How to Stop Feeling Guilty After the Breakup

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!

How to Stop Feeling Guilty After the BreakupEscaping Toxic Guilt: Five Proven Steps to Free Yourself from Guilt for Good! by Susan Carrell offers in-depth information about dealing with all sorts of guilt. If you tend to feel guilty about everything, it’s worth reading.

“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? Your life is too precious to spend feeling guilty for doing what you think is best for you, and perhaps what was best for your ex. I know it’s easier to say “stop feeling guilty after the breakup” than it is to actually change how you feel. It takes time to change your thought patterns, especially if you’ve been thinking this way for years.

How to Stop Feeling Guilty After the Breakup

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. Does that sound familiar to you?





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

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

breakup guilt

“How to Stop Feeling Guilty After the Breakup” image by katrinlouiseo24 via DeviantArt

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.

If you can’t get rid of the breakup guilt because of the way you broke up, read How to Get Over a Bad Breakup.



Fix Your Marriage



Do you feel guilty for breaking up with someone, even though you know it’s better to be apart than together? I welcome your thoughts below. I can’t give advice or personal counseling, but sometimes it helps just to write your feelings down.

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How to Stop Feeling Guilty After the Breakup
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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!

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Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen
I'm a full-time freelance writer and blogger in Vancouver, BC. I created the "Quips and Tips" blog series; my degrees are in Education, Psychology, and Social Work. I welcome your comments below, but I don't give advice. I can offer you a prayer and a blessing, though! You'd be surprised how helpful a prayer can be....

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22 Responses

  1. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen says:

    Thank you for being here – it takes alot of courage to share how guilty you feel after the breakup. Your experience is so helpful for other readers who are going through the same thing, and I’m grateful that you have shared how you’re coping.

    My prayer is that you are able to release those feelings of guilt after breaking up with someone you care about. I pray for freedom, emotional health, and genuine forgiveness of yourself. I pray that you can let go of the past, and trust that your relationship and breakup happened the way it did for a reason. May you find meaning in your experience. If you can’t find meaning, I pray that you can trust God that there is something other than what you see. I pray for healing, self-forgiveness, and release from toxic feelings of guilt.

    Blessings,
    Laurie

  2. RayT says:

    Have been in a love-hate relationship for four years, separated, not speaking to each other for 45 days now.
    Two days ago I mailed a gratitude letter, and have texted that drama n stress is no good for either one of us n to go our separate ways.
    This woman has been there for me through the worst of times, however I feel very uncomfortable when she or anyone tries to control me.
    Not at ease attempting to go on dating sites.
    It’s been most difficult riding this guilt wave.
    RayT

  3. Lilian says:

    I have broken up recently, about 2 weeks ago, the relationship lasted around 4,5 years.
    I’m doing surprisingly well, since the last year was very difficult for me. A lot of evenings filled with crying, vomiting and fear.
    But now I’m done with the relationship, it feels scary, but also new and better than before.
    I have been crying, yes, but not the red-eyes kindof crying. The kind of crying that makes you feel better afterwards and makes your skin glow, because the stress is out and you can continue.
    A huge weight fell off my shoulders, but the one who continues to carry it is my ex.
    And I’m afraid (since he’s an alcoholic and lies to himself and was close to a depression and if you ask me, heart-attack) this’ll kill him. And I literally mean kill him.
    He stopped taking care of himself around a year ago, has been close to a burn out and takes overdoses on pills and painkillers. He says he doesn’t care and just wants the headache and stomach pain to go away.
    But the stomach pain is because of the alcohol..he vomits blood. And I was the only one that’d tell him to stop using the painkillers, he’s all alone, just like me now, but he’s in a very different state of mind….

    I know it’s not my fault though and the only one that can help him is him. I’m just so worried it’ll kill him, I really do not wish this to happen, he’s been trough enough.

    • RayT says:

      He’s the only one who can fix himself.
      Self awareness is key here.
      Drugs, or any other addiction gives only false hope n comes with dire side effects.
      Support groups, one on one, r good ways to straighten your life out, but, you have to be honest with yourself n want a better life.

  4. John says:

    I’ve just ended it with my girlfriend in the most horrible way and feel terrible. She is from Latin America and we met in London 2 years ago. We dated for a few months and then she went back home, we kept in touch and she came back to the UK in Feb 2014. We lived together for 7 months and it was great, although the language barrier was difficult. Her visa expired in Nov so she had to go back home again, and in the weeks before she left we both began to get upset and cried a lot. It felt so unfair; because of UK immigration laws and visa rules she couldnt stay, and we were being forced apart. She is also from a very politically and economically unstable country and doesnt have a job, although she is university educated. If she went back it wouldnt be as easy as her saving some money up and we could meet to go on holiday – she just doesnt have the means. I looked at things like marriage but I just wasnt sure; not sure that I loved her enough, that she was the one, that I wanted to sacrifice my freedom for a difficult long distance future in the short term, and then the commitment of marriage.

    So she went home and was strong about it. She said we should split, that it wasnt my fault, that we were the victims of circumstance. She was angry and depressed though, mainly as she had to go back, but if she could still stay in the UK and if there were less obstacles we would still be together. We kept in touch on whatsapp (a bad move). I missed her, she missed me. We still talked about the problems in her country, her struggle to find work, the debt she had, how much she missed me. Eventually I thought screw it lets get married. She asked me if I was sure, that I should take the decision out of love, not out of guilt or feeling sorry for her. I said I was, but I knew in my heart that I wasnt.

    So we began planning for the marriage visa. We emailed and I could feel the joy and hope well up inside her as she mentally built herself up for our shared life and future together, as she began planning and preparing and reading everything she would need to do. I played along, I sent her a xmas gift and said I loved her, I emailed information about the visas and what we would need to do…..but the doubts began to eat away at me. Why was I commiting to this when it was ruining my freedom? Did I love her enough to spend the rest of my life with her? I was already beggining to impact on me. I would have to go on holiday to see her and her family, as she had no money I would have to pay for everything. I wanted to work abroad and leave the UK for a few years, now I would have to wait for her to come to the UK and get set up. If she came to the UK she wouldnt be able to work straight away, I would have to support her. How would I tell my family I was marrying this girl after so short a time?

    One evening I expressed these doubts to her, I couldnt not be honest. She said that I had to follow my heart. I admitted that I didnt know what I want, that I couldnt make the decision, that I couldnt give her my future and my life as I was just so unsure. With that she has gone. She has blocked me from facebook, not replied to emails etc. Now I feel terrible. Terrible that i gave her hope and have taken it away so brutally. Terrible that she has no job, no money and feels she has no future in her country. Terrible that she invested so much in coming to the UK to make a life with me, and that she feels it was now all a waste of time and has turned to nothing. Terrible that she is a great and amazing woman, and that I have let her down.

    My reaction now is that I deserve my pain and this guilt, and I want to do something to punish msyelf in a sense for that I have done. I have offered to loan her money but she has not replied to my emails. I have recently begun volunteering at a homeless centre, and have also set up regular charity donations to her home country – anything to try and absolve myself form what i have done. I dont believe in God and am not religious, so this for me feels like the best way if she refuses accept any support I can give her.

    My views on this subject would be that overcoming guilt is a natural process, but you should try to do more than simply wallow in it and let the passage of time slowly wash it away. Learn from your guilt, become a better person from it. 1. Analyse what happened and what you did wrong, and learn from it. For me this would be to learn to follow my heart, and in future having the guts and strength to be honest and true to myself. I should have never have proposed and got her thinking about marriage, I knew it wasnt what I wanted, but I did it anyway. 2. Take positive steps to give back to people / society. I’m taking on board the buddhist mantra of karma, I have wronged and upset someone, broke their heart, caused them pain. To absolve myself I want to try and bring people joy. While this is not going to impact her, I believe as a human and moral gesture this is a positive step. It also makes me feel better, like I am working to overcome it. 3. Give her space. I’ve stopped trying to contact her, she knows where I am. If she wants to forgive me she can when she’s ready. Even if she does forgive me though, I’m not sure I can ever forgive myself.

    • Angela says:

      I can understand you very well because I did something similar, although maybe I feel a lot too guilty about it. I met an amazzing man online, we wanted to meet (long distance), but in the last minute I canceled due to familar problems and I/we should have ended the relation on good terms at the moment – it lasted half a year with daily contact, but somehow we both were very emotionally connected. We got again very committed via skype, etc., he supported me in all possible ways, openened his heart to me and then in the end everything went totally wrong. I had promised to catch him a special night (actually his last evening in the US before returning home), but for reasons I will never understand I did not get up that night, left him hours in front of the computer trying to get hold of me. When I finally woke up and took his call on skype I felt so paralysed that I could not say anything and I suppose he took it as a very cowardish way of ending the relation. Until I could put my thoughts together he had blocked and deleted me and did not reply to any of my mails any more (and unfortunately i wrote many). Probably he felt horribly led on and that’s what makes me feel so guilty because he definitely did not deserve such a weird break up.

      • Jessica says:

        Hello Angela,

        I can understand why he’s not replying you because he is hurt and he might have lost trust on you.

        My ex did something similar to me and it still hurts me even thought it’s been over 7 months.

  5. Fredrick says:

    I begin this by admitting that I did wrong , and the guilt of that has been eating at me for some time now. I was with a girl for 4 years , she was good and kind to me and gave me everything , in shorter words she was a good woman. Before she and I ever met there had been a co worker of mine who I dated on and off for 10 years , but it was never a relationship. As time went by this co-worker began to look depressed to see me in a relationship with someone else , and slowly she began to send me small gifts like coffee, or candies on my desk . Over time , I began to take note of these gestures and set up a meeting with my co worker. The person I was with at the time was long distance and as a result we built a relationship based on week ends. Although she was a good person we would have arguments and disagreements. During our second year of our relationship I caught her with explicit text messages to some number and when I gave her the chance to read and explain them to me she cried and erased all of them and said it was too embarrassing. A year later I found out another secret of hers that disappointed me. Meanwhile this co- worker kept trying to get my attention. In a moment of weakness and selfishness I set up a meeting with this co- worker to discuss our past and why we never “happened”. I feel that the selfish part came when I took advantage of the situation and told her that we maybe had built up attraction and that maybe if we just slept with each other once we would get it out of our systems and move on. That one night ended up turning in to a year and a half of me becoming a cheating monster , something that was never easy to deal with in my mind considering I had been cheated on in a previous relationship. I ended my affair and did ok for a few months before I began to miss spending time with my co-worker. Often I would find my mind drifting with thoughts of my co-worker when I was with my girlfriend, and I would ask myself how would it would feel like to have the moments I lived with my girlfriend with her. This co- worker despite having every right to be mad at me for cutting her loose and telling her I couldn’t go on, slowly returned to the routine of sending over gestures of affection. I again fell back in to cheating again , unfortunately guilt has a way of being managed with experience , but it never disappears. The lie I was living became to much for me in the end , it ate me up so much to know what I was doing to her , she simply did not deserve what I was causing in her life. One day we argued and I left , tears came out of me but I could not say a word … I ran like a coward and didn’t look back. The running took me in to the arms of my co- worker. I dealt with my ex , the only way I knew how, I got rid of every picture and item that ever reminded me of her and blocked her off any means of contact with me. I am currently with my co- worker , and I feel that this relationship is goanna be a hard one to forge because she is completely different than my ex was. I have talked to her and asked her repeatedly if she is sure she can be what I expect out of a person I want to be with , because she was a part of the reason I left. Though my ex did her mistakes , they were not the primary reason for me failing and cheating . No matter what I do since that day I cant stop the guilt I feel for abandoning her the way that I did, it was wrong in so many ways. I keep thinking that maybe my punishment will be to inevitably witness the sinking of this relationship and loose everything or be abandoned some day as I did, after all that’s happened , I feel that it would be a fair price to pay ….just I feel horrible.

  6. Laurie says:

    Dear Kat,

    Your boyfriend will heal and move on. No matter what he says or how much he begs, you did the right thing. He was lying and cheating, and you know it wouldn’t be a good relationship if you stayed with him! It wouldn’t be healthy, and you wouldn’t be happy.

    My prayer for you is that you find freedom from these feelings of guilt for breaking up with him. May you know deep in your heart and soul that you did the right thing, and may you remember that his behavior would have destroyed you both. May you find peace with your decision. You did the right thing, and you’re grieving the loss of an important relationship. You’re also grieving the death of a dream, of you and him building a life together. I pray that you’re able to process the sadness and pain that you feel, and that you find acceptance, freedom, and happiness sooner than you anticipate! Amen.

    Blessings,
    Laurie

  7. Kat says:

    I just broke up with my boyfriend of nearly three years and I can’t stop stop feeling guilty. We were engaged for about four months. He was a good guy in a lot of ways, and I think I brought out many of his good qualities. However, he could also be very selfish and did things that hurt me. He would get angry and grab me by the throat and he also cracked two of my ribs- all of these actions were immediately followed by apologies, and the cracked ribs was an accident, but still, he hurt me. I also found out that he has an addiction to porn and that he was video chatting with as well as calling other girls on the phone or texting them. He lied about all this numerous times when I asked him about it and when I caught him red-handed, he promised it would stop. After that, I couldn’t trust him. It’s like he had this secret life when I wasn’t with him. After encouragement from friends and some family, I began realizing that I should be with someone who doesn’t hurt me and who is honest with me. However, I still loved him and found it hard to break away from him, mainly because I worry about him. He also had good qualities and wanted to take care of me and be together forever; there was a part of me that thought we could work through things. In the end, his secretive behavior escalated and I was told by some close friends that he’s been calling them and trying to hook up. I ended things and he took it extremely hard, begging me to stay with him and give him one more chance. It was so hard not to give in, but I know in my heart we were not going to work out. I don’t know how to handle hurting him in this way though. I just want him to be happy but I don’t think he feels like he can without me.

  8. 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?

  9. 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 :(

  10. 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:

    http://theadventurouswriter.com/quipstipsrelationships/i-feel-guilty-for-breaking-up/

    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.

    Blessings,
    Laurie

  11. 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?

  12. 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.

  13. hanna says:

    Eko,

    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.

  14. 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.

    Blessings,
    Laurie

  15. 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!

  16. 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.”

  17. 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.

  18. Sil says:

    I understand your situation, i’ve been through with your situation before, SHE IS NOT FOR YOU!!..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!

  19. 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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