6 Reasons For Breakup Guilt + 4 Ways To Deal With It

A partner breaking up with you is horrible. But being the one to end the relationship isn’t exactly a walk in the park either. 

You might decide to end a relationship for all kinds of reasons, some of which won’t involve any guilt at all. Because, let’s face it, if your partner cheats on you, you probably won’t feel all that guilty about breaking up with them.

But it’s not always as simple as that. The other person isn’t always to blame when you decide to end things. In fact, both partners always play a role.

But guilt can often be the overriding emotion you feel after you’ve broken up with someone.

If you’re experiencing this right now, the first thing you need to know is that your guilt is totally understandable, but it’s also unjustified.

Lots of people experience guilt in these situations, but breaking up is always better in the long run for both parties. Far better than staying in an unhappy relationship.

Not convinced? Let’s start by having a look at where your guilt might be coming from, and then talk about how you can process your feelings and start moving forwards.

Note: you may find it easier to overcome your breakup guilt by working with a relationship counselor. They will be able to guide you through your feelings and help you process them more quickly. We highly recommend the online service from Relationship Hero where you can connect with an expert and figure out a way to move forward. Click here to chat to someone now.

6 Reasons You Might Be Feeling Guilty

1. You hurt someone you care about.

If this was a one-sided decision and your partner didn’t want to break up, then you’re probably feeling bad about hurting someone you still care about, even if you don’t want to be with them anymore.

That shows empathy and care for the people you love. It’s totally normal to feel this way, as long as you recognize that staying with them could’ve hurt them an awful lot more in the long run.

2. They didn’t see it coming.

Maybe you thought it was obvious that things were going wrong between the two of you, but the breakup still took them completely by surprise.

They’ve taken it harder than you expected because they just weren’t mentally prepared for it. 

You were probably trying your hardest to make things work right up until you made the big decision. So try not to take any comments they make about the lack of warning you gave them to heart. They’re upset, and it’s common for people to lash out in these situations.

Sure, you probably could’ve handled it better. No one is good at breaking up with a partner – it’s a very tricky thing to get right.

But if you’d approached it the opposite way and said you needed space from them and time to think about whether you wanted to carry on the relationship, they probably would’ve accused you of just dragging out the pain rather than being brave enough to end things straight off the bat.

You can’t win in these situations.

3. They didn’t do anything wrong.

At this point, you almost wish they’d done something to you or betrayed your trust so you could’ve had solid grounds to dump them, but they didn’t.

They did absolutely nothing wrong, (well, they probably weren’t perfect, as nobody is, but no major offences) but you just didn’t feel the same way about them anymore.

You can’t point the finger at them or a specific thing they did or said, but you couldn’t escape the feeling that something wasn’t right. 

4. They’re a really nice person.

They’re lovely. They’re kind and considerate and buy your mum flowers on her birthday. Your whole family and all your friends adore them.

All the people you love can’t understand why you’d end things with such a great person. They think you must be mad, and some of them are making you feel even more guilty because of the hopes they’d pinned on the relationship (which is not their place and not okay).

When the only reason you’ve ended things is that it just doesn’t feel right (which is more than enough of a reason) and no one else really gets it, the guilt can be crippling.

And if the person you’ve broken up with would never hurt a fly then that’s a whole other layer of guilt to deal with.

5. You chose your words badly.

Maybe you’re not feeling bad just because you broke up with them, but because of how you broke up with them. 

You’ve realized that you were unkind. Maybe things got heated and you said some things you didn’t mean.

Maybe you destroyed their self-esteem by telling them you don’t find them sexually attractive anymore (they really didn’t need to know that!).

Maybe you got defensive and tried to blame it on them, and now you wish you could take it back and say it in a more diplomatic way.

6. You regret it.

And last but not least, you might regret breaking up with them.

You need to be really sure about this, because if you ended things with them, it was probably for a good reason, even if it was hard to articulate or you’re now struggling to remember what that reason was.

But there’s always the possibility that you just got scared or overwhelmed and tried to run away rather than standing firm and processing the emotions, and now you wish you could turn back time.

Why You Shouldn’t Feel Guilty

Guilt should be reserved for when you’ve actually made a mistake, done something wrong, or treated someone badly.

If this is true for you, then it’s totally right that you should be feeling a certain amount of guilt and taking responsibility for your actions. It’s not a positive emotion but it can help you learn from mistakes and do better in future. 

It has its place, but it isn’t something you should feel just because you’ve broken up with someone, because that’s not treating them badly. And no one else should be trying to make you feel guilty – not your ex, not your friends, and not your family. 

Breaking up with them is far better for you both in the long run. You’ll always know deep down when a relationship has run its course and forcing yourself to stay in those situations is like flogging a dead horse.

You probably didn’t give up at the first hurdle – you gave it your best shot, until you realized that there was no future for the two of you.

So whilst you’re probably feeling sad and confused, and those are all emotions you’ll have to process, don’t let guilt be the overriding feeling.

4 Tips For Dealing With Breakup Guilt

1. Accept that what’s done is done.

The first step toward saying goodbye to your guilt is accepting that what’s done is done. You’ve made your decision.

Okay, so you might not have handled the breakup perfectly, but that’s understandable. You had good intentions and breaking up with someone is never easy. 

But you can’t change it now. There’s no point agonizing over the details and wishing you hadn’t said what you said.

There’s no point focusing on the past. There’s no point focusing on the pain that your ex is probably feeling at the moment.

It’s time to put all that behind you and focus on the future. A future in which both you and your ex will be far happier and far better apart than you were together.

2. Remember you only have one life.

You only have one shot at this thing called life, so the worst thing you can do is waste it. And you don’t want to be wasting anyone else’s time either.

Whenever those guilty feelings bubble to the surface, focus on the fact that you both only have one life, and breaking up means you both have a chance to move on, experience other loves, and be happy.

3. Focus on what went right.

Just because your relationship has come to an end, doesn’t mean it’s a failure. You haven’t failed because you’ve broken up with someone.

Your relationship was still important, you’ve still learned a lot from it, and you definitely did a lot of things right.

There were times when you were kind, compassionate, loving, and attentive. And you both taught each other a lot and helped shape each other. 

It didn’t last forever, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t significant and important.

4. Don’t accept emotional blackmail.

If your ex has taken the breakup badly, don’t let them take that out on you. You are not the person that should be comforting them or who they should be processing this with. They need to turn to their friends and family for that.

If they always found a way to make everything your fault when you were together, then they’ll definitely do their best to make you feel guilty about the breakup.

Just remember that you are not responsible for their happiness or their behavior. They are an independent adult and are responsible for their own emotions, and it’s wrong for them to entirely depend on you for their happiness.

You are not their parent or therapist, and you’re not responsible for them. If they’re trying to pin all the blame on you rather than accept the role they played in the relationship ending, then that’s not okay.

It can be a good idea to go no contact with them so that you can both process your emotions independently and you aren’t made to feel more guilty by seeing them upset.

Remember that it’s all for the best for both of you, and tuck those feelings of guilt away so you can focus on the future.

Still not sure how to manage and overcome your breakup guilt? You don’t have to get through this alone. It can help to talk things over with someone, and that ought to be a professional who deals with this sort of thing all the time. So why not chat online to a relationship expert from Relationship Hero who can help you figure things out. Simply click here to chat.

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About Author

Katie is a writer and translator with a focus on travel, self-care and sustainability. She's based between a cave house in Granada, Spain, and the coast of beautiful Cornwall, England. She spends her free time hiking, exploring, eating vegan tapas and volunteering for a local dog shelter.