We may live in guilt for what we did or did not do while still married.
We might think we could have tried harder to salvage the marriage or feel guilt over not putting it out of its misery earlier.
Let the feeling of guilt be a wakeup call that something needs to be changed and use it as an indicator to embark on another course of action. One cannot go back into the past like Dr Who, so being stuck in guilt is a blockade to having a fulfilling life now.
One young man is an example of this and feels guilty that he did not try harder and undergo marital counselling before calling it quits.
Guilt is holding him back from committing to his new partner.
On a positive note, guilt is pushing him into having a strong relationship with his former spouse as a co-parent. His two children are reaping the benefits of having two parents on the same team.
Sometimes guilt is dumped upon someone although it is their choice whether or not to accept it. Several women said their husbands married them mainly for their looks. After a baby or two, they gained weight and a few wrinkles. At first they felt guilty when spouses insinuated that they were breaking a deal (to look good). After their divorces, they are comfortable with their bodies and increased their self-esteem.
During my hypnotherapy training, our New Age instructor said that the Catholics got it right regarding guilt. They make mistakes (sins), report them (confess) and do reparations (say a Hail Mary or two). They wipe the slate clean and go on their way.
He challenged us to come up with our own rituals to banish guilt.
First acknowledge its presence and determine what it is telling us. Perhaps we are chronically snapping at the kids or have been ignoring elderly family members. Make amends. Apologize to the youngsters and explain that you are feeling overwhelmed. Then add some fun activities into your schedule with them. Visit or at least call relatives who may be feeling left out of your busy life.
Whatever is troubling you, face it, deal with it and move on.
The secret is not to wallow in guilt but view it as a messenger to approach life or people in a different way. Someone may be punishing themselves over guilt when other people did not feel that they were mistreated at all. We can be hard on ourselves and our worst enemy.
One friend felt guilty that she did not spend more time with her mother before her death from breast cancer. She was caught up in her wedding plans which her mother understood, and was fine with the situation. My friend was able to let go of this guilt by becoming a mostly stay-at-home mum, cherishing family togetherness.
If you have chronic guilt, consider discussing this with someone. When I am on a guilt trip, my friends set me straight and I readjust my outlook. Guilt keeps one partly living in the past, so apologize, make extra donations to charity, anything to release guilt and move on.
Wendi Schuller is a nurse, hypnotherapist and is certified in Neuro-linguistic Programing (NLP).
Her most recent book is The Global Guide to Divorce and she has over 200 published articles.
She is a guest on radio programs in the US and UK. Her website is globalguidetodivorce.com.