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Divorce Guilt

Submitted By Benjamin Yates:

When it happens

Feelings of guilt follow marriage breakdown like night follows day. You might feel guilty because of what you did or did not do. You may have had an affair. You may have worked long hours. The list is endless. It includes almost anything that involves self blame.

Facing it

The way to deal with guilt is to tackle what it is telling you. Try asking yourself if the guilt is justified in some way. If you have hurt your ex-partner, and even if the marriage is over, it can help you move on to offer an apology.

Learning from it

What can you learn from the guilt? Are there things you should take on board as never to be repeated in another relationship. Make a change. Guilt is a tap on the shoulder, telling you to change what you can and let go of what you cannot.


Guilt can be misplaced. Blaming yourself completely for a marriage breakdown does not allow for the 50% responsibility your ex-partner carries for the end of the relationship.

False guilt

Do you feel guilty because you think you should? False guilt can follow if your ex-partner insists on loading you with all the blame. Take a step back in order to allow you to decide if you really are at fault.

Do I only feel guilty because my ex is making me take all the blame for our marriage failing?

Yes. Some people find it very hard to believe they have any responsibility for a marriage breakdown and load it all onto their partner. But any breakdown is at least 50% their responsibility. Even if you had an affair, there will have been important reasons why this occurred and your partner has a role in this.

How can I get over these feelings of guilt and move on?

Ask yourself what you need to do to change what it was that makes you feel guilty. Perhaps talk things through with a third party. Ask yourself if you are hanging onto your guilt to prevent you from moving on. Face up to the reasons for your guilt and where appropriate take the necessary actions including asking for forgiveness. Taking action should make you feel much better about things.

I had an affair so isn’t it only right that I take all responsibility for the break-up?

No. Affairs are symptoms, not causes, of relationship breakdown. Try to think what triggered you to have the affair in the first place and you will feel better able to cope. It’s how you deal with life from this moment on that matters

Next Steps

  • Apologise if the guilt is justified.
  • Try and learn from what the guilt is trying to tell you.
  • Let go of what you can’t change.
  • Don’t blame yourself entirely for the relationship breakdown.
  • Work out if you are feeling guilty because you’re ex is loading you with all the blame.

Need to Knows

  • It’s inevitable that you will feel guilty
  • The guilt is telling you something
  • You can learn from the guilt
  • Your guilt may be misplaced
  • Your guilt may be false guilt because your ex is making you take the blame for everything
  • If your ex will not forgive you, accept it for the time being and move on.

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