When thinking about life, remember this: no amount of guilt can solve the past and no amount of anxiety can change the future. Breakups are similar. Relationships end for many reasons. But the feeling of being responsible for your partner’s well-being makes it difficult for you to get over the breakup anxiety and move on.
When your head says you need to break up a relationship or you have broken up a relationship but your heart is pulling you back and flooding you with guilt over it.
I hear this a lot, especially from people who have been in relationships that are dysfunctional and/or abusive relationships. Their head tells them this relationship is not good for them, but they just can’t shake off the feelings of guilt.
It may be guilt over the fact that “I’ve failed”.
I failed to fix that relationship.
I did everything I could but nothing fixed that relationship.
It’s guilt over: I couldn’t rescue my partner.
Often in relationships like this, the emotionally abusive or dysfunctional partner has deep childhood wounds and difficult past relationships or whatever it is they tell you is the cause of their pain and insecurity.
You see them and feel: I can be enough for both of us. If I love them enough, I can show them they’re worthy of love. I can love them more than anyone has ever loved them ever before.
So when it breaks down, you feel guilt over the fact you’ve failed. Your love wasn’t enough to save them. You also feel guilt you’ve failed your children because you couldn’t keep the family together.
Anxiety Over A Breakup And Guilt
There is a lot of deep-seated anxiety over leaving that relationship. But it goes even deeper than that. Often when we’re in these dysfunctional relationships, we’re spending most of the time trying to fix them and save the relationship.
We are so full of empathy and care for their needs at the expense of our own. We take on more responsibility for that relationship than we should. We become their mother, their therapist, and their shoulder to cry on.
And that’s not what a healthy relationship is about.
A narcissist will manipulate this too in a codependent relationship. It’s convenient for them to have you take on most of the burden of the relationship. That way they can blame you when things go wrong.
They tell you they’re going to get help and change as a means to get you back and once they have, it all goes out the window. You’ll get blamed for not being ‘supportive enough’. If you’re their therapist and that therapy doesn’t work, then it’s your fault.
You just can’t win.
So, quite often this breakup guilt is tied up with the role you’ve been playing. This feeling of guilt you’ve failed to make that relationship work.
Why are you a failure?
You’re not responsible for another adult’s moods and behavior or for their happiness.
You are not their parent.
They are an adult.
You are not their therapist.
You are not responsible.
Neither are you to blame even if it’s convenient for them to put that responsibility onto you so they don’t have to take action or be accountable for their behavior.
Now it goes even deeper than this.
We often go into dysfunctional relationships so that we can play the role of rescuer, fixer, and savior. We deny all our own needs in favor of theirs. But this can be an avoidance technique.
A way to numb ourselves from seeing that actually, it’s us that needs rescuing and saving.
Bear with me here … I’ll try to explain this.
While I thought my ex was needier and more damaged than I even realized I was, I was able to convince myself there was nothing wrong with me. But I was codependent and my happiness depended on him and that relationship. When I couldn’t fix him, save our relationship, or keep our family together, I felt a huge sense of guilt.
If your self-worth and sense of self-esteem are tied up to that relationship and the rescue of it, then there’s a deep sense of shame and failure attached to when you can’t. But by going into a relationship with a very damaged, needy, and emotionally unavailable person, from the beginning you’re setting yourself up to fail.