It’s time to stop bullying yourself into staying…
So instead of sitting down with your spouse and having an honest discussion about ending your marriage, you remain stuck in your head (and your unhappy marriage) wondering how to divorce without feeling guilty.
Guilt is an emotional anchor and can prevent you from taking the actions you need to take care of yourself.
It’s tremendously difficult to shed because it’s based on the expectations you have of yourself. Expectations like being an amazing parent to your kids, being true to your spiritual and religious beliefs, keeping the promises you make to your spouse and yourself, and the family and friends who love and respect you.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with these expectations – until you use them against yourself as a reason to feel guilty about even considering getting divorced, despite knowing the only way for you to feel true happiness is to leave your marriage.
So here you are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Paralyzed and unable to move. Out of guilt.
But you can move forward, work through your guilt and gain the clarity and peace of mind you yearn for.
The first step is to work on your thoughts.
As you continue to adjust your thoughts by allowing yourself to gather and consider more information, your emotions will shift away from the guilt. You can then begin your divorce journey from a place of respect for your spouse – and for yourself – rather than from a place of guilt, shame and blame.
Here are five tips for how to divorce without feeling guilty – for anything.
1. Feeling guilty about what divorce would do to your kids?
- First, it is extremely important to understand that the commonly accepted “fact” that divorce destroys children is a lie.
What makes divorce so hard for kids is how their parents react to and deal with it. If you and their other parent treat your children as messengers or spies, stop spending quality time with them because you’re too wrapped up in your life, stop showing them the love they deserve, cease giving them the structure and security they need, or talk poorly about their other parent when they are within earshot, your kids will certainly suffer.
That doesn’t mean they aren’t suffering because of your divorce. It means they are suffering because of your poor behavior and role modeling.
If you commit to being the best parent you can be and get the support you need to move past your divorce as completely as possible, you have nothing to feel guilty about.
2. Feeling guilty about betraying your spiritual and/or religious beliefs?
This type of guilt is usually based on fear of reprisal from On High. And this was something I really struggled with when I got divorced.
In virtually all religious traditions The Deity is forgiving and teaches love. If this is true of your religious/spiritual view, then you know that others can be and are forgiven for their mistakes.
And you’re no different from any other person, you make mistakes and you can be forgiven without the requirement to continue to feel guilty once you’ve asked for forgiveness. Even better, you take the time to learn the lessons from your experiences so you can move forward with enriching your spiritual and religious life.
And, seriously, if God can forgive you, who are you to not forgive yourself?
3. Feeling guilty about breaking your promise to your spouse?
The fact is that people grow and change over time. You and your spouse are both different from the people who promised to live together for the rest of your lives.
And chances are you’ve both neglected your marriage over the years.
The best thing you can do now is acknowledge to yourself and to your spouse your own part in the demise of your marriage and apologize for it. And since this is the best you can do, there’s no reason to continue to beat yourself up for it, since castigating yourself won’t change anything.
This is another opportunity for you to learn and change how you’ll do things in the future.
4. Feeling guilty about breaking your promise to yourself?
Again, you’ve changed over the years and so has your spouse.
The truth is that you’ve always done your best given the circumstances you were in and the knowledge you had at that time. That doesn’t mean you were perfect or the ideal mate for your spouse, and that’s OK.
The promises we make to ourselves are the best we know how to make at the time to provide us with as much joy, as little pain, and as solid a sense of integrity as possible. As we mature, what makes us feel good about our lives changes – sometimes dramatically.
Sometimes the only way to maintain personal integrity is to break a promise you made to yourself when you were a different person and to then let the guilt of having to break the promise dissipate.
5. Feeling guilty because of how your family and friends might react (or are reacting)?
You’ve probably heard the adage “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”
This sentiment is an important one to remember as you continue your divorce journey.
The people who truly love you want the best for you and sometimes their expectations and biases can get in the way. And when that happens they begin their efforts to induce guilt in you.
When family or friends attempt to send you off on a guilt trip, their words and behavior say much more about them than about you.
And that sometimes they turn out to be people who don’t matter in your life (at least in the moment).
These tips regarding how to divorce without feeling guilty all focus on how YOU think about and interpret things.
That’s because you need to change your thoughts and perspectives before you can start releasing the emotional anchor of guilt.
As you continue to remind yourself of these ideas, you’ll start feeling more compassionate toward yourself and your soon-to-be-ex.
As your compassion grows, your guilt will diminish and you’ll be able to move forward and end your marriage with respect and love for everyone concerned – including yourself.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach. I help people just like you who are looking for support advice about dealing with an unhappy marriage. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. And, if you're ready, you can take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach by scheduling a private consultation.
Looking for more tips on dealing with a miserable marriage? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Unhappy Marriage.
This article first appeared on YourTango.