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The Hazards of Breakup Guilt

By Susie and Otto Collins

Jenny feels miserable. She is having a difficult time sleeping, cries easily and feels mostly like hiding away in her apartment.  This all began after her breakup with her long-term boyfriend.

It's all a big surprise to Jenny because breaking up was her idea.  She's the one who told him that their relationship was over. She's the one who packed up, moved out and started a new life...or, at least, is trying to.

If you are the one who broke up with or filed for divorce from your partner, you might be just as shocked as Jenny about how you feel.

Yes, you could be relieved that you are finally free of the angst, drama and emotional pain that possibly was present in your former relationship. You may be certain that breaking up was the best choice to make and yet...

You might also feel guilt.

You may feel guilty about making the choice to end the relationship, guilty about how torn up your ex is about you leaving or guilty about your role in whatever drove a wedge between you two in the first place.

We're here to tell you that guilt is not going to mend your ex's broken heart and it's not going to help you feel better. Guilt is mostly going to keep you stuck in the pain of the past and prevent you from creating the kind of future that you want for yourself.

If you aren't already familiar with the hazards of guilt, here are a few that you may be experiencing: sadness, depression, sleep disturbances, lack of appetite, overeating, tension in existing relationships, mood swings and even physical health problems.

Guilt is never beneficial for you, but it may be what you are feeling. So, how can you make the guilt go away?

Take responsibility and learn from what happened.
Another interesting thing about guilt is that sometimes it is a way that a person unconsciously avoids taking ownership for his or her actions.

Instead of stepping up and saying, "Yes, I did____ and now I will make amends for that" the person continually focuses in on how guilty he or she is and really doesn't do anything more about it.

Calling yourself a "bad person" or otherwise beating up on yourself out of guilt is not taking responsibility-- it is an avoidance technique.

There may be nothing you can do to make amends to your partner. In fact, there might not even be a reason for you to make amends.  However, you can own your words and actions. You can take responsibility for whatever it is you are feeling so guilty about if this is truly appropriate to do.

This is NOT a suggestion for you to take the blame for why you and your ex-partner broke up. This is NOT advice telling you to try to be responsible for your ex's emotions or well-being.

This IS about you acknowledging that you made the choices you made and deciding if there is anything more you need to do to bring closure to the situation.

The process of taking responsibility for your share in whatever happened between you and your ex may not involve you communicating with him or her-- or it might. Feel into yourself and listen for what you are called to do next.

Be sure that you are really learning from this inner work. If there were specific habits of yours that seemed to be part of what drove you and your ex apart, this is probably something you want to address (and change) before you enter a new relationship.

Deliberately take steps to release the past-- and the guilt.
Releasing the past is what it's all about. You cannot possibly move past the guilt and past your ended relationship-- complete with its angst, drama and pain-- until you let it all go.

Notice the specific memories or thoughts where you are feeling most stuck. These are most likely the places where you have unresolved business to attend to. This will probably involve you taking ownership for your role in a dynamic and learning from it.

When you feel like you have learned all that you can from this particular incident or tendency in your ended relationship, come up with a specific way that you can release it.

Get creative if that helps. Write a letter about it (whether or not you mail it is not important). Burn a symbol of the incident or habit in your fireplace. Get in a sauna or steam room and "sweat" it out.

Symbolic completion rituals like these can be very effective in helping you let go of whatever is keeping you stuck.

Another very important way to release the past (and the guilt) is to keep yourself focused on the present moment.

Stop fixating on the past and what you "should" have said or done differently. If you've taken responsibility, made amends-- if that was appropriate-- and learned from it, all that's left for you to do is to deliberately bring yourself back to the here and now.

If you are interested in more information to help you heal from your relationship breakup, visit


Susie and Otto Collins are married, life partners who are Relationship and Life Success Coaches, and authors of several books on relationships, including How to Heal Your Broken Heart, Should You Stay or Should You Go?, No More Jealousy, Creating Relationship Trust, Communication Magic and Attracting Your Perfect Partner. In addition to having a great relationship, they regularly write, speak and conduct seminars on love, relationships and personal growth. To read more free articles like this or to sign up for their free online relationship tips newsletter visit or

Susie and Otto Collins
P.O. Box 14544
Columbus, Ohio 43214
(614) 459-8121


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