Breakups > Separation & Divorce > Dealing With Guilt After Your Marriage Breaks Up

Dealing With Guilt After Your Marriage Breaks Up

Yes, it’s possible to live in peace even though you feel responsible or guilty for breaking up your marriage. These thoughts on dealing with guilt will help you cope with a painful separation or divorce. They’re inspired by a reader’s question on an article I recently wrote about divorce.

“I’m struggling to overcome my feelings of guilt when it comes to leaving my marriage,” she said on When Guilt Keeps You in a Marriage You Wish Was Over. “He was diagnosed bipolar after we married. He hurt his back several years ago and rarely goes to work. He is mean to me and the kids and is extremely selfish. He has no regard for the finances or any of the things that are adult/parent responsibilities. He has alienated all of his friends and he doesn’t have much family. When there is a hint of me leaving he brings up the fact that his mother passed and he has no one.”

She asked if her guilt is justified, and if she should break up her marriage.

There are no quick tips or easy answers. In fact, the most important thing you can do is wrestle through the difficult decision of leaving your husband and make a decision that you yourself arrive at. If someone else – even a marriage counselor or divorce lawyer – tells you what to do, you’ll never come to terms with it.

Dealing with guilt is not easy…but it is possible to live in peace.

When You Feel Guilty for Breaking Up Your Marriage

The most important thing is to talk to someone you trust. You don’t necessarily need a counselor or therapist – and you definitely don’t need someone’s opinion on whether it was right to leave your husband!

However, you might need to work through your feelings so you can come to terms with your guilt. And the only way to do that is to face the pain and let it flow through you.

Remember how you coped with guilt in the past

Sometimes we’re our own best guides! Think back on your experiences dealing with guilt, shame, and regret. How did you deal with it? What would you do differently? How have you advised friends and family to deal with their own guilty feelings? What experience do you have with marriages ending, relationships breaking up, and divorce? It can be helpful to reflect on your own past when you’re in emotional pain — especially when you’ve been struggling with guilt for a long time.

Sometimes we don’t get over the grief and guilt of a marriage breaking up, especially if kids and other family members are involved. Sometimes we just have to learn how to live with guilt, regret, and choices we wish we hadn’t made.

If you’re struggling with your divorce, you might find on 7 Ways to Take Care of Yourself Through the Divorce Process helpful.

Know that feeling guilty is normal

Breaking up is hard, even if a marriage is better broken than together. It hurts because it’s not just a couple who is breaking up…it’s so much more. Feeling guilty for leaving your husband or breaking up a family will hurt, especially people who are loving, kind, and caring. You are a kind person, otherwise you wouldn’t be searching for help dealing with guilt for breaking up your marriage.

Instead of fighting how you feel, accept that guilt is part of divorce. Your guilt may ease with time and emotional effort…and it will be lighter and airier if you’re a follower of Jesus Christ. He is a master at dealing with guilty feelings and letting the past go! If you have questions about how God helps with guilt and marriage breakups, ask below.

If you feel guilty even though you know breaking up is better for you and your family than staying married, read How to Break Free From an Emotionally Destructive Relationship.

Accept that you won’t always feel this bad

Mary Oliver said, ““Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” 

Maybe you’re at the stage of looking forward to the new season of your life…or maybe you still need to work through the pain, guilt and grief of your marriage breaking up. Take time to figure out where you are in the journey and what you need. Knowing what you need – and asking for it – will help you cope with the guilt that right now seems crushing.

But you won’t always feel this way.

Learn how to let go of someone you love

letting go of someone you love laurie pawlik she blossoms

In How to Let of Someone You Love: 3 Powerful Secrets (and 75 Tips!) for Healing Your Heart, I share valuable insights and comfort for women who want to emotionally detach from painful feelings after a breakup or divorce.

It’s an ebook, so it’s immediately available. It’s not specifically about dealing with guilty feelings after breaking up a marriage, but it will help you move forward in your life.

If your guilty feelings are overwhelming, you may also find it helpful to read Escaping Toxic Guilt: Five Proven Steps to Free Yourself from Guilt for Good! It’s a book by Susan Carrell, very popular on Amazon.

Your thoughts – big and little – are welcome below. Writing can be one the best ways to deal with guilt, pain, shame and even regret after your marriage ends. Writing forces you to slow down and think. If you need questions to write about – questions that will help you deal with guilt for breaking up your marriage – feel free to ask me in the comments section below.

May you find healing, peace and joy as you move forward into the next season of your life.


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3 thoughts on “Dealing With Guilt After Your Marriage Breaks Up”

  1. My husband left 5 months ago. We had problems prior. We were together 23 years and married 21 years. I thought we would always be married. We’ve been through everything together. In the beginning he was persistent in dating me. After two years we decided to get married. We’ve been through a lot together. I personally thought if we made it this far we could get through anything. We were having a lot of miscommunications and blaming each other for different things and some were resolved and others weren’t. I mentioned we go to counseling and he absolutely did not want to go. I didn’t bring it up anymore. Not once through the marriage did he say to me that he was unhappy in the marriage. I have been diagnosed with anxiety and depression for over 26 years.

    The past few years I would say the arguing was more and more and I started to feel like something was missing in our marriage. We don’t have any children and I was feeling bored. I was open and honest with him on the way I was feeling. This went on for a couple years up til 5 months ago. I mentioned a separation to work on ourselves since he was against going to counseling. I stayed in the home and he left. He always had pride in doing the right thing by others. But from the day we separated and he left, he wouldn’t tell me or my family where he was living and he wouldn’t return any of my texts or phone calls. He would speak to my family but not me. I started having anxiety and panic attacks and was very depressed. I lost my job due to my increased anxiety attacks and depression. It landed me in the hospital. My family told him and he was aloof and didn’t visit me. To find out my medications that I was taking weren’t effective any longer, so my doctor adjusted them and I started feeling better. I called to let him know what the problem was and he didn’t sound like he was interested in giving our marriage another try. He actually said well good maybe you can move on now. I asked if he still loved me and he said no. I hung up crying wondering what I did and blamed myself a lot.

    Family and friends were telling me there had to be another woman in the picture for him to be so uncaring. I didn’t want to believe it bc I thought I would definitely notice signs if he was. I started looking at his Facebook profile daily to see if there were any signs. One day I noticed he blocked me I opened another face book account and saw that he was communicating with somebody he went to high school with. She had me blocked as well. I googled her name and found her address and drove to the apartment she lived in and walked to the door and there at the doorstep was an Amazon package delivered to my husband. Then a month later she made her Facebook profile a pic of them together on Christmas. He left in September and filed for divorce in November and by December he was living with her. I now know there was infedelity before he left.

    I am so hurt and feel betrayed. He was my best friend that I could talk to about anything. I can’t believe he would do this and be with someone he couldn’t know that well. He was so close to my family and nobody saw this coming despite the arguments. I still love him and miss him very much. I lost my job and don’t have any income. I’m now forced to live somewhere else because I can’t afford the home. I still ask myself why didn’t he just tell me the truth instead of being so cruel by not speaking to me at all. It still would’ve hurt regardless. But at least I would’ve understood better instead of wondering why and blaming myself. I carried so much guilt with me for months.

    I have to carry this with me for the rest of my life. I am getting stronger but will never forget the hurt he put me through. It was inappropriate the way he handled it and I deserved better. I found another job. I haven’t found a new place to live yet. I’m taking it one day at a time I do have days that I feel weak but I know I’m getting stronger.

  2. Some people will hold others hostage in a relationship (i.e. I will commit suicide if you leave) or whatever (even 16 year olds will do this. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of each partner to be relationship ready and independent. If a person falls apart and cannot take care of themselves they either get help, or if the want to further deteriorate that is there choice. The other partner has a right to leave. Some will fall apart and die after a relationship, but ultimately their life is only their responsibility.