Guilt is a destructive emotion. It does not serve you in any way to feel it. Guilt is defined as “a feeling of remorse for having committed a crime or wrongdoing whether it is real or imaginary.”
Divorce is not a crime, half of every married couple does it in our nation. So maybe the reason you feel guilty is an imagined reason. Divorce is what you make it inside your head to be. Let’s breakdown some of the ways divorce guilt shows up.
Let’s start with biblical divorce guilt. Sometimes we feel guilty because we feel like we need to honor our vows that we said in our marriage in front of God and the whole world. Here is the thing, those vows are very hard for a reason. “To have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until death do us part.” These vows are HARD, and if one person does not uphold their part of the bargain, the other is NOT meant to have to do it anyway. If your husband beats you, threatens you, emotionally abuses you, YOU are not held to these vows.
So if your husband stopped loving and cherishing you, he failed at his vows. You cannot be expected to love and cherish him while he is over there coveting thy neighbor. The vows are hard because marriage is hard. Vows are meant to be fulfilled by two whole and healthy people that work together to make each other feel loved and cherished. I’m 7 years into this second marriage, and there are times that it is hard. But do you know what was harder? Trying to “make it work” with someone that was not on the same page as me, and would never be.
Divorce guilt for the kids. I get it, we all want our children to grow up in a nuclear family. Maybe you were a child of divorce and wanted different for your kids. Maybe you promised yourself you would never get divorced. A nuclear family is only good for the kids if you are one of the 25% of couples that continue to treat each other with love, respect, generosity and kindness. If those words do not describe you as a couple, then you would be doing your children a disservice by modeling to them an unhappy marriage by making dysfunctional their "normal."
Kids need to know that when Daddy goes out all night long and doesn’t come home, that is not ok. If Daddy hits mommy, or heaven forbid the kids, it too is not OK. We teach our children how we should be treated by how we accept these behaviors. This behavior will be copied by them one day. If we tolerate abuse, it is likely our children will as well. You are only guilty in an abuse situation if you continue to let it go on when you know your children rely on you for their safety.
Divorce guilt because of his own wrongdoings. Does he blame you for everything? Does he pick apart everything you do and make this divorce all about how it is YOUR fault? Even if he cheated. Maybe the kids want nothing to do with him, and you know it is his fault but he still blames you. Ladies, he is in emotional childhood if he cannot own or accept and voice his faults in this. The reason he blames you is because he cannot accept that he did anything wrong. This is not OK, this is immaturity. Do not let his blame get under your skin. This is where you need to be strong and accept the fact that he will never accept his part, don’t fight it. Trying to get him to see your side is wasted energy. The sooner you can accept he is emotionally a child the sooner you will find your own peace and acceptance.
Some women feel guilt because they have to hold their Ex accountable for something the he as an adult should be responsible for. Like Tina who has to take her Ex to court because he has not held up his responsibility of paying the mortgage, he might end up in jail and she feels guilty. Or Amy who cannot get her Ex to spend anytime with their children, she feels the guilt for him. Countless women feel guilt because they made the decision to leave him, and they feel like they broke up the family.
Ladies if your Ex is not upholding his responsibility because he is stuck in emotional childhood, it is not your job to force him. He is going to suffer some kind on consequence for his failures, let it happen. Tell you kids you love them, hold them often, and remind them that this kind of behavior is not acceptable.
The REAL Divorce Guilt comes from your own deep seeded belief system that is currently not serving you. You may have been diminished in this marriage and made to feel like you were the one that needed to carry the weight of the marriage, kids, finances, household. But the truth is, you needed a partner, and he was not that. Maybe he abused you in some way and that abuse made you feel like you were not worthy.
Maybe you feel you let yourself down because “happily married after” was your goal and you failed. Only you did not fail this, divorce is not a failure. It is a WIN. You get to reimagine the rest of your life, unencumbered by a mate that did not do his part to hold up your marriage. You get to make new goals, new plans. You must learn all the lessons that this divorce has brought you, write it out, journal. Most of all, repair the damage this relationship has done to your self-esteem. Only then can you truly heal and choose better going forward.
Divorce is a gift to yourself that says it is ok to love yourself enough to leave an unhappy environment. Divorce is also loving your children fiercely because they do not deserve to be modeled a “bad relationship.” Do not let the past ruin your future by holding on to destructive emotions like guilt, it only hinders you.
You can have real true love in the way you want it if you learn what you were meant to learn from this experience. Raise the bar on yourself and dream big, then go be that awesome version of YOU that deserves it. Release this guilt, it is not serving you but holding you back from being your best truest self.