Top Menu

Too Guilty To Leave: Are You Delaying A Breakup Out Of Guilt?

Most breakups aren’t mutual. Many of us are familiar with the sense of rejection and loss when a partner chooses to leave.  You might also be familiar with the difficulty of being the one to initiate the breakup.  Sometimes ending a relationship can be so hard that we put it off for days, weeks, and even years.  Many people get stuck in this stage, and one major reason for this is an overwhelming sense of guilt.

Relationships end. They end all the time and for all sorts of reasons.  Despite our best intentions, sometimes people just aren’t compatible, or they have different life paths. 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 will see you that way.

Too often, we stay long after we know we should leave, because we can’t stand to abandon someone we still care about.  The thoughts cycle through our head:

  • “I don’t want to hurt her”
  • “I feel responsible for him”
  • “I can’t stand to make her cry”
  • “He’s not going to be able to cope without me”
  • “She’s such a good person and doesn’t deserve to have her heart broken”
  • “He doesn’t have a good social support system to get him through this”
  • “She’s going to hate me forever”

These feelings are natural, and show that you’re a caring, compassionate person.  However, this desire to protect your partner can keep you living a lie.  You owe your partner honesty and respect; you don’t owe him or her continued devotion when the relationship has expired in your heart and mind.

It can be especially difficult when you make a promise to your partner, and it conflicts with what your heart is telling you.  For example, what if you’re engaged, and you develop strong feelings that the engagement is a mistake?

I can’t tell you what to do in circumstances like that — major life decisions need to be taken on a case-by-case basis.  However, I can say that the feelings of regret and second-thoughts need to be brought out in the open with your partner.  Otherwise, the feelings will build, and you may come to unfairly resent your partner.  Don’t let guilty feelings silence you.

If you’re delaying a breakup, remember:

1. Heartbreak is a fact of life

As sad as it seems, we all sign-up for the possibility of heartbreak when we go into a relationship.  In fact, most relationships end in some form of painful feelings.  It’s futile to try to protect people from this, and any attempt to do so will only result in more pain.  In a way, heartbreak is a beautiful thing:  It shows us how vulnerable we are, and it makes the good times that much better.

2. If the roles were switched, you’d want to know ASAP

Would you want to be in a relationship with someone who secretly desires a breakup?  You deserve someone who wants to be with you, and so does your partner.

3. You’re wasting both your time and your partner’s time

You’re only becoming more invested as you stay.  You’re also taking up your partner’s time when he or she should be on the road to healing.

4. Nobody should have to fake their feelings

Withholding your feelings or pretending that everything is OK is stressful for you. What’s more, your partner can probably sense that something’s wrong.  Once you finally drop the news, it will be obvious that you weren’t acting authentic for a long time.  It will be painful when your partner realizes that you were “faking it” for him or her.

I hope you’re convinced that – once you know you that you want to leave – the breakup should happen sooner rather than later. I’ll be back with more tips for people dealing with the difficult issue of ending a relationship.


86 Responses to Too Guilty To Leave: Are You Delaying A Breakup Out Of Guilt?

  1. Jazz May 30, 2015 at 10:00 am #

    Two days ago, I broke up with my boyfriend of 1 year and two months. When I first told him I liked him, he hadn’t even given us a thought, it wasn’t until a month later when I pestered him that he admitted to liking me back. And for a year, things were essentially awesome. Any problems or concerns I had prior to dating him were poor aside. I figured since I liked him and her liked me, it’s all our relationship needed. We’re both 21, by the way. He was so attentive, kind, affectionate (a little too much for my liking), patient, and fun to be around. But the longer we dated more I couldn’t ignore the concerns in my mind. He was jobless(do there was no way I couldn’t tell my farther we were together, he already didn’t like the guy; and constantly reminded me), had no motivation, and didn’t seem inspired to take me anywhere unless it was for some occasion. I didn’t think these things would bother me, but soon they got to me, especially when I was coming closer to the end if my final year of post secondary. Not to mention, he was very closed off. Also my mother was concerned about me dating someone with no ambition, especially since he’s never had a job before. He and my best friend did not get along, it’s like when he and I started dating, they both couldn’t tolerate sharing me. It was always a competition, before we dated we’d all been friends, but oncewe started dating, seems their disdain for each other heightened. I’m fiercely independent to the point where it can get annoying and he was not, kind of bothered me. Both he and especially me, have trust issues, and so we had promised to be open with each other. He didn’t hold up his end of the deal. Which ended up in us fighting because he exploded on me one day when I told him i wanted to talk to him about all these things he was feeling just came out of the blue, but I’ll explain more of that later. But for the most part, I loved him with all my heart, still do. And he definitely loved me to put up with all my shit and increasing bitterness, and nagging.

    Our relationship and other things in my life essentially made my anxiety even worse. I was breaking down all the time, couldn’t sleep, was crying all the time, couldn’t focus, and couldn’t be near him. It hurt too much to see how hurt he’d get when I’d shy away from his touch. It was killing me. This went on for about a month before or fight, I was busy with school, so I couldn’t see him. And this is when I became extremely neglectful, which is why most of my guilt stems from. Or maybe it started a bit before that. But I got so busy and didn’t see anyone, excluding a friend who I felt I could explain my feelings to about my situation with my bf. I didn’t have time to text and chat with him as much, but he promised to wait for me to finish school. It hurt that I put him through that, but I couldn’t really do much about it.

    Then our fight happened, but I figured it was worth giving us a shot. I felt like because of how he reacted to our talk, It broke my trust. I found out so much he wasn’t telling me and it broke my heart. The one thing I asked him to do, be honest with me no matter what, and he didn’t. When I was up late at night, crying because of my anxiety I would tell him, but he didn’t do that same. He didn’t tell me anything, but I could tell by the looks on his face. He thought I was breaking up with him so he exploded, he was mean. It was a side of him I’d never seen. But wr talked it out and got it out on the table. I finally got the relief I needed, I thought we finally fixed everything. Nope.

    For the following month, I couldn’t trust him anymore. My trust is very really broken and hard to get. I’ll forgive, but not forget. I was emotionally and physically detached from him, I felt like I was waiting for another bomb to go off, or like suddenly everything would magically be fixed due to our talk. I hoped if wr took things slowly, I would earn back up to him. But I was lying to myself. The damage was done and the more I tried to make things right, the wise I fear and the father apart we got. He asked newer how long it’d take for things to go back to normal, two weeks in, I told him I didn’t have a clue. But it made me realize how healthy our relationship had become. How much hurt I was putting him through by making him wait for me to sort out my feelings and try to pull myself together. I was getting mean, I think, and I didn’t like ego I was becoming. It dawned me more and the guilt was eating me alone. He was frustrated that I wouldn’t let him help me, but there wasn’t anything he could do but support me.Which is all I felt I wanted and needed from him.

    In the end I had to end it, I couldn’t change how I felt about how I was treating him, or our relationship, my issues, anything. And how much he loved me. We were at different points in our lives and there’s tons I’ve left out,but the main point is, I want going to stay with someone I was treating poorly, no matter how much I loved them. He basically hates me now and wants nothing to do with me, but I hope he’ll eventually forgive me for ending it. I hope someday he’ll understand.

    I just feel so bad for putting him through almost two months of crap. I know I was stlill sorting out my feelings, butt I wish I had the confidence to do it sooner. Most of the time I’m okay, but other times, the guilt just eats me up. Guilt when we were together, guilt now that we’re apart. The hardest part of this all is that I hurt somebody I love and it sucks that I won’t be able to be around them anymore. He’ll want his space and groom the looks of it will want nothing to do with me ever again. I wish I could asked through time to a point where I don’t feel this way anymore. It’s a bummer, but probably not as bad as what he’s going through. So selfish to worry about him hating me when I’m the one who neglected him and broke his heart. He deserved better.

  2. Mark July 18, 2015 at 9:02 am #

    I am a 49yo guy who married someone out of guilt. My wife once told me that “if you leave me I don’t know what I’ll do to myself” So we continued dating and eventually I popped the question. I recall in the days leading up to proposing that I did not want to do it, but felt had to.

    It wasn’t as if I didn’t care for her. It’s just that I deserved to date more and perhaps find someone I more deeply connected with, rather than having someone manipulate my feelings in this regard.

    Overall my 19 years of marriage have been pretty good and I’m sure we will stay together for the long haul. I am not bitter. It’s just that I rightly feel unfairly guilted into where I am today and wanted to write this to any person perhaps in this predicament to be brave enough to follow what they feel best and not be overrun by another persons feelings

    • Joshua October 16, 2015 at 4:43 am #

      27 yr old guy. Dating a girl for 2 years who says she can’t live without me. I’m not happy, I don’t want to engage, but I feel too guilty to leave. Her family loves me also and have helped me Nd I don’t want to disappoint them either.

      I need advice.

      • Jo October 17, 2015 at 10:14 pm #

        i am 31 f and was with a guy for 3 years and engaged. I basically felt the same as you. I got to the point where I knew I didn’t want to be with him for the rest of my life, but I was so scared to break it off for fear of completely crushing him. I finally did after 3 weeks of internal struggle. That was a month ago. It is still extremely hard and I’m sure it will be for a long while, but I believe I did the right thing. Be strong, you only have one life to live and sometimes we have to do these things – not only for your own future happiness but hers as well. In time everyone will be ok. You aren’t the first person to go through this and come out better on the other end. Good luck and you are in my thoughts

  3. Taryn August 13, 2015 at 5:24 pm #

    I have just broken up with my partner of 9 years. We have been with each other since high school, and I feel such an enormous sense of guilt having known I have broken his heart. Although I have felt like this for quite a while, he really didn’t have a clue that our relationship would come to an end. I love him, but it had come to a point where I felt we were more platonic than anything else. We were planning on going to live abroad for a year and had bought airline tickets and visas, which is when I realised that I wanted to go alone. I want him to meet someone and have the same spark as we had when we first met, and I want the same for myself as well. I don’t know why I’ve but it on here, but it’s very cathartic.

  4. Lily August 30, 2015 at 11:48 pm #

    I just broke up with my boyfriend, 1 year and 9 months together. (Almost 10). I felt like the most horrible person on the entire planet. I knew he would feel bad, but watching him break down was much worse than I ever imagined. All I wanted was to take the pain away, but I knew the only way to do that was going to be getting back together. I wasn’t feeling the same for him for over a month, but I had been so afraid to tell him. So when I broke the news, he was torn apart. He had never imagined our relationship would come to an end. I recommend truth ans honesty always, its so unfair to feel obligated to be with someone just so they wont get hurt. You have to think about yourself as well. It’s never going to be easy, I felt like I wouldn’t ever stop crying. The worst part is when they won’t accept it. But you just have to stay strong…

  5. Someguy September 15, 2015 at 2:22 pm #

    My girlfriend pretty much saved my life. I was in the gutter with booze. I was going to lose the house. She moved in and we both ended up recovering and even quitting smoking. I really needed her then. I love her but I don’t think I was ever in love with her. I’m afraid she will find this. She finds everything. She invades every shred of my privacy. I feel like I’m in prison. I can’t seem to get out of this.

  6. Cold Heart September 27, 2015 at 6:08 am #

    Current relationship of 5 years, daughter is 2.5 years old. He adores me, and her and does any and everything he can to please me……I know, I know.

    I was never attracted to him. I fell for him because of his heart, loyalty and sense of humor. I overlooked his lack of education, financial stability, jealousy and insecurity. He does NOT do it for me in the bedroom, despite countless talks, instructions, books, videos, games etc. ..I believe he tries, but I’m far from satisfied.

    I could ignore just about everything and live a content life, if it weren’t for the jealousy and insecurity. Well, the education is an issue too, he doesn’t have basic grammar or life skills. His jealousy and insecurity makes me despise him.

    I told him 2 weeks ago it was over and he has to leave. I feel awful for him, and for my daughter, but personally I feel so much relief.

  7. Heartbreaker October 27, 2015 at 5:26 pm #

    Broke up with a girl of 5 yrs about 2 mo ago, not married but have a 4 yo son together, and she has her own 9 yo son. . I wished I had several years ago. I never had the gut feeling she was the one for me but now I can look back on the relationship and realize the signs of where I should have spoke up sooner. I feel in this relationship I did voice problem areas that had hurt my feelings or made me concerned with how compatible we were. This article really helped with the intense guilt I feel (even now 2 mo later) of having to break it off with her and split up a household. Now we have to deal with separate times with our joint child which is a separate struggle to cope with in itself. I saw things within the first year that I wasn’t sure about with her and maybe should have been more vocal about whether or not this would work out. But for me Atleast guilt again made me stay because her and her son had moved in with me (she lived with her parents). I didn’t want to totally destroy her because I hate making people cry and break their hearts. Also I think, I wanted to give it time, a year or 2 to see if she changed or maybe the relationship would grow into what I needed from it. But it didnt. Most people don’t change. I feel relief from being out of that relationship of being emotionally ignored and taken for granted but I still am dealing with the “normal” emotions of guilt for having put her and her son and now our son through a breakup. I know it gets better with time and everyone will move on and be happy. I want her to be happy again with someone or even just herself at the moment. I wish in noone heartbreak or the guilt of heaving been in a relationship too long because of various reasons. But I will say (also from all the other comments on here), it is better to be honest and open and not stick around for the wrong reasons. You owe to both of you.

  8. Red November 5, 2015 at 8:51 am #

    I ended a 15 year common law relationship recently, and I have fallen in love with someone else. That was purely accidental, and I did not cheat. This has been one of the most painful things I’ve ever dealt with, he had a previous ex from hell, no wsy I’ll put him through that again. No child support, 50/50 custody, no court involvement, just raising our kids together as friends. He was always the one threatening to leave, he controlled most if what I did through whining and pouting and guilting, including my job as manager at a hotel. Even though I am the strong one and can push on no matter what, I worry about him. We were together so long I’m going to be laying there at night wondering what he’s thinking as he’s going to sleep, or what he’s doing after work . why do I feel so guilty for doing this, why do I feel so alone right now. I can’t tell him because this isn’t about me right now. We are still best friends, but suddenly things are awkward to say to each other ya know. Why does it hurt so much? Because it was real😧

  9. Lisa November 24, 2015 at 12:33 am #

    I’m going through this too, I’ve tried breaking up many times but he almost begs that I stay with him, and I can’t bare it so cave. I’ve shown my concerns but he seems pretty happy with the relationship being totally one sided. It doesn’t help its long distance so I do get excited to see him but I care for him, I can’t see us going anywhere. What do I do? We have gone out for 3 years so he knows me too well and always avoids the conversation. Am I really that horrible?

    • Ricky November 25, 2015 at 12:41 am #

      No, you’re not horrible. I’m in the exact same situation. It’s been two years and the past 10 months i’ve realized that it isn’t going to work. I want out but the points brought up in this post are all the reasons I can’t. I feel like I’ll be personally destroying someone else’s feelings….heart. I know i’m only hurting us both. It weighs heavily on me daily…I know what I should do but I’m afraid…she’s a good person.

Leave a Reply