No matter how long you prepared for the breakup, you’ll still deal with guilty feelings. After all, you broke up with someone you once loved…and perhaps still do. But no matter what the circumstances of the breakup were, you must remember that guilt will eat you away and destroy your life if you let it fester and grow.
“This is all you have,” says Jewish 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.”
Dealing with feelings of guilt and even regret after a breakup is a process that takes time. It also takes patience, acceptance and self-forgiveness to learn how to deal with guilt for hurting someone you love. These tips will help you replace guilt with forgiveness, regret with acceptance, and pain with peace.
Learning how to deal with breakup guilt is difficult, but crucial. You only have this one life; your job is to live as fully and deeply as you can! Get emotionally and spiritually healthy so you don’t let the darkness overpower the light and life God has placed in you. I realize it’s easier to say “you have to deal with guilty feelings after the breakup” than it is to actually change how you feel. It takes time to change your thought patterns and emotional routines — especially if you’ve been thinking this way for years.
Dealing With Guilty Feelings After the Breakup
On my article about dealing with guilt after your marriage breaks up, a reader said she felt so guilty about ending her relationship with her husband that she couldn’t sleep. She can’t be with him anymore – but she couldn’t quite let him go, either.
Does that sound familiar to you? If so, you are not alone.
1. Identify “appropriate” guilt
You should feel guilty about the breakup if you did something wrong, such as cheating, lying, using your boyfriend or even breaking up with him without being honest or true. “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, 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 guilty feelings.
2. Identify “inappropriate guilt”
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 to harm himself, read How to Help a Boyfriend Who Cuts and Self-Harms. 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.
3. Be clear on what you did right in your relationship
Another tip on how to deal with guilty feelings after breaking up with someone is to 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, broken hearts also heal. 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.
4. Remember that your 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.
5. Ask yourself 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 deal with guilty feelings after a 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 your family, parents, friends and coworkers. 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 Deal With Breakup Stress.
6. See guilt as a spiritual battle
If you don’t believe in God, you’ll just skip this last tip on how to deal with guilty feelings after a breakup. But if you follow Jesus as a Christian, 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).
If your guilty feelings are standing 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.
“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.”
7. Listen to the right voices
“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.
Letting go of someone you love
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 learn how to stop feeling guilty after a breakup or divorce.
It’s an ebook, so it’s immediately available. It’s about much more than dealing with guilty feelings after breaking up. This ebook will help you move forward in your life.
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.
Are you struggling to deal with guilt a breakup even though you know it’s better to be apart than together? Feel free to share your thoughts and feelings below. Writing can help you process your feelings and ease the pain.
May you find freedom, healing and hope as you move forward into the next stage of your life.