How to Stop Feeling Guilty After Divorce

Why Do You Feel Guilty After Divorce?

Stop Feeling Guilty After DivorceThere are many reasons that you may feel guilty after divorce. Some reasons may be valid, but most are not. For instance, you may feel guilty if you had an affair - this would be a valid reason for feeling remorse. On the other hand, if your ex had a controlling personality, he may convince you that all of the problems in the marriage were because of you and tell you that it is all your fault, causing you to feel guilty – this would be an invalid reason to feel guilt.

Other reasons you may feel guilty include religious reasons, that you destroyed your children’s life or that you feel you did something wrong that caused your husband to leave or to have an affair.

What Is Guilt?

According to the World English dictionary, guilt is: 1) The fact or state of having done wrong or committed an offence. 2) Responsibility for a criminal or moral offence deserving punishment or a penalty. 3) Remorse or self-reproach caused by feeling that one is responsible for a wrong or offence.

In other words, Guilt is a sense of remorse for past thoughts, feelings or actions. Guilt may also be a feeling that you should have done or said something or that you should be doing something.

6 Steps to Stop Feeling Guilty After Divorce

1. Sit quietly with yourself and reflect on the reason why you feel guilty after divorce. Did you actually do something that you need to feel guilty about? The act of leaving and divorcing your husband, in of itself is not a valid reason to feel guilty, as you more than likely had very good sound reasons for leaving. Recognize and identify with your guilty feelings and ask yourself if you believe you did something wrong or immoral deep in your heart.

2. Acknowledge what you did wrong. Accept that you are human and are not perfect. It is not the first mistake that you ever made, nor will it be the last. The past is gone and you cannot change it.

3. If there is no valid reason for you to feel guilty, ask yourself why you are allowing other peoples opinions and circumstances dictate your feelings. No one else can feel your feelings or live your life. You are not responsible for what another person believes, says or does. You may have been conditioned to believe that divorce is a sin or that it is the woman’s job to keep the husband happy. These are beliefs of other people and there is nothing stating that they need to be yours and they are often the root of women feeling guilty after divorce.

4. What positive experiences are you getting from feeling guilty? It may be a way to avoid grieving or accepting the end of your marriage. There may or may not be a positive reason for feeling guilty. Be honest with yourself when contemplating this question.

5. Seek forgiveness from all whom are involved. In a divorce, this may also include the children. You may need to ask your ex or your children for forgiveness for any part you had in the separation. Above all, FORGIVE YOURSELF!

6. Learn from any mistakes that you made. Let go of the past and move on. Let go of the “should haves,” “should not haves,” “could haves” and “if only’s.” If you are continually asking yourself these questions you are living in the past, which means you are not creating the future you want. Feeling guilty over divorce keeps you stuck in the past. It’s time to move on.

If your guilt seems to be eating you alive, consider scheduling a “Getting Unstuck” session with Cindy and discover what your next steps are, based on your personal situation.

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  1. says

    hello. i am hoping someone can anwser my question i have been having for the longest. I had an affair that cause my husband to leave me. Now after several weeks, I have not been able to move on. I keep feeling guilty for forgiving myself and moving forward. Should I , I already asked him for forgiveness and he told me he would need time but yet when we speak he still brings it up. I doesnt understand how I am able to live with myself . My question is what should I do now. Do I continue moving forward or do I live with this forever?

    • Cindy says

      Hi Sara,You are not alone. Many women feel the same way that you do. Yes, it is imperative that you forgive yourself. Punishing yourself forever is no way to live. If you would like some help getting through this, you can schedule a 60-minute consultation with me at no cost. Visit Best wishes to you. You deserve forgiveness and a happy life!

  2. Melanie says

    After 4 years of being in a relationship and only about 7 months of marriage, I am and have been since before the marriage took place, thinking about leaving. My husband is controlling and I can’t speak my mind with him or any issues I have in the relationship or about anything without him twisting my words and than placing blame on me. He only wanted to get married because if we did before the end of the year we would get more back for taxes because of filing married. I wasn’t ready but went through with it anyways. That’s my fault and I accept that. I don’t love him anymore and honestly I don’t know if I ever did love him or if he was just someone to be with so I wasn’t alone. I feel guilty about leaving because I haven’t for a while expressed my issues with him because of always getting yelled at and being told that I don’t feel that way and it’s my fault anyways. I have completely shut down and am ready to leave. I just can’t shake the guilt. I care for him as a person but I don’t want to be with him anymore. I feel so bad about it. He has in the past expressed his willingness to harm himself if I leave and I have attempted to leave before and he has threatened to come after me if I didn’t return. I am afraid of telling him in person and risk a huge fight or worse. I also don’t want him to cry in front of me and I don’t want to see him feel pain. I know I deserve to be happy but I almost feel like the guilt is not worth being happy. I know it will go away eventually but I don’t know that i can make it until than without giving in to him and going back. I don’t know what to do. I have children from a previous marriage that love him too and I don’t want to put them through this again but I also don’t want them to see me unhappy or think being treated the way I have been is appropriate. My last marriage was also abusive, physically and mentally. The guilt that my ex husband placed on me kept me in a marriage for 7 years. I know from my previous marriage that the guilt can be gotten over. But I actually care about my husband and how he feels. Even if he doesn’t care about my feelings. I’ve tried getting advice from friends and they are telling me to do what I need to do to make me happy. I just can’t stop feeling bad about it. Please any advice I can get will be helpful. Thank you.

    • julie says

      When you were born the little life belonged to you and no one else, so don’t give it away, treat that life with love and respect. Protect it and love it. It’s yours, its your responsibility to make yourself happy.

      Take care of yourself. Trust that you no what’s best for you and go with it. Your instincts will protect you, listen to them and follow them, they are a gift. And, never ever feel guilty.

      • Mady says

        True but is so hard, right now I’m at work and feel like I’m dying of pain inside but can’t cry so have to just hold and hold….

  3. Debbie says

    I am having guilt about my divorce. My husband had left to work in another state after Hurricane Sandy, I was all on board for this as he was going to help victims and at the same time help his business succeed. We had decided to move a few years prior to a home we had owned and loved in PA, so when Sandy hit we were 3 hours from our friends and family. At first it was going well a lot of work and little time back in Pa for my husband, but it was fine as I knew he was helping so many. Then the change started, less and less calls to myself and the children, he also got very cold and aggravated with me easily. Well this went on for a few weeks until I decided to look at the phone bill where I see that he has been talking to a girl 24/7 that we previously had issues with 12 years prior in our marriage. He always had denied that there was anything going on since he had worked for her father and worked together and one point in the past. After I confronted him he again denied any wrong doing, told me I’m crazy, but at the same time comes home following weekend to tell me he needs time to think and doesn’t want to spend another 10 years with me and then get divorce. I begged and pleaded with him that we can make it work and will make it work, but he needs to come home. 12 years prior he said same thing to me that he loves me but not in love with me and not sure what he wants and again that same girl he was talking to 24/7. So for the next few mths we just kept the back and forth bs, arguing, crying not getting anything resolved and then he decided to start working for his old boss which is the girl he was talking to Father. I said fine ok, you want to work for him in NJ then you have to come home every Friday, he did not. all the while during all of this he was staying in hotels, then his mother passed and he moved into where his mother lived at his brothers house. He again made no effort to come home every weekend and when we were in town he made no extra effort to see us and when he did he was cold and distant. Still the arguing, begging and pleading for him to come home was still going on getting nowhere and on top of all this our finances were no better and he would not talk to me about our finances keeping me in the dark. Well after about 6-8 mths of him living at his brothers he still wasn’t coming home and nothing was changing so I decided to file for divorce not knowing what else to do that was about a year n half ago, when he finally received the papers he was furious how can I sue him for divorce as the papers read, then I come to find out he has been living in a house for two mths without my knowledge all the while my kids and myself thinking he lives at his brothers. So after finding this out I was furious, upset and devastated that he would lie to me like that. After talking through this we decided to put divorce on hold and try to work it out part of the agreement was for him to be home every Fri night unless we were coming into town, first Friday that came up he did not make it home, rolled in an hour before prom pictures, second weekend same thing and so on, then stopped coming home again and that Fathers day did not come home cause he did not want to listen to me bitch. That was that for me, I told him we are done and I am moving forward with this divorce. I told him he is losing me and when Im gone he is going to want me back, he pretty much snickered and said yes you are probably right. So last summer was pretty busy with my daughters hs graduation and other grad parties as well, so I was occupied. He did call me once to say he missed the lake life, that was about it and I did invite him to my nephews party and he failed to make an appearance. So Last July, while this all went on I found friendship with my neighbor that eventually grew into a relationship and I am still seeing him. When he found out last September that we were dating he was furious and outraged and started passing the blame on me. He still does and blames my neighbor for the reason he cant come in to see his kids, says its awkward for him, but he didnt come home before he was in the picture. I feel happy whenever I am with my neighbor and he makes me feel good about myself. I guess I feel guilty cause I found happiness outside my marriage and I see he is still struggling with his happiness. Sometimes I think was this worth it should I have just lived like I was for my kids and my marriage hoping he would eventually come home and figure it all out!!!!!

    • John says

      Well done. It seems that he isn’t being clear and needs to read this blog post. You finding this new guy did both of you a favour. You can finally leave your guilt behind.

    • lilhoss says

      your ex’s happiness is not your responsibility.He has depression.Classic symptoms.He needs help,and you can’t take on the burden of others’ mental health.Trust me,his affairs,his work,all coping mechanisms,because he can’t deal with what’s going on inside himself.Not YOUR problem.Good for you to take care of yourself,and put on your own oxygen mask!!

      • lilhoss says

        As I read through all of these posts,I can’t help but wonder,if one,or both partners know what committment really is.Yes,I am well aware of the term abuse,and how it is thrown around.My ex’s father had a long battle with cancer,and died 2 years later.Less than a year after her that her mother,died from a massive stroke,totally unexpected.My then wife,also had a high demanding job,and volunteered far too much,but never saw the implosion coming.
        She was diagnosed with depression,I also believe she had it her entire life.She walked out,no warnig,no indications in the midst of a major depressive episode.started an affair,and that was it for me.I found out she never sought treatment,nor took medications as our family doctor prescribed.Depression in men,manifests itself with anger,isolation,coping mechanisms such as alcohol,drugs,affairs,poor spending,you name it! Before everyone pulls the plug,please consider your spouse,whom you took vows with,”in sickness and in health”,may be untreated for something such as a mood disorder,depression,or a vast array of issues.Comittment,to me,is doing “EVERYTHING” you can to make a marriage work.
        it’s been two years since my wife left.I care about her,would do anything for her,but I would not tolerate infidelity.
        She still is untreated,denies everything,blames me exclusively,and herself too,low self worth.
        You can’t fix them,so remember that.Most couples go down that road,sadly,as we did. slightly over 60% of all women never treat their depression,and over 80% of all men. No wonder the divorce rate is so high.

  4. says

    I went through a divorce several years ago and allowed my exhusband to stay with
    me in our home til recently. We lived as room mates, although he seen it differently. He moved out finally and the guilt is overwhelming to me. I feel I am grieving his death and he sends messages telling me he still loves me every day.
    I have moved on and am currently engaged. I feel like I’ve destroyed everyones lives except my own. I feel selfish and feel sad and happy too. There are so many changes
    going on in my life right now doing renovations on our home as a new couple/the same home I shared with my ex…and I’m feeling overwhelmed and scared. I want these changes and now that I have them I am terrified! is this normal? I feel like I’m second guessing everything I’m doing and I don’t like it!

  5. James says

    I am sorry you had to go through that with your husband. It sounds to me he was given many opportunities to wake up and figure your value. Move on and enjoy your life.

  6. kelly says

    Hello, Just in the process of divorce. Been married 32 years and he is saying that I am throwing everything away and he can’t make it if he gives me half, I am starting to feel guilty about this. In the marriage he was very controlling. I just want to be able to survive on my own without someone always telling me how wrong I am.
    Thanks for reading.

    • Nicole Luffman says

      If you are truly ready to leave him then, Kelly, you can not worry about him or what he is going through. You are going to go through your own emotions & having to fiqure out your own life. Your priority now is to do what is best for you and to put yourself first. If you worry about him then you are putting yourself aside for him and he will still have that control over you.

  7. Lynn Bacan says

    Encouraging to have looked at this site….knowing others are feeling the same provides comfort in some way. Good luck everyone !!!

  8. Jamie says

    My husband and I have been married for about 7 years and we were never a unit. We practically lived separate lives. I sleep with our 2 kids and he sleeps in another room. He hasn’t been the main provider for the family and we have been bickering and arguing for long time. Each time we argue, it was always me talking more than him and we never address our issues immediately. He doesn’t even want to talk about it the next day and ignores our issues. Now I finally have the courage to ask for a divorce as I cannot live like this forever. He’s now very bitter and verbally abuses me saying I’m selfish and only think of myself and not the family nor the kids. He said he’s been keeping quiet to let me “win” in our arguments. I am also feeling guilty as I wonder if he’s right that I’m selfish for wanting happiness for myself. I just want to know is it wrong to walk out of a marriage when you know you don’t love your partner any longer and if I stay I will only be resentful and unhappy. How do I make him understand that? Thanks for reading.

    • Nicole Luffman says

      Hi Jamie,

      Cindy’s administrative assistant here. First I want to say thank you for sharing. Second, YOU ARE NOT SELFISH! You control your happiness and he controls his! Let me put it a different way. If you are not happy how can you be a good parent? You have to take care of YOU first!

      Here is a great resource for helping you make that decision to leave or stay. Just so you know you are making the right choice for you and your children…

      • Betty says

        Thank you. Our case is just about carbon copy of Jamie’s and I have always been the bad one if things were not going his way. At the moment I have been begged to forget about the divorce and promised that things will change (after 14 years of misery). And I am the one who is not willing to give it another go, I should not be splitting the family. I feel terrible, thought I know I will never be happy if I leave it the way it is, though he promises the earth and sky now. I have been manipulated for so long always hoping for better, that just never happened. He says it will be different this time. But will it?

        • Jamie says

          I feel your anguish as I too was beating myself up when I see my ex husband looking miserable and kids will sometimes ask why isn’t daddy living with us anymore. But I try to remind myself that I have to take responsibility for my own happiness. Rightfully mine…. Nobody else can change my life but me. If you have decided to leave the marriage, we just have to pick up the pieces and move towards what is better for ourselves. Cindy’s articles are amazing to read so please read them and I wish you nothing but peace and happiness. It will come…. One day.

          • Cindy says

            Jamie, Thank you for your kind comments. Big Hugs to you, and wishing you an amazing future full of peace and happiness. 🙂
            I love that you are taking responsibility for your own happiness. I’d like to add, that even when one is grieving the death of their marriage, they can take responsibility for their happiness, and love themselves through the grief.

  9. Cindy says

    I am sorry to hear about the difficult time you are having. I know my assistant responded to you and suggested you getting the 50 questions to ask yourself before deciding to leave. This would be helpful to you.

    You stated that if you stayed with your husband you would wind up being resentful and unhappy. Let me ask you, if this happened what type of a mother, wife, friend and person would you be? Do you believe that you should give up your life for someone else to be happy? If you stayed what would you be teaching your children? When you think of the answers for the above questions, then ask yourself are you really being selfish? If you are unhappy, then life will not be good for those around you. They will feel the tension and see your sadness. This is not good for anyone.

    You asked how can I make him understand. Unfortunately you cannot make him understand. He is comfortable the way things are. He is afraid of change. If it were possible to communicate your feelings to him, you probably would not be thinking of leaving him. If and when you leave he will be unhappy. However, it’s important for you to realize that it will be better for everyone in the end. You are setting him free to find the love and happiness he deserves, just as you are setting yourself free to do the same.

    You also asked if it is wrong to walk out of a marriage when you know you don’t love your partner any longer. I personally think that is wrong to stay when you know this. Staying will only prolong the unhappiness of everyone involved. More tension will occur. The children will not be taught what a loving relationship looks like and will believe that your relationship with your husband is the way things should be. I am sure that you have tried everything you could think of to save your marriage.

    Get the 50 questions to ask yourself here …
    Then get a pen and paper and start answering the questions. Leaving is a very personal decision. Do what you feel is best for you as well as everyone else involved.


  10. Stephanie says

    In June, I left my husband of 11 years. He was controlling, and we did not have much in common, but he was a hard worker and good provider, and always seemed to be there for me when I needed him. He could be a great person and a jerk at the same time. We became legally separated, but lived in the same house for 2 months. While we were separated, I got a boyfriend. I am still with this boyfriend after 7 months. I watched my husband cry himself to sleep one night. I can’t get that image or a lot of other images out of my head. I feel like I could have tried harder, but then when I imagine being with him, I feel a sense of comfort but absolutely no passion or attraction. I feel this is selfish. I feel like I gave up on 11 years (most of them good) for no good reason. I too, feel a huge sense of loss and guilt. Like a death. I had a beautiful home and everything anyone would want, and now I’m in an old apartment. I have talked to him about my feelings and he has said he forgives me. But we have a 5 yr old son, and he uses him as a pawn to get back at me because I do believe he is still hurt. I don’t know what else to do at this point. I try to forgive myself, but cannot get the images out of my head. The good and the bad images haunt me. He has never taken responsibility for his part in the failed marriage.

    • Nicole Luffman says

      Hi Stephanie,

      I am Nicole, Cindy Holbrooks assistant. I really think that you would benifit froma complimentry one-on-one with Cindy. Just check out this link to set that up.

      Second, do you really want to be in a relationship where you feel controlled and with no passion just because he is a hard worker. You are worth more than that! You are a strong woman and I would bet that you could provide for yourself and family just as good as he could if you really want to.

  11. Saddened says

    I have been married over 15 years. I have three children. I have always since a teen had same sex attractions but pushed those feelings away because I was conditioned to believe they were wrong. So with all the right intentions, and in accordance with my truth at the time I married my wife.

    After more than 15 years of faithfulness I engaged a short term extra marital relationship. It seemed like the only way to test the veracity of my feelings. I now accept that I’m gay. I no longer share teachings of the church on same-sex relationship or attraction.

    I feel guilty, or hurt for leaving my wife and worry about the affects on my children, but I feel I need to live authentically now. I sometimes ask myself… what are you doing!? Especially in seeing my wifes pain. But remaining would leave me sad, depressed and unhappy.

    • Nicole Luffman says

      Hi, I am Nicole, Cindy’s administrative assistant and I just had to say that I agree and you do need to live an authentic life. I wanted to reply because my own mother went through something very similar to what you are going through. You HAVE to be happy with who you are. I know you are worried about your children but they are going to love you for who you are. They may have a hard time at first or may not 100% agree because of this societal conditioning of thinking homosexuality is bad. But, the world is really changing. Not to mention, it is YOUR life and not your children’s lives. As long as you are a good father, that is all that they need to be concerned about. I was shocked when it came to my mom and battled with the deeply engrained catholic beliefs I was raised with. The thing is, she was a great mom and eventually the rest did not matter and I was just happy that she was happy. I went through some big changes that year too. I believe that if someone makes you happy, who is the rest of the world to judge. The rest of the world does not matter.

      As for your wife, I know this is hard because you do care for her and don’t want to hurt her but aren’t you hurting her more if you are lying, having affairs, or keeping her in a loveless marriage? She is going to be hurt and mad and you may see a side you don’t want to really see. All you can do is be honest and let her say what she needs to say. She is going to be upset more because you have not been honest with her or yourself than she will because you are gay. She will be okay and you have to remember that by being honest with her you are giving her a chance to find her true love. NO breakup is ever easy and there is always going to be heartache, but you both deserve the chance at an honest and fulfilled life.

      • Saddened says


        Thank you for your helpful feedback. Sometimes it takes a while before the right thing actually FEELS like the right thing to do. I guess I’m waiting for my feelings in that regard to catch up with my truth.

        I do sometimes think, should I stay, am I doing the right thing. But those feelings and thoughts originate from guilt of causing my wife or children pain, not from sn authentic desire to stay. These are external reasons, not internal reasons from within. I’m trying to follow my heart, desire and the reality of my orientation and (not) my feelings of guilt or remorse, and the need to protect my wife emotionally, at the expense of being honest with myself which in itself, is a form of being honest with her.

  12. Saddened says

    As I actually get closer to the divorce process things hurt more even though I know it’s a hard but right choice. Sometimes it really hurts to do the right thing.

  13. Saddened says

    I feel so saddened after signing the documents. Yet, I still believe it was the right thing for me to do else I would not be being honest about my orientation and the need to be authentically me. By staying I would remain in the closet which would either reopen or in which I’d suffocate for lack of self truthfulness and happiness. It just really hurts to hurt someone else in the process of coming to terms with my own truth.

  14. Meredith says

    I have horrible guilt that I’m not sure if I should have or not. My ex other-woman’d me and I feel guilty that I’m not her, in a weird way. I guess she was built up to be so amazing and incredible after the fact, and I keep feeling like it wouldn’t have happened if I had been more like her. I’m not sure if other people experience this or not, but I’m stuck in this place. Whenever I feel positively about myself, I end up thinking back to all of the things in our marriage my ex told me he hated at the end when he was leaving for her and feel terrible returning to that place and person, like it’s a sad and unlovable place and person. I don’t know, my guilt is weird. I also feel guilty that I didn’t listen more when he was talking about the things he did and didn’t like at the end and tried to work on it.

    • Nicole Luffman says

      Hi Meredith,

      My name is Nicole and I am Cindy’s assistant. I saw your comment and had to respond as soon as I could because you need to know that your feelings and emotions are not weird. You feel guilty that you couldn’t be her and you are not the only woman that has felt this way after a divorce.

      The first step in getting through this guilt is to accept what is. You cannot go back and change the past but you can learn from it and move forward into growth and a happy life.

      That being said the second step would be to take advantage of this amazing free oportunity to talk with Cindy. Just click on this link… and get signed up. You really will be glad you did.

  15. says

    Thank you for this site! I’m so glad to have come across it. Thank you to Nicole too about her post about her mother. I too left a family home, of 3 children just over 3 years ago. . I was with my husband for 23 years. Our 3 Children are 21 18 and 11. Because of my Sexual orientation I have been with a woman now for 3 years. My husband would not leave so I moved into a shared house and rented a room. Met my now partner and moved in with her. My youngest and 18 year old live with us and see their Dad regularly. Oldest is at Uni. I struggle with my gulit of breaking the family home. My ex husband, soon to be pending the divorce, is being a lousy Father to the youngest, mainly no attention or quality time. It’s a tough road but my kids are my world. My Partner is great with them too. All the best to everyone.

  16. Sara says

    I began reading your article until the sentence”… that you did something to cause your husband to have an affair… Are you kidding me? And you’re a divorce coach? Wow. Awful.

    • Cindy says

      Hi Sara,
      Thanks for your comment. I stated that ” “If you feel you did something wrong that caused your husband to leave or to have an affair.” This is completely different than “You did something to cause your husband to have an affair. Many women feel that it was somehow their fault. I wrote this article to show them, that they are feeling guilty when there is nothing to feel guilty about. If you are in a mentally abusive relationship, you might wrongfully believe that all kinds of things are your fault. For example, I know a woman who was convinced it was her fault that she had a STD that her husband gave her because he was cheating on her. She felt guilty, when she had nothing to feel guilty about.
      Hope you have a wonderful day!

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