How to handle breakup guilt

A lot of attention after a breakup is directed at the person who was dumped. There is lots of advice out there on how to cope if your partner ended a relationship you’d hoped was going somewhere. Friends and family are on-hand with plenty of tea and sympathy to offer their support as you deal with the heartache. But what about the person who initiated the breakup? In a lot of cases the other person in the relationship is also left carrying a burden, whether it’s also coming to terms with the end of the relationship or guilt over being the person who instigated it.

Relationships end for many different reasons and it’s important to realise that it’s usually not just one person’s fault. However, feelings of guilt are common after you’ve broken up with somebody, even though it’s in nobody’s best interests to stay together in an unfulfilling relationship. You can feel bad about the upset you’ve caused the other person, especially if they were against going your separate ways. You may also regret your decision to leave and blame yourself for not working harder on making things work. Breakups are bad enough and the situation is a whole lot worse if you are beating yourself up and feeling extremely guilty.

Dealing with feeling guilty

It can be important to remember instead of having done something wrong, you’ve made the right choice for you. If somebody isn’t the right person for you, it’s much better to call time on the relationship, as you know deep down you are doing the best thing in the long run. Staying with somebody to avoid hurting their feelings ends up making things worse in the long run as it hurts more to drag things out.

We’ve shared our top tips for getting over breakup guilt and moving on when you feel ready to do so.

Acknowledge there doesn’t have to be a ‘good’ reason to leave: It’s fair enough to stick in a relationship if you are happy putting in lots of work to try and save it. But if you are unhappy – but too afraid to end it because there’s no glaringly obvious reason to call time on the relationship – you’ll end up miserable. Waiting for the ‘right time’ to end it may leave you unhappy and unsatisfied, when a clean break is really the only option. Breakups don’t have to be the result of an obvious cause, like infidelity or excessive jealousy, and it’s fine to acknowledge you’ve just grown apart, or this person is not who you see yourself staying with. You can end up feeling guilty that you didn’t fight harder to save the relationship but it’s important to trust your gut and remember the reasons you made the break in the first place.

You need to put yourself first: Nobody likes to hurt other people, so it can be tough to be the cause of somebody else’s pain and hurt feelings. However, sometimes you need to put your own feelings first and recognise that the other person can achieve support outside the relationship to deal with their own healing. Forgiving yourself is an important part of the process as well as looking to the future. It doesn’t help to keep dwelling on the past because it can make it impossible to move on.

Be prepared to move on: Don’t feel bad about creating healthy boundaries – if you want to remove an ex from social media, then do so. You don’t have to remain friends and if you want to cut off contact it can sometimes be healthier than going through painful meetups where neither of you are over the break-up yet. It’s often advisable to take a break before you attempt friendship to give both of you time to move on. You also don’t have to feel guilty about wanting to pursue a new relationship when you feel the time is right. You are now officially single and it’s up to you to decide what works for you.

Focus on what went right: A relationship isn’t a failure just because it ended. You will have enjoyed plenty of good times together and learned a lot about yourself along the way. Just because it didn’t go the distance, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t important. So, try not to feel guilty about the conclusion and focus on what did go right.

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