Sep 222011

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. Does that sound familiar to you?

breakup guiltEscaping 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. Why? Because “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

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?

Relationship Help

Do you regret the break up? Get Your Ex Back

Want to stop the separation or divorce? Save Your Marriage

Wondering how to make a man fall in love with you? Captivate Him So He'll Never Want to Leave

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. 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?

guilty after breaking up

“How to Stop Feeling Guilty After the Breakup” image by Laurie

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.

laurie pawlik kienlenI'm Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen - Christian, bookworm, travel bug, flute player, writer, blogger, warrior princess. :-) My husband and I live in Vancouver, Canada with our cat and dogs.

What's happening in your life? I welcome your big and little comments below! I can't give you advice, but writing might bring you clarity and insight.

"I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit." - Romans 15:13

In peace and passion...Laurie

  15 Responses to “How to Stop Feeling Guilty After the Breakup”

  1. 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.

  2. 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.


  3. 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.

  4. 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?

  5. 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 :(

  6. 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.


  7. 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?

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.


  11. 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!

  12. 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.”

  13. 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.

  14. 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!

  15. 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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