How to Deal With Guilt After a Divorce

Three Methods:Dealing with the GuiltManaging Affected RelationshipsFinding Support to Cope with Guilt

Dealing with a divorce is difficult for anyone. There is the adjustment to a new routine, the emotional rollercoaster, and the inevitable guilt that sinks in. There are many valid reasons you may feel guilt after a divorce: that you couldn't make it work, for your partner's situation, or because of your children. Guilt can be a hard emotional hole to emerge from, and if you let it, an impediment to moving on. By taking active steps to release your guilt, you can begin your post-divorce life.

Method 1
Dealing with the Guilt

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    Learn from any mistakes you made. A big cause of guilt is a nagging that mistakes were made and had things been done differently, the marriage would have lasted. We can't change the past and feelings of guilt won't change that. Rather than use the past as a reason to hold you back, recognize things you wish you had done differently and use them for positive change in the future. [1]
    • Sometimes healthy guilt can be useful and a way to recognize unhealthy behavior from your past. Since you may not want to, or be unable, to make things right with your ex, you can learn from your mistakes moving forward. Change future relationships and go out of your way to show those around you that you are making positive changes to your life.
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    Remind yourself you are only human. Unhealthy guilt is when you dwell on things you cannot change, but many times could not help. It's easy to create scenarios that make you the main guilty partner in your relationship. Allow yourself to accept that you are flawed, make mistakes, and that's okay.[2]
    • Tell yourself that you did what you thought was right at the time, based on your emotional and life circumstance. Accept that given the circumstances, you acted how your emotions and psychology dictated.
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    Make an honest assessment of your marriage. Guilt from a divorce can come from putting unfair blame on yourself for the relationship's problems. It may help to take a step back and look at the relationship as a whole and how both parties contributed to a situation that became untenable.
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    Tear down your assumptions about divorce. A big source of guilt is the negative connotations and stereotypes assigned by society. It's thought of as a failure, a flaw, and even frowned upon religiously. While these are difficult to deal with, you can remind yourself that you are only trying to be happy and that cultural stigmas are relative. Divorce has become increasingly common and society is constantly re-defining what should have a stigma. Only you understand the intricacies of your marriage and can understand why it was best; not outside perceptions.[3]
    • If you feel a stigma or pressure from people around you, communicate about it. Let them know your perception, and though you never got married with the purpose of getting divorced, it became an unfortunate reality. People who care about you should be able to support your decision.
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    Make positive changes to combat negativity from guilt. Guilt can color your future in a negative way. Rather than dwell in guilt, demonstrate to yourself the change was beneficial by making positive changes. A divorce can be a time to rediscover yourself as an individual.
    • Find what makes you happy. Find hobbies you stopped doing during you're marriage, take up a new skill that you put off, or even make a career change. This is a time for you to begin to focus on you again. This will assuage your guilt by reaffirming you can live a positive and fulfilling life after divorce.[4]
    • Keep a list of ways you're improving as a tangible reminder of how you're trying to thrive after your divorce. This sort of optimism can lessen the power of past guilt.

Method 2
Managing Affected Relationships

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    Deal with relationships with in-laws. Many times a marriage can result in you forming a very deep relationship with your in-laws, to the point of them becoming like family. It's obvious once you go through a divorce with their child, that relationship has to change. It is unfair to expect them to make a choice between you and their son or daughter, but you can still be amicable and even affectionate with in-laws after a divorce.
    • Be clear about your desires. If you want to still have a relationship with them, tell them how important they are to you but you understand how difficult the situation is.
    • If kids are involved, staying amicable and overall positive can be particularly important. You will want your kids to have grandparents in their lives in a positive way. Make sure to communicate that whatever differences you may have, it's extremely important that the children come first.[5]
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    Manage mutual friendships after divorce. While lawyers may be able to divide up properties and material belongings, friendships can be far more tricky. If you had mutual friendships, such as couples you'd regularly double date with, it can be difficult to manage these relationships after your divorce. You may be unlikely to hang out with those couples in the same way again and they may feel an urge to choose either you or your spouse, or even to remain neutral.[6]
    • Communicate and be open about difficulties. Talk to your friends about what they feel awkward about, what is giving them difficulties and what make your friendship work, given the circumstances.
    • Don't use your friendships as leverage or competition with your ex. This will only put your friends in a more difficult situation. Avoid talking negatively about your ex, and don't display resentment or jealousy if your friend is still communicating with your ex.
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    Don't let guilt seep into parenting. Children can make guilt even more intense. You may feel like you're depriving your child of a full family, or that the divorce will have a severe detrimental affect to their life. Even though you may feel guilt, it's important to continue to serve as a parent and role model for children who are already dealing with the difficulties of divorce.[7]
    • Keep a child-centered divorce. Be consistent and reliable in time spent with your children and do not let difficulties between you and your spouse affect your parenting.
    • Don't try to be your children's best friend and try to win them over with gifts and bribes. They will need support but you shouldn't let your guilt promote bad parenting habits. But be empathetic to what they're experiencing.
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    Root for your ex to be a good parent. You can help assuage some of your guilt by making sure that your child will continue to have stable, loving parents, despite the divorce. Rather than trying to outdo your ex, communicate with them on ways you can both help your children.
    • Avoid putting the blame on either partner involved. Do your best to co-parent in the early stages so that the shock is not too great for the children. [8]
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    Don't pressure your child to make difficult choices. If your child is of an age that they are able to influence who they will live with, no matter what do not make the child feel guilty for their decision. Also, do not let yourself feel guilty if they choose the other spouse. The child is in a difficult decision and any decision they make is hard.[9]

Method 3
Finding Support to Cope with Guilt

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    Seek support in others. You [[Media:shouldn't be alone with your feelings through a divorce. Make it a point to be around family members or friends who offer you support and can help assuage your feelings of guilt by filling you with positivity.
    • Find a valuable confidant. It can be really helpful to find someone you know you can trust and use them to express your feelings. They can help give a new perspective that lessens your guilt.
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    Remove negative people from your life. If you have friends that are judging your divorce on moral or religious grounds, you may want to spend some time apart rather than let them guilt you into feeling bad about your choice.
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    Find a divorce support group. You can find these online and they are usually in a group setting with people going through similar situations. There will usually be a structure where you can talk about the feelings you have and maybe even have a person in the group assigned to you that you can call when you're struggle. DivorceCare is one group that offers groups and seminars to help get over divorce and have locations in nearly every state.[10]
    • There will generally be support for people of all ages and of all stages in the divorce process. The groups generally sign something agreeing that everything said in the group is confidential so you don't have to worry that what you say will leave the group.
    • There are also online groups, if this is something that appeals to you more. They will have chat and forums for people to talk to one another without needing to sit with an in-person group. The most common groups are "Divorce Support" and "First World Wives," that can be located using a search engine.
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    Use a therapist to help cope. If your friends or are group are not giving you the support you may want to get professional help. Private therapy with a licensed therapist can help give you the tools to help cope with your guilt. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is often used to help change one's perceptions about the divorce. [11]
    • Look online for a therapist in your area and find one that is specialized in helping counsel people with the difficulties of divorce. Both pre and post divorce therapy is available so that you can cope with the different stages.
    • In some cases, medication may also be helpful if you are having emotional and physical symptoms. Talk to your doctor if your guilt is causing depression or anxiety that

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Categories: Divorce