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Put a Stop to Guilt

Updated on October 25, 2012
Guilt can turn a vibrant existence into a drearly, lonely lifestyle.
Guilt can turn a vibrant existence into a drearly, lonely lifestyle. | Source

The Psychology of Guilt in Relationships

When guilt is present in a relationship, it creates unintentional damage that's hard to repair. How do you know if it's an influence in your love life? You either already have a gut feeling or you're feeling a little crazy because you can't make sense of the arguments that keep cropping up. It's necessary to stop guilt and blame before full healing can take place, but it's a lot easier to say that than it is to do it!

Whether you're the guilty party or you suspect your partner is, you'll find tips about how to cope with and eliminate guilt from your life. However, a word of caution is necessary: You won't necessarily like what you read. If you're looking for something to help you feel better right away, you probably won't find it on this page. In fact, what you discover here could open a big ol' bag of sour gummy worms.

But if you're ready to swallow the distasteful reality of what's behind those crazy arguments, keep reading.

We'll start with this video about guilt - how it develops, what is "healthy" guilt and the kind that's destructive, and then we'll look at its role in romantic relationships.

Have You Been Wrongfully Accused?

Has your partner accused you of doing something that you knew you hadn't done?

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Signs of Guilt

Some signs of guilt can be due to other causes. I'll do my best to highlight the difference, but it may take some trial and error to ferret out the root cause of problems you're experiencing. Guilt may contribute to some of the problems, but in most cases, there are other factors at work, too, like a need for control or psychological issues including depression or anxiety. As if that's not complicated enough, those same psychological problems can be caused or exacerbated by guilty feelings!

Having said all that, here are the most obvious signs of guilt:

  • Unfounded accusations
  • Lack of trust
  • Conflicting messages

Let's take a look at each one in turn...

Have you ever been the guilty party?

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"He's So Suspicious of Me!"

When your husband, wife, or other relationship partner makes accusations that make no sense to you, take heed. They may be signalling their own bad behavior! It's natural to think, "I don't have any proof" and ignore those red flags, but you can opt for a better approach.

Adopt the mantra "Trust, but verify." Be alert to how often unfounded accusations. Ask yourself if there is even one thing that gives you reason to wonder whether they might be guilty of the accusations they're flinging. Ignore that voice in your head that says you're being mean. You aren't. You're simply checking out all the possibilities for unexplained problems.

If You Have Done Your Guy or Girl Wrong

If you are the guilty party, be aware that when you're throwing suspicions onto your partner, you're probably seeing zebras in a field that only contains horses. In other words, you're letting your own guilt cloud your perceptions and judgment.

If you have cheated, lied, or betrayed your partner... If you still have feelings for an old flame or have been on Internet chats you can't discuss with your loved one, then recognize that there is a good chance you're subconsciously trying to make yourself feel "more" and "better" by making your partner seem like "less."

Either stop your hurtful behaviors or recognize that you're not committed enough and leave. You'll be doing both of you a favor!

Guilt is a useless emotion. It doesn't prompt change and it only does damage. If you feel guilty about something, let remorse take it over and promote changes that will allow healing.

Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You
Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You

Great guide for stopping the way guilt affects your life and relationships.


How Guilt Destroys Relationships

Take a moment to remember a time when you felt deeply loved by your partner or someone else. You probably can recall that you'd made a mistake and heard, "That's ok," or "We'll get through this." On the other hand, think about how it feels when they are angered by something you did. Do your muscles tighten up? Do you feel like you're being treated unfairly? What effect does that have on how you feel about that person when it is happening?

The short answer is that it causes negative feelings. Over time, negative feelings might be set aside, but if they continue to happen, our feelings of love for someone can change dramatically. We may feel mistrust, fear, or anxiety, and these emotions erode the positive regard we once had for them.

Earlier I mentioned that one way to cope with another person's unfair accusations is "Trust, but verify." If you're the one being falsely accused of wrongdoing, instead of responding with defensiveness or saying "Methinks thou does protest too loudly" (I'm pretty sure I've butchered Shakespeare's words there!) you can adopt this approach to prevent unnecessary damage to your relationship.

When your partner claims you've flirted or thinks you're cheating on them, when you know you've done nothing to justify the accusation, recognize it as a red flag and put yourself on alert. Consider how and whom might have compelled them to do whatever it is they're accusing you of doing.

Time Apart

Does your partner have chunks of time that they're apart from you with other friends? It may be on their way home from work, or they may have said they're working longer than they did. It could be that they say they're with family but you haven't heard about it from other family members.

Questionable Acquaintances

Whether the person is a complete stranger to you or a close friend, if you know someone who is fun and flirty around your partner, or who shows them more than an average amount of support in some way, it could be for reasons other than just being nice. They may treat you differently, or be withdrawn when you're present. Perhaps they even dislike you. Whatever it is, you probably already feel a little awkward or self-conscious about the person - assuming you get along with them at all.

What to Do

Instead of arguing about how your partner spends time or who they associate with, make it your plan to actively engage with your partner. Be spontaneous and surprise her at work with a gift. Swing by to invite him to dinner. Go out of your way to befriend the suspicious party. Put a "find my phone" ap on your cell phones. Talk to the people he or she spends time with and ask open questions like, "What'd you guys do last Thursday?" Be aware of confusing information.

You probably won't get absolute confirmation if your partner has had an affair. Many cheaters are good liars and so are their friends. However, once you have enough information to satisfy yourself that your partner's loyalty is not to your relationship, you can focus on that. Without making unproven accusations, you can approach your partner with the idea that you believe your relationship is suffering and you want to change it. Tell him or her that you don't want a marriage that is not rewarding and supportive, and that in order for it to be good, each of you must make it the number one priority in your lives. Don't let this be a constant argument, though. If your partner won't agree, or if they claim they will but continue not to, consider whether it may be time to leave. Their actions will show you how much they do or don't value you. All the talking in the world won't change it.


To have a great relationship, be a great partner. Don't heap blame and unloving behaviors on your guy or gal, but don't accept such behaviors, either. If you suspect that your partner's guilty of wrongdoing, focus on what you can see instead of arguing about what you can't validate. Get the validation if you can, but be prepared to move on if their behaviors are unacceptable.

Do this because you deserve to have a loving, supportive relationship and so does your partner - but you may not be able to do that for each other.


Submit a Comment

  • jellygator profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from USA

    Thank you very much, Midget38!

  • midget38 profile image

    Michelle Liew 

    6 years ago from Singapore

    I agree completely, Jellygator. Sometimes we project our guilt onto others when we make accusations, true of all relationships. Thanks for sharing this! I share too.


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