Break Up and Divorce Too Guilty To Leave: Are You Delaying A Breakup Out Of Guilt?

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

Too Guilty To Leave

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 primary 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 resent your partner unfairly.

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.


  • My name is Jeanette. Several months ago I became involved with a married man, Carlton. We both decided to divorce our spouses and be together. We fell in love in a beautiful place, the setting was perfect. I have discovered that I do not want to leave my husband, Bill. Bill and I have been married for so many years that he is comfortable to me. Besides, Bill would never cheat on me or hurt me in any manner. I miss Bill. Bill is not in good health and I want to spend our remaining time together. I do not want to hurt Carlton. I appreciate all the time and attention Carlton has shown me but I do not love Carlton. Carlton and I got caught up in this affair. Please help me to know how to tell Carlton I want out of this relationship. I don’t want to talk with Carlton about the problem. I want to end our affair. I am close to my sister, Judy and cannot bring myself to tell even her. Judy and Carlton are best friends. I want Carlton to realize how much he misses his wife and return to her. I know he still loves her. I want a clean break. I want for the breakup to be Carlton’s idea. I will put on a heartbroken act and beg for him to stay with me. But I DO NOT want to stay with Carlton. Help me. Neither of us could ever trust each other since we are both cheaters. Bill wants me back, unconditionally. I know Bill loves me and I want to be with him. I have talked to Bill alot lately. I am sorry Carlton and I hurt people. It was not right for us to hurt others. I will never and could NEVER trust Carlton. I want Carlton to go away. What can I do? Please tell me how to let this be Carlton’s idea, so he saves face. I WANT OUT. I absolutely believe Carlton wishes to return to his wife. I do not know how Carlton’s wife feels about him now and I do not care. Just get him away from me. And I WANT TO GO BACK TO BILL. Help me. I feel terrible guilt for hurting Bill. My heart breaks for Bill. It is my hope Carlton will see one of my postings and get the message before I hate him. Yes, I am a coward! I DO NOT want to discuss this with Carlton, and I DO NOT want my sister to know. I want Carlton to pick up and go away as fast as he can.

  • It's Complicated says:

    I know this article is old, but i just don’t know what to do. I’ve been with this guy for 2 and a half years. I loved him so much in the beginning, but these days i think that “spark” is gone. He’s such an incredible person – kind, funny, thoughtful, respectful. But I don’t love him like i used to. I just don’t want to hurt him, I don’t know how I’d handle seeing him hurt. Plus we’re in our final year of highschool and still have classes and projects together, so I can’t even do anything without making things awkward, at least not for a few months.

  • I am 60 years old and i have been in an affair relationship with my first love for 4 years. We were engaged when i was 18 and he was 21. I broke up with him as i felt i was too young and needed to experience life. I married someone else when i was in my early 20s as i fell pregnant. I didn’t really love him, but felt it was the best thing to do. We divorced 9 years later. I had a couple of long term relationships after my divorce, but never really felt i had found the one! Fast forward 40 years and my first love and i found each other again.
    We talked online for a whike then met up for coffee. It was obvious that we had wonderful chemistry, and felt so comfortable with each other. He was still in a relationship of over 30 years, but we couldn’t help but fall in love. Was it all just fantasy and lust? I questioned alot and we split a few times over the guilt we both felt, but our need to be with each other was like a magnet.
    We adore each others company and felt lost without each other. 4 years in, we adore each other but he is racked with guilt.
    He doesn’t have a physical relationship with his partner anymore. After constantly talking about leaving her and wanting only to be with me, the guilt of leaving his partner alone, and how she would manage financially has taken its toll on him.
    I love this man with all my heart. I feel our reunion was fate and we would walk and talk, laugh and love each other, agree and disagree, and just revel in each others presence.
    I have now walked away, because being the other woman, is also very painful. I never get to spend evenings with him, or experience the normality of day to day life. I want to cook and clean and experience holidays together, sharing bills and ups and downs, but because i deeply love him, i had to let him go.
    His guilt was too much for him and although he living a lie with hisnpartner, i had to give him space to deal with this. If we are truly meant for each other, no amount of feeling guilty will keep him away. We will figure it out together.
    People remain in unhappy relationships for many reasons. It’s not my place to force someone to leave it. All tgat does is cause resentment in the end.
    Life is a journey with so many decisions to make. Going forward, at 60 years old, i want my remaining journey to be happy, but i wang ghd person i adore to ne happy too. It hurts my heart and my head deeply, but he needs peace of mind. The price i pay to give him this is to walk away.

  • I have been in a relationship with my fiancée for over 7 years, and we each are single parents of an only child, I have a 12 year-old daughter and she has a 15 year-old son, so they have grown up together. I was in a relationship for over a year before this one and in a 5 year relationship with my daughters mom just before that one. I ended up breaking off the previous relationship, despite the fact that I didn’t want to, and I was in love, and went directly into the relationship I am in now.

    My fiancée has had very few relationships in her life, and I know that she needs to have more visceral experiences of her own, so it would be good for both of us in the long run, but I know that she will not take breaking up well at all. Not only is it about how she will feel, but her son has autism, and him and my daughter have grown up together for most of their lives, so this will be detrimental to both of them as well.

    When we started dating, things got off to a good start between the two of us, but not so much with my family… it’s a long story, but my mom and her never got along, but she does well with most of the other family members, and the other side of my family. It’s definitely a problem on my mom’s side of things, but that’s another story altogether. She also had a hard time with accepting that my daughter is the most important person in my life, and had always questioned where she fits in the ‘hierarchy of my love’. It took a lot of work to get where we are now. I was living in a different city and it was a long process to get to the point where we saw each other every day, almost 5 years. We have now lived together for a year and a half, and it took me a lot of convincing for her to fully trust that I was here for the long haul. She was just recently able to be more trusting and let her guard down, but ironically it was around the time I started to feel like this isn’t where I want to be in life. I don’t necessarily have a desire to be with someone else, I honestly just feel that I need to be alone, however I know that my previous relationship has played a part in all of this. I never got closure, and I still have feelings for her. I didn’t give myself time to heal, and recently I realized that I haven’t been truly single for over 15 years, I’ve always gone from one relationship into another. I have decided that I need time to focus on myself and realize what I truly want. I thought this is what I wanted, and I worked so hard at it, but I realize now that it’s not.

    After about 2 years into the relationship, I realized that there might be problems, but I didn’t want to hurt her. She has only had crappy relationships (2 altogether and one of those she was married for 12 years), but when she met me she felt that we were perfect for each other, and we are in many ways, but it’s still not what I want… I know that now. We spent a lot of time doing stuff with just us two, since we are both single parents we have every other weekend open to do what we want. We went on a lot of trips and lived life with no regrets, which made it very difficult to bring up the topic of separating, I never found the right time to do it as we were always doing things and looking forward to the next adventure… but in the back of my mind I knew it wouldn’t last. However, after about 4 years together I started thinking otherwise, and the thought of breaking up never entered my mind again until about 6 months ago. I have put a lot of thought into everything, I weighed all of the options, all of the outcomes, the detriment that will be bestowed upon my fiancée and our children, but I haven’t waivered from the thought, which I know is a sign.

    About a month ago I had a sort of mental breakdown. I felt very guilty about the thoughts and feelings I have been harboring and I broke down and told her I am not where I want to be, and I am not happy in this life. It was a very rough day. She was really worried that meant I was going to break up with her, but I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t ready… but I know deep down that I have been laying the ground work for our inevitable demise. I have been very depressed and once I told her all of this I felt a great weight lifted off of me. I told her this as well. Since then, things have gotten better, and she thought that meant I was good again, but I’m not…and I don’t want her to hurt because of how I feel. Though, I know it is necessary. She believes that because I don’t want to be in this relationship any longer that everything we did together was a lie, and that I was never vested in it, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I would not have moved here and worked so hard at keeping us together if that was the case. She had even tried to end it previously because she felt that who I was and what I wanted was ‘not what she signed up for’. To be completely honest if I could split into two it would be so much easier, part of me could stay because we go together so well, but the other part of me could go and do what I feel is necessary… I know I won’t be fully happy unless I have the opportunity to grow myself and focus on me for a while.

    How do you break off a good relationship when you know it’s necessary, but can’t fully explain why? How can I break off a relationship that I spent so much time trying to build and earn her trust, just to do what she feared I would do in the first place? I know that we have both grown so much, and learned so much from each other, that we are both better for having known each other, and as much as I would like to remain friends afterwards, I don’t think she can handle that.

  • Hi All, seems a lot of us are in a similar situation. I recently went through this and there are two really challenging parts to this process:
    1) Getting the courage to actually have the conversation and breakup with them. It took me so many tries but once I did it there was a massive weight off my shoulders.
    2) After you do this, maybe 1-4 days later, you’re gonna possibly feel absolutely terrible. You’re gonna miss them and you’re gonna start to wonder whether they actually were right for you and you just weren’t thinking straight. This is where you need to be seriously strong. Keep reminding yourself why you’re doing this and look at how much better off you’re gonna be in the long run. If you slide back with them then the same issues are likely to arise within a few days and you’ll regret it.
    All the best. This is never easy but deep down you know what is right.

  • This thread really is giving me hope that I can do what it seems we’re all trying to do…. break it off.

    I’ve been with my girlfriend for 2.5 years and we’ve been living together for the last year. When we initially moved in together I was hesitant to do it, but went with it anyway as I felt like there was no other option at the time. In hindsight this probably wasn’t the best idea.

    The thing is that there’s nothing specifically wrong with the relationship. She’s a brilliant, caring, loyal, loving girl. it’s just that the spark isn’t there for me anymore, hasn’t been there for the last year. I’ve lost sexual attraction. Like a lot of other people on here, I tried to break it off once and the guilt and seeing her cry absolutely killed me, so we stayed together.

    I have actually lost hair in the past few months thinking about this. It just kills me on the inside.

    Reading this thread is giving me the courage to go into the storm and ride it out…. I plan on gathering the courage to do it tonight. I appreciate everyone sharing their stories. Fingers crossed!

    • Well I did it. It was hard but I felt a huge weight come off my chest afterwards. She didn’t take it well but I think she’s accepted it. This article and comments really helped me to realise that I just had to get the TRUTH off my chest.

      For anyone looking to end a relationship, I recommend going somewhere quiet and think. Make sure you’re certain of the decision. If you’ve gone over it 100 times in your head then I’d say you’re sure. Then before you break it off, read this forum to give yourself the courage to do it. There are others out there doing it tough and you need to stand up for YOURSELF to be happy.

    • any updates!? im going through the same thing 🙁

  • This article is about a year old, so who knows if anyone will reply to me, I just need some feedback, and probably to vent. I’ve been with my boyfriend for a little over 2 years. Actually around this time last year, I broke up with him because I was having feelings for a classmate at my college, along with feelings of doubt about our relationship anyway. Anyway, after being apart for 3 months and being with this other guy, I got back with my now boyfriend. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to, he was just so depressed.. and I was so full of guilt. So I got back together with him, and now I’m back feeling those exact same doubts, except this time there’s not another guy. We started dating when I was still in high school, and he’s older than me, so our sex life used to be beautiful to me. But now I’m at least a little more experienced, and I’m extremely bored with our sex life. I’ve tried to fix it; I’ve told him about things I’d like to try, and we try it, but if someone has no interest in what you do, it feels ingenuine. I used to think, at least we have fun and I enjoy his presence. Lately though, everything he does annoys me. I hear myself snap at him all the time, and it boggles my mind. I used to be so enamoured with everything he said and did. I can’t end it with him though. After the hell I put him through last year, with taking a break, then breaking up with him for real to be with someone else.. I told him I’d never hurt him again. I just can’t do it. I can’t hurt him. What do I do now? I’m trapped.

    • I can understand. It’s tough. Read all the experiences in this forum and do what you need to do for YOU. Can you see yourself being happy with him in 5 years time? What about in 6months time?

    • It’s a gut wrenching situation. I feel trapped in my marriage that I have been struggling with ending. I’ve stayed for all the wrong reasons ,it’s still so difficult to follow my heart. You know you have to hurt him if you don’t want to be trapped in the relationship anymore. So much easier said and indescribably hard to do. (At least for me it is.)

  • SimpleLove says:

    I have been in a relationship with this amazing guy since 4 months, and I recently started feeling he has borderline personality. There are other difficulties too. We love each other. But I think I should leave the relationship, but seeing him so excited about the future with me breaks my heart. But what needs to be done , needs to be done.

  • This article describes my situation, but its “Just do it” advice simply does not work for me. I CAN’T “just do it.” That’s why I’m stuck. I’ve been with the same person for 18 years, and I knew he wasn’t the “one” about two years in. For the last 16 years, I’ve kept trying to find a way to break up, but never could (the closest I came was right after we got engaged, when I told him “I wasn’t sure about the relationship,” but he said he loved me and didn’t want to lose me, and I couldn’t go any further). He’s a great guy, kind, caring, intelligent, self-sufficient. We get along very well. But still, I’ve long known he wasn’t right for me. I have stayed out of guilt, and I have no idea how to leave. So now, in our late 40s with our younger years gone, it seems like I’ll have stolen too much time if I leave him now. I feel like I’d rather kill myself than hurt him so badly, so I stay. It’s impossible, and I empathize so strongly with everyone that’s stuck in the same horrible situation.

    • I can’t tell you how hard your situation hit home for me. I’ve been dating an incredible woman for the past 2 years. When we started dating, I already had some reservations but I put those down to defense mechanisms from a previous failed relationship. We broke up briefly a few months in because I didn’t feel that “in love” feeling but got back together soon after because I genuinely couldn’t stand seeing her hurt. These break ups/crises every few months characterised the rest of our relationship. There was something in me that was shouting to me that this wasn’t for me. But I had been suppressing this feeling for so long that I couldn’t tell anymore if that was my intuition or my anxiety about relationships (ego death, and so on). I also couldn’t accept that I had found the perfect woman – beautiful, intelligent, empathic, sensual, spiritual, culturally relative – but just not perfect for me. I didn’t want to accept that. The longer I stayed with her, the more I loved who she was. And she loved me in the most respectful, beautiful way. Her spirit is truly remarkable. I wanted to spend forever with her despite the gnawing feeling that this wasn’t truly for me. We ended up moving in together and about 4/5 months in, I moved out because I was starting to become morbidly depressed. I didn’t feel that strong sexual attraction anymore that I used to and that scared me because I’ve always been a very sexual being. When she told me she loved me, I would tell her I loved her too but the words didn’t feel like honey as they escaped my lips. Rather, they felt forced and empty. I can’t tell you the guilt that riddled my body and spirit because of this. After moving out, we tried again but the same thing happened. I am here tonight because we just ended things. I had begun to identify with this state of depression, as if it is part of me. The love I felt and still feel for her has become conditional. I can’t control when I am intensely present with her and when I am overcome by anxiety that renders me devoid of any feeling whatsoever. I am alarmed to say that I even had thoughts of harming myself just so I can feel something that will tell me I am not losing my mind. In the end, the very thing happened that I had been trying to prevent from the first day – I hurt her. I am heartbroken too because I love her with all my heart and I can envision a happy future with her but it doesn’t seem that that is how things will be. Anyway, I truly wish you the best as you navigate your situation. I wish I had some advice for you but I think only you can make sense of where you are. Bless.

      • Oh wow, you have literally DESCRIBED how i feel at the moment except I’m a girl here and my boyfriend is the one who is more devastated than me. We are currently on a break. The feeling of guilt has begun months ago, but I delayed this talk because he moved all the way here from America to Europe for me, and I felt like I rather kill myself than hurt him. But you guys are right; there’s no point of faking the feelings. I felt happier when I told him how I was feeling, but I asked for a break instead of a breakup because I may still love him purely but because we live together it makes things really intense way too fast.

        • Samantha im literally in the same situation and I need an update!

      • Holy sh