If you’re struggling in your relationship, nothing makes you feel guiltier for wanting to end it.
You feel guilty for even thinking about leaving. You let guilt and obligation keep you in a relationship that’s no longer fulfilling.
Guilt is one of the worst feelings ever, yet many of us find ourselves paralyzed by its spell. We listen to guilt instead of our hearts. We let it steal away the joy and peace we desire.
Though guilt is a poor master, it can be a good teacher. Let me show you how you can turn those guilty feelings around and use them as a powerful motivator for change.
Guilt Shows the Way
Guilt can either hold you back from growing, or it can show you what you need to shift in your life.”
You’re probably already aware of how guilt holds you back from growing.
But are you aware of how it can show you what you need to shift in your life?
When I was in my early twenties, I met and eventually married a man I ended up staying with for thirteen years. Even though part of me knew from the very beginning it was an unhealthy relationship, I felt bad whenever I thought about leaving him.
I was afraid I might not find someone better. That fear had me thinking I’d better make the most of what I did have. All relationships are hard, I thought, and you have to do what it takes to make them work.
I kept telling myself things like: “Maybe if I could help him feel more loved, he wouldn’t feel the need to lie to me. He says he lies because he doesn’t want me to be upset … maybe that’s a good thing? I can’t give up on him and our relationship.”
These self-sabotaging and guilt-ridden thoughts kept me stuck for a long time in a relationship I didn’t want to be in.
What I learned from that experience is to respect feelings of guilt. They’re showing me what I need to shift in my life.
If I’m feeling bad about something, that means I’m somehow out of integrity with myself. I might be saying one thing but doing another, or I might not be following through on something I know I need to do. Guilt tells me I need to change.
Guilt’s Many Voices
Let’s look at how guilt might be showing up in your relationship and what it may be trying to tell you.
“I’m unhappy, but…”
You’re unhappy. You know you need to talk with your partner about it, but you continue to avoid having the conversation.
You might be feeling guilty because you’re not being honest with him. Or you might be feeling guilty because you’re not following through on something you know you need to do.
What this may be showing you is that you need to be willing to accept some momentary discomfort (the difficult conversation) in order to break through your cycle of unhappiness.
Of course, you don’t know what the results of the conversation are going to be, but isn’t your happiness worth finding out?
“I’m bored, so I think I’ll find fun elsewhere…”
Maybe you’re feeling unfulfilled or bored in your marriage, so instead of working on that problem, you create another problem by having an affair.
That affair might have its moments of fun and excitement, but it always leaves you with a feeling of guilt because that’s not really what you stand for. It’s not who you want to be.
What this may be showing you is that you need to be honest with yourself and your partner about the lack of connection in your marriage … and either do something to change that, or be willing to gracefully let go of a relationship that you no longer want to be in.
“I made a commitment to God, so…”
Maybe you went into your relationship with feelings of mutual love, honesty and respect, but that shifted as time went on. Now you and your partner don’t treat each other so well—or maybe it’s one-sided—but you made a commitment to God that you’d stay married “’til death do us part.” You feel guilty for even thinking about leaving.
Now, I can’t speak for God (none of us can), but I feel more than confident that God wants our relationships to be loving. A loving relationship includes mutual honesty and respect. A loving relationship does not mean that you sacrifice yourself and the quality of your life in the name of love. That doesn’t make sense.
What this form of guilt may be showing you is that you need to look at your beliefs and see if they feel right for you. Your beliefs shouldn’t be based on what someone else believes and what they told you to believe. Your beliefs should be created by you and add quality to your life, not take it away!
The Questions You Should Be Asking Guilt
If you’re feeling guilty about something, take the time to examine that feeling.
Why do you feel guilty about it?
Is your answer influenced by personal belief or by societal conditioning?
If it’s influenced by personal belief, what can you do to change your actions? What can you do stay in integrity with your choices? If you’re not doing something wrong, you have no reason to feel guilty.
If the guilt is influenced by what other people think, I strongly encourage you to stop letting other people dictate how you live your life. You are in the driver’s seat of your life, but if you let someone else drive for you, your life will feel like a series of crash-and-burns.
Get Guilt Out of the Way So You Can Enjoy Peace of Mind
Guilt is the antithesis to joy and peace of mind.
We’re not meant to feel guilty, so when we do, it’s a clear sign that something needs to change.
If you continue to stay in a relationship you don’t want to be in because you feel guilty for wanting to leave, of course this is going to cause pain! It’s a double-whammy. “Doomed if I stay, doomed if I go.”
So what can you do to change this painful pattern?
You can turn it into a powerful perception and use that power to transform the pattern into something good.
You can either improve the dynamics of the relationship and make it a relationship you love being in. Or if after trying your best, it’s just not working, you can learn how to gracefully let go of a relationship that no longer serves its purpose.
When you are in integrity with your highest good, there is nothing to feel guilty about.
Wisdom is knowing the right path to take. Integrity is taking it.”
– M.H. McKee
Want to learn more?
Watch Catherine’s interview with Your Brilliance where she shares tips on how to have that tough conversation with him and get the clarity you need to make a decision.