebook page and reffered to him as MINE. I was so devastated beyond belief. So I called her and she told me that her marriage was already 2 months ahead and she’s already in love with the guy. She used harsh words like “GO AND MARRY YOUR MOTHER” and “STUPID”.

    I am really heartbroken and need help. Please help me

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