If you feel guilty after breaking up with someone you love, these tips will help you replace guilt with forgiveness. Life is too precious and short to spend in a relationship that isn’t right for you. It’s not fair to you, and it’s not fair to your ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend.
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In Escaping Toxic Guilt: Five Proven Steps to Free Yourself from Guilt for Good!, Susan Carrell offers in-depth information about dealing with all sorts of guilt. She’ll help you recognize the difference between good guilt and toxic guilt, build boundaries around your time and emotions, deal with people’s disapproval, find freedom through forgiveness and relinquishing control, and protect your sense of self while still caring for others.
Why is it so important to know how to deal with relationship guilt? “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.” Guilt will eat you away and destroy your life if you let it continue to fester and grow.
Are you spending a great deal of 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.
Remember that – in the long run – staying in this relationship would’ve been more destructive and painful than the breakup. The short-term heartache and pain is healthier than staying with someone you don’t belong.
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. I know this is easier said than done. If you can’t forgive yourself, you might consider getting help from a counselor who can help you work through your feelings of guilt and shame.
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. This is a difficult and scary situation to face, partly because you love him and partly because it’s so psychologically and emotionally manipulative! Your boyfriend or ex boyfriend may not even be deliberately trying to manipulate you. Get outside help if you’re dealing with this. This goes beyond “just” dealing with guilty feelings in a relationship.
Be clear on 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.
Yes, you hurt your ex. Breakups are painful. Broken hearts hurt. But, you have to be able to be true to yourself, to listen to the still small voice inside of you that knows what you need to do. You did the best you could in this relationship, and now you need to move on.
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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. Do you dare to forgive yourself, to let go of the guilt?
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.
See guilt as a spiritual and emotional obstacle
If you don’t believe in God, you should probably skip this last tip on how to stop feeling guilty after the breakup. Go directly to the comments section, and learn how others are dealing with their “breakup guilt.”
But if you’re living in Christ – a Believer – you might find Vickie Kraft’s thoughts on The Burden of Guilt interesting. She says that we are cleansed and forgiven by God so we can serve Him (Hebrews 9:14).
“Guilt keeps us from serving God,” says Vickie. “Yet God can even use the sins we have committed to make us more effective in our work for Him. Only when we refuse God’s provision for forgiveness, for cleansing, and for a new beginning are we incapacitated by our past sins. That’s why it is important for us to remember that Satan wants us to be immobilized by guilt.”
If your guilty feelings are standing in the way between you and God, then the enemy wins. There is nothing good that comes from feeling guilty – even if you really did hurt the person you broke up with. The enemy’s main purpose is to stop us from loving God and living in freedom. In Scripture, Satan is called the “accuser” of believers.
Listen to the voice of freedom and healing
“If you continue to feel guilty for forgiven sins, you are hearing the voice of the enemy, not the Holy Spirit,” writes Vickie. “Satan is a liar. Reject the fiery darts he shoots at your mind by holding up the shield of faith in the finished work of your Savior, and the devil will flee from you. If guilt is the obstacle that has kept you from growing in your spiritual life, won’t you lay down your burden at the cross? Accept God’s forgiveness. Let Him cleanse your conscience. And commit yourself to living in obedience to God’s Word and to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who lives within you. Your burden of guilt will be lifted – once and for all.”
“Forgiveness is like faith. You have to keep reviving it.” – Mason Cooley.
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 and experiences below. I can’t give advice or personal counseling, but sometimes it helps just to write your feelings down. My prayer is that you learn how to deal with relationship guilt, and forgive yourself for the breakup. May you let your ex go, and move into freedom and forgiveness.