The Guilt that Arises After Ending a Relationship

The Guilt that Arises After Ending a Relationship

Last update: 18 March, 2018

Dealing with the guilt that appears after you leave a relationship is for many a logical consequence of having made that decision. Of having had the initiative, of having taken the final step towards breaking down that wall. Maybe you have experienced this situation. You had many doubts about doing it, about taking that step, but finally…you went through with it. Knowing that you were even going to call yourself the executioner of the relationship, the one who cut its life span. The life of so many promises, so many dreams, so many hopes…

Maybe afterwards you felt that you were responsible for your ex’s pain, for their sadness… and even responsible for their future! Maybe that guilt even lead you to take a step backwards and get back together. And then two forwards and break up again. And then three backwards to get back together again. In a vicious cycle of self-destruction which makes you even more bitter than your previous life in the relationship did. “They are going to feel awful. I’ve made them suffer so much… I was their everything.” “And…what if I’ve made a mistake?”

Do these phrases sound familiar? The truth is that the person who leaves is many times full of prejudice and a sort of “hatred” that oftentimes doesn’t correspond with reality. Instead, it’s based on preconceived ideas about this particular topic. All of this feeds the guilt even further. It also encourages that inner voice which drowns out their reasons for having ended the relationship.

Guilt creates limits and doesn’t allow us to move forward

“You’re going to be the bad guy if you leave. Wait it out. Maybe you just have to accept that you can’t always be happy. Stay with him, because he is going to suffer greatly if you leave.” This is often the ongoing inner monologue of someone who is considering ending a relationship.

Young girl is sitting and worried.

The fear of making the other person suffer. The unhealthy and unjustified feeling that we are the ones responsible for their well-being leads us to stay in a relationship that isn´t working or never leave at all. It leads us to a state of constant “stand by” in which we don’t follow through with what we want to do out of fear of making the other person suffer. That’s how time passes. T hat’s how your life can pass you by.

This is a guilt that extends beyond cultures. Based on a mistaken thought process, we feel responsible for another person’s life. For their pain and their joy. On the other hand, when we are the ones who are dumped, we tend to blame our suffering on the person who has left us. Our unhappiness seems to be their fault. Because the person we love is telling us they no longer want to be with us.

The one who leaves can’t carry the other person’s pain

One thing is for  suffering to begin due to the breakup, and a very different thing is for us, by ending the relationship, to be responsible for the ex’s suffering. Life is full of joy and pain, uncertainty and certainty. It is love on one hand and heartbreak on the other.

Teenage girl is worried and stressed.

We cannot allow someone to make us responsible for their existence. If we do we will be incapable of ever taking any actions. We would never be able to make a decision, because it would always have an effect on the people around us. We would always live in a state of stagnation out of fear of distressing the fragile balance established.

If I don’t move, I will avoid making another person suffer. But, on the other hand, I can’t live.
If I don’t move, I can’t live.
If I don’t make any decisions, I won’t discover my inner world… or the external one either.
Out of fear of the other person’s possible reaction, I will hide within all of my thoughts and feelings.

This way, we cease to be authentic. We stop chasing after our goals. Ultimately, we leave life aside. Let the brave souls out there live it!

Living has its consequences

Indeed, as a consequence of the guilt which limits us, many times we go back. We try to mend that broken relationship simply to avoid the guilt, without believing it may prosper. We leave life aside, for it to be enjoyed by those who have enough bravery and mental strength to take action and live with the consequences of their decisions.

A girl is sitting on board a train.

We cannot allow others to force their lives upon us. Nor can we do it voluntarily. It is a sacrifice which yields no fruit.

It prevents experiences… experiences which are necessary for us to grow, to learn, to become adults, to become mentally richer. All of our experiences give quality to our growth. Suffering is a part of life, and no one can take something away from us which forms part of our life. Especially not due to a castrating guilt based on a completely mistaken train of thought.

Thus, don’t let guilt be what forces you to stay, if that’s not what you wish to do. The other person in the relationship also deserves for you to be authentic and honest with them. 

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.