Feeling Guilty After Leaving A Toxic Relationship

Feeling Guilty After Leaving A Toxic Relationship feeling guilty after leaving a toxic relationship
Photo by Jacqueline Day on Unsplash

Leaving any kind of relationship is not easy, especially when you have a genuine emotional connection and concerns about your partner’s well-being. Even though a toxic relationship is one-sided, the victim will still care about their abusive partner, even when their partner is not reciprocating or showing any intention of treating them well.

It’s an unbalanced relationship where the giver keeps giving, and the taker rarely reciprocates or even cares about what the other person is doing. Another thing about this kind of relationship is that the prospect of leaving is scarier and more guilt-inducing than staying in that abusive relationship. In fact, when someone leaves the relationship, they feel guiltier than when they were in the relationship.


Guilt can be defined as the feeling of responsibility or regret for a perceived offense (real or imaginary). Guilt is a normal feeling in our daily lives, especially when we feel we’ve genuinely done something that goes against our core values.

It is even a great compass to use when correcting some of our undesirable behaviors. However, when it comes to toxic relationships, you will find yourself feeling very guilty for something you didn’t even do or for something you don’t even stand for.

For example, in a narcissistic relationship, a narcissist may ask you to do something that goes against what you stand for (e.g., forging some documents for them), and when you say no, they start playing victim on how you don’t care about them. You will, of course, feel bad and even regret not doing what they requested, even if it goes against your boundaries or core values. Now, that’s how guilt works when dealing with a manipulative person; you feel guilty yet you did nothing wrong.

Another thing is that when a victim of narcissistic abuse thinks about leaving the relationship, some of the intrusive thoughts that will linger in the back of their minds are “What if I’ve done something wrong?” and “What if I am making the wrong decision?” These guilt-induced thoughts will even make someone stay in that relationship longer. In this article, I am going to shed some light on why someone experiences these deep feelings of guilt, especially when they’re attempting to leave a narcissist.

So, why do you feel so guilty after leaving someone who mistreated you?

  1. Toxic Relationship Cycle

One of the most common survival responses when someone stays in a toxic relationship is constantly trying to make their partner happy. A narcissist is someone who will never be satisfied and will do anything to meet their selfish needs. Being in that relationship, you’ve always persevered and even sacrificed your own needs so that you can make them happy.

You feel that you may have achieved this goal of making them happy in the early stages of the relationship, as that’s the point they treated you so well. So, when you think about the grooming phase of the relationship where everything was superb and compare it to how the relationship is presently, you’ll have this feeling that you might have done something wrong that made them change.

It’s more of feeling responsible for their changed behavior as you cannot come to terms with the fact that what was happening in the early stages of the relationship was them putting on a mask just to get you hooked.

What reinforces these feelings of guilt is that you will zero in on some of your undesirable behaviors or actions in that relationship that made them angry or upset.


You may find yourself having deep regret because you’ve concluded that some of the things you’ve done in the relationship may have made them change.

One of the hardest things to comprehend is how someone who was so nice in the beginning can turn out to be so hurtful. That’s why feelings of guilt in a narcissistic relationship cut deeper as things escalated from a heavenly place to a very ugly and hellish situation.

You will carry this thought and feeling that there must be something you could have done to change the outcome of the relationship. Without understanding that narcissists are experts at “raising the bar” of expectations way above what you can reasonably achieve and you were always primed to fall short, the guilt will eat you from the inside.

2. You’ve been Manipulated to feel so

A narcissistic relationship is a place where you’re constantly called out, gaslighted, and verbally abused in all kinds of ways. A narcissistic person will always plant this seed in your head that their actions and behaviors are a result of what you did. They will project their failures and their shortcomings in life onto something that you’ve done or something you did in the past. They will never take ownership of what’s going on in their lives. In the course of the relationship, they may say things like:

· “I work so hard to pay all the bills. The least you could do is…”

· “You really don’t love me. If you did…”

· “You’re never grateful after all those things I’ve done for you.”

This kind of consistent manipulation will program you to believe what they say as the truth and even distort your sense of reality. So, the guilt you’re feeling is because you’ve lost touch with your authentic self, and you’ve even accepted their lies as truth. They’ve also manipulated you to the point that you believe it’s your job to make them happy, and when they’re not, it means that you’ve done something wrong. When you cannot differentiate what’s right from wrong, you will feel very guilty when you even think of or do something which serves you (like leaving the relationship).

3. Conditioning & Societal Expectations

Our society does have a role to play when it comes to fueling those feelings of guilt. The society expects us to stick to our families or to our relationships until the end, even if the marriage is hurtful. Some norms do not condone things like divorce, and if you do it, you’re doing something wrong.

That’s how the matrix has been designed, and the moment you try breaking out of it and say, like, end the relationship, you will feel that a finger is pointed at you as the one who’s fully responsible for what happened in the relationship.

You will feel that as a wife/husband, you should have done more and just stuck to that abusive relationship, like everyone else. So, leaving that toxic relationship does not meet those unrealistic expectations the society sets for us, and this will make you feel so guilty.

You may also feel that you’re letting your family or your kids down by leaving that relationship. Guilt will even force you to stay in that relationship so that it can look like you’re doing something good from the eyes of the society.

So how do you deal with feelings of guilt after leaving a toxic relationship?

The best thing to do is to understand there’s nothing humanly possible that you could have done to save that relationship. You cannot save a relationship where someone uses you for their own needs and sees no fault in their actions. The huge part of guilt you’re having is you feeling responsible for someone else’s actions.

It’s more of you taking ownership of something that’s not within your control. Also, understanding how narcissistic relationships work will at least lessen that painful feeling of guilt, as you will realize that what they’re revealing now is just their true colors.

It is, of course, painful to accept that all those beautiful things they did to you at the beginning of the relationship were just them laying a foundation for their abuse, but look at leaving the relationship as a new beginning away from that nightmare. Be gentle on yourself and always know that you deserve a better life.

Note from the Author

If you’re ready and you’d like my help with healing, finding peace in life and breaking free from these toxic patterns (in less than 2 months) , then you can book a FREE BREAKTHROUGH CALL with me HERE. Happy healing 💙💙. Feel free to share and comment! Use this information with caution, it comes from my own thoughts & bias, experiences and research😊.

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Edwin Bii
Edwin Bii

I'm Edwin Bii, a trained advanced conversational hypnotherapist (ACH) and Mind Shifting Coach from Kenya offering mental health support, and life coaching to help you crush your goalsand overcome your problems. Together, we'll navigate challenges, build self-awareness, and create a happier, healthier you. Let's unlock your potential.

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