When you Feel Guilty at Having Dumped your Partner

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Ending a relationship, no matter what the reason behind the dissonance, can be hard. On top of this if you have been the one to end it, the experience can leave a lingering after-taste of guilt and regret. Things can be especially difficult for emotional personalities who have a tendency to keep looking back and turning things over in their head. If you too have been obsessing over your role in the breakup, here are a few tips on letting go and moving on.

TIP: Read the guide to prevent a break up or get back with your ex.

Make a clean break

No matter who is responsible for destroying the relationship, once you have decided to end things make a clean, simple break. Even though your partner deserves an explanation for your decision to part ways, there is no need to keep meeting or calling each other to go into the history of your relationship and recount all the incidents that led to the present situation. Long-winded and complicated explanations would only serve to fudge the picture or worse burden you with guilt. Also avoid the “we can still be friends” trap since remaining in touch with your ex through phone calls, texts or emails would give him/her a foothold to turn on your guilt. If you have been married or have children, then of course things would be more complicated; you may have certain financial responsibilities towards your ex and kids but even then have your legal representative deal with spousal and child support issues if you wish to keep your own feelings out of the situation.

Prepare a list

In the immediate aftermath of your breakup, when you are confused by all the pain and hurt all around, it may make some sense to keep a list of all the reasons why you broke up. Contemplate on the negative emotions your partner would arouse in you every time you were together. Perhaps he/she was controlling, flirtatious with others or financially not yet responsible for a committed relationship. Different people have different priorities in life and dreams for the future. And if you realized that your partner was completely opposed to the most important of these, tell yourself that you could not have afforded to live out the rest of your life in painful compromise and missed chances. At the same time, don't make a long list of explanations. You don't have to get pumped up about it because it's already done and over. It could be as simple as: "I was not happy." This can be a good mantra for turn your guilt into more productive and positive thoughts.

Put guilt in perspective

However even after a few weeks of your breakup, you continue to be wracked with guilt, it may be time to adopt a more active approach. Start by recognize your guilt feelings when they make an appearance. Anyone with a conscience feels guilt; so don't judge yourself for it. While you think, "I wish I hadn't hurt my ex," don't let that thought turn into, "I hurt my ex because I'm a bad person." recognize and acknowledge your guilt but without subjecting yourself to any value judgment. Also keep in mind that every relationship is a joint enterprise, and its failure is not all your doing. So do not fall into the trap of taking all the responsibility for the demise of your relationship, even if you may have been the one who chose to end it.

Then again, there is appropriate guilt and inappropriate guilt. While some extent of the former is understandable if you are one who has initiated the breakup, even that Guilt should be reasonable, not disproportionate. Inappropriate guilt on the other hand derives from an overly officious or judgmental value system in which you are constantly trying to live up to the standards of others, or feel overly responsible for your actions or the feelings of others. If this is the case, try to go a little easier on yourself or if you find getting depressed and drawn to self-harm, seek out help from a counselor or therapist.

Be aware of the triggers

If your guilt is not so acute, you can cope by trying to see what is triggering them. Maybe you saw a gift that your ex gave you or did something alone that you enjoyed doing together. Make a mental note of the things that set off feelings of guilt in you. Being aware of the triggers will make it easier for you to change the emotions that accompany your guilt. So the next time you feel guilty about dumping your partner, instead of beating yourself up for the decision, visualize a big ‘detour’ sign. Step back from where your guilt is trying to lead you, down a road of sadness and regret. Just observe your feelings, like, “when my ex came to pick up some of the books he left at my house, I felt really bad for him/her" but go no further. Following this mindfulness exercise will eventually help you take the sting out of your triggers. And if you still want to get things out of your environment that remind you of your ex, now you can do that with less resentment.

Finally understand that heartbreak is a fact of life. As sad as it may seem, relationships end all the time and for all sorts of reasons. Despite their best intentions, sometimes people just aren’t compatible, or they have different priorities in life. In fact, most people don’t find “the one” until after a series of “failed” relationships. Ending a relationship doesn’t make you a bad person, even if you fear that your partner or even your own conscience will see you that way. Ultimately trust time to heal your wounds. A breakup initiated by you may leave you with doubts for some time, but if you have been honest with yourself and your ex and you continue to fulfill your financial obligations if any, there is no reason why you cannot move on with a free heart.