When I left my ex-partner after we have lived together for six years, our separation was unpleasant. I experienced deep guilt together with my pain about the broken dream. My partner was deeply hurt and reluctant in accepting our separation. In his eyes, I had made it wrong. In the following months, I had painful self-talks and re-visited again and again the stories when I had done something wrong.
But was I really guilty for the separation?
The question of being guilty of a separation has played an important role in my family’s story. My mother left my father when I was one. He refused to agree to a divorce until the day when the German government decided to abolish the label guilty party in a divorce. My mother became one of the last persons who got divorced with this label. I couldn’t see that this label decreased their pain or resentment. They became stuck in blaming each other for the rest of their life; each one of them insisted that the other one was guilty. Can you imagine which price they paid for this? Hatred and bitterness blocked their hearts. I don’t know much about their relationship, I just think that both of them carried their share of responsibility for the divorce and that the relationship ended when it was supposed to end. From my perspective, it was the best that could have happened to them. Why should two people stay together and suffer until the end of their lives?
Is there really anybody guilty for the end of a relationship?
I can’t see it. For me, there are only responsibility and growth. Two people start a relationship with their hopes and dreams. There are struggles, and there are mistakes by both of them. Each partner is responsible for what they do and what they don’t do. It’s easy to fall into the blame trap and look at a relationship one-sided. You can blame your partner for his mistakes, and you can feel guilty for what you did wrong. But does it serve anybody? The past is past. You can’t change it. In my relationship, I made my share of mistakes, and my ex-partner made his. We didn’t do them because we had bad intentions; we just didn’t know how to deal better with it. Guilt and blame doesn’t help in this situation. It makes you stuck in the past and doesn’t allow you to find solutions. A relationship ends because it was supposed to end. Feeling guilty about your mistakes doesn’t help you, your ex-partner or anybody else in this world. Let go of blame and guilt and take responsibility for your share of the problems and the next time you will make it better. Blame and guilt limit your ability to grow and to live life fully. And that’s not how life is supposed to be. You are responsible for your life, your growth and your happiness. You are responsible for walking on your path. Your partner is responsible for his life, his growth and his happiness. He is responsible for walking on his path. You both are adults. You don’t dependent on each other. You have just chosen new paths in different directions. It’s not a question of guilt; it’s a question of acknowledging the reality, taking responsibility for oneself and growing as a person.
Your relationship is over, so what can you do?
- Treat yourself with self-compassion.
Allow your pain to heal. Avoid re-telling yourself painful stories about what you did wrong. Repeat the mantra that you did the best you could. And now, you will find ways how to make it better in the future.
- Take responsibility for your mistakes.
Reflect about the situations you feel guilty for, take responsibility for your behavior and make it better in the future. How did you behave? How can you make it better in the future? You may not see now, but there are always solutions. Grow as a person and become whole.
- Forgive yourself and your partner.
There are anger and pain. You may have experienced injustice. Your heart is broken. These are good reasons to close your heart forever and withdraw in bitterness and resentment. But does this serve you well? The only person who will suffer from this is you. Work through your emotions and when it feels right for you, practice forgiveness. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that what your ex-partner did was right. It just means that you let go of bitterness and resentment. It has nothing to do with your partner. You practice it for your well-being and happiness.
- See your ex-partner as a complete person.
Don’t idealize him. He is as human as you are. If your ex-partner blames you for the separation or if he meets you with silent reproach, cut contact with him. Being friends is nice, but it requires two people who want to grow and who can forgive. If you keep contact with an ex-partner who blames you or looks at you with silent reproach, it’s extremely difficult to let go of guilt. Don’t take on the responsibility for your ex-partner’s life. That’s not your business. Make yourself responsible for your life and your happiness. You are the most important person in your life. This way you can serve this world in a better way.
Copyright © 2014, Natalie Jovanic. All rights reserved.