You know you need to move on with your life, but you feel guilty. You may even want to move on because you know it’s time, but you don’t know how. What does “moving on” even mean? How do you bring the good parts of the past – the lessons, growth and insights – into the future?
Maybe your husband died, or your marriage ended up in divorce. Or maybe you’re like my reader, who recently broke up with her boyfriend because he couldn’t commit to marriage.
“I’m so tired of being alone, I’m lonely and I love being in a relationship,” says Sally on When You’re Tired of Being Alone. “I broke up with my boyfriend six months ago because he wouldn’t marry me. We dated for ten years and he always said we’d get married next year. After seven years I knew he’d never marry me. He wants to get back together but he’s not interested in marriage. But I feel guilty for dating and wanting to move on. I feel like I’m betraying my ex boyfriend which is crazy. He doesn’t love me enough to commit to me, so why do I feel guilty for moving on?”
Even when you want to move on – even when you initiated a breakup or divorce – it’s not as simple as jumping right back into the dating scene. You may feel guilty, unlovable, or unworthy. Maybe your heart has been so badly broken you think you’ll never heal. Maybe you don’t want to risk loving again…for with love comes risk.
Let’s talk about what it means to move on, and why you feel guilty. If I don’t touch on your experience, feel free to share in the comments section below! I’d love to hear from you.
When You Feel Guilty for Moving On
Your first task is to understand why you feel guilty. Knowing what you’re struggling with will help you let go of the past and accept a new season. It’s time to move on with your life – even if you’re still in love.
God has something good, holy and amazing planned for you! Your job is to step out in faith, love, and hope.
Enfold the best of the past into your new life
Moving on doesn’t mean you forget about the man you loved and lost. It doesn’t mean you forget all the good or lose who you were in that stage of your life.
On the contrary, moving on means you bring him – and everything you learned in your relationship with him – into a new stage of life. You bring your growth, insights, lessons learned, and even milestones achieved. You bring all the goodness of the love you shared, because it’s part of who you are now. Your past love still lives in your heart.
You also bring your scars. Wisdom and insights are always accompanied by disappointments, regrets and pain. You felt deep love, joy and pain in your last relationship…and you’ll bring that depth with you. Incorporating both the good and the bad is part of learning how to move on without feeling guilty.
Adjust how you think about yourself
“When you have been functioning in life as one-half of a couple, you become ‘conditioned’ to thinking of yourself in those terms,” writes Carole Brody Fleet in Happily Even After: A Guide to Getting Through (and Beyond) the Grief of Widowhood. “All of a sudden, you are no longer one-half of ‘Mr. and Mrs. The-Two-Of-You,’ yet your emotional being is still in the one-half of a couple’ mindset.”
You were married. You were living with your boyfriend. You were committed to a man you loved. But now you’re a widow, or divorced. You’re living alone, single after years in a relationship.
You’re no longer half of a couple…but you are still a whole woman.
Understand how normal it is to feel guilty about moving on
“While guilt is a perfectly normal emotion to encounter during the healing process, it can nonetheless hold you back from the resumption of dating,” writes Fleet. “Realizing and accepting that there is no reason to feel guilty about dating or seeking companionship is a necessary step forward toward the knowledge that you are ready to reenter the world of dating.”
You aren’t “cheating” on your husband if you decide to enter a new relationship. It’s normal to feel guilty for moving on, but it’s an unnecessary burden that is preventing you from a healthy, happy life.
Intellectually, you understand that there’s no reason to feel guilty. Emotionally, however, you may feel hesitant and uncertain about moving on. That’s why it’s so important to figure out who you are! To root your identity in Jesus, to become who God created you to be. He will grow you out of the guilt and pain. He will walk with you through the grief and sorrow.
Grow into who God created you to be
Your marriage or relationship was part of who you are, but it doesn’t define you. You may feel guilty for moving on because your identity was wrapped up in being a wife, girlfriend, partner, married mother of two. Now that you’re single, divorced, or widowed, you have to re-establish your identity.
If you’re grieving your husband’s death, you’ll find Happily Even After: A Guide to Getting Through (and Beyond) the Grief of Widowhood helpful.
In this book, Fleet addresses all the issues that surround losing a husband. Part of the book involves re-entering the workplace and eventually starting the dating process again. She discusses the guilt widows feel when they’re moving on, as well as the complications of new love and intimacy.
Moving on isn’t just about learning how to be happy when your relationship ends. It’s about rerooting yourself, about blossoming into who God created you to be. When you grow into yourself, it’ll be much easier to cope with the guilt and reluctance to move into a new season of your life.
“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” – Isaiah 43:19.
Your thoughts about coping with guilt when you’re moving on are welcome below! Writing is one of the best ways to discover what you really think and feel. Take time to stop and listen to God’s still small voice, and you will start healing and moving forward.
I read every comment, but don’t worry. I won’t give advice or tell you what to do. It’s your turn to talk.
Is your relationship in trouble? Get 7 Steps to Fixing Your Marriage from relationship coach Mort Fertel. It's free and helpful, no strings attached.
Need encouragement? Sign up for my weekly "Echoes of Joy" email - it's free, short, and energizing. Like me!