How To Cope With Guilt When You Hurt Someone In A Relationship

Medically reviewed by Laura Angers Maddox, NCC, LPC
Updated April 3, 2024by Regain Editorial Team
Content warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that could be triggering to the reader. Please see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

Everyone makes mistakes in life, but it isn't always easy to live with yourself when you know that you hurt someone deeply. You might have hurt someone that you were in a relationship with due to making some bad choices. Maybe you cheated on your partner and need to know how to apologize to your boyfriend or girlfriend. You might have even mistreated your significant other in some way, coping with shame in return. Feeling guilty about what you have done means that you want to be able to make amends.

Whether or not you can reconcile with your partner after having hurt them remains to be seen. That decision is going to be theirs to make. All you can truly do is try to show them that your remorse is genuine. In the meantime, you might be concerned about how to cope with the guilt that is eating away at you. Look at the following ways to handle the guilty feelings that you have.

Guilt can weigh heavily on us when we cause pain

Sincerely apologize

If you know that you have hurt someone that you love, then you need to apologize. This might seem obvious, but some people don't take the time to apologize for their actions in a sincere way. Depending on what you did to hurt your partner, he or she might not be speaking to you. It might take some time to be able to apologize to your partner properly, but you should attempt to do so when they're ready to listen to what you have to say.

When you have made a big mistake in a relationship, it can take time for your partner to come around. If they have been truly hurt by something that you did, then your guilty feelings are justified. You know that you did something that was wrong and you want to make amends. It just isn't always as easy as saying that you're sorry and having things go back to normal.

Understand that you need to be truly sorry for what has occurred. An insincere apology is something that your partner is likely to see right through. The goal of your apology shouldn't be to try to make yourself feel better. You should want to show that you're remorseful because you truly do regret your actions. No one likes feeling guilty, and hopefully, your partner will be able to forgive you.

Even people who have cheated on their partners are sometimes able to find forgiveness. What will happen in your situation depends on what your partner decides to do. Just accept responsibility for the things that you have done and do your best to show your significant other that you do feel remorse. This is the first big step toward coping with the guilt that you're experiencing.


Recognize that you can't change what has already happened

It's also true that you can't go back in time to change what has already happened. You likely regret having hurt someone in a relationship. No one wants to make someone that they care about feel sad or wounded in any way. There's a good chance that you would take back what has happened if you could. This isn't a possibility, so you must move forward.

Since you can't change what has occurred, you simply have to commit to doing better in the future. Being able to recognize your flaws and your mistakes is an important part of growing as a person. Everyone screws up sometimes, and it's important to own your actions. Your caused someone that you care about emotional pain and you want to keep that from happening again. If you do your best to reflect on what went wrong, then you might be able to do things differently next time.

Being able to avoid the same pitfalls that you fell into before is crucial. Try to think about what happened even if it does make you feel more guilty. Coping with your guilt is important, but so is avoiding making the same mistake twice. You can do better as a person, and you will be able to hold your head high once more.

Remember that actions speak louder than words

Your apology to your partner might mean a great deal to them. However, it's still important to understand that actions will always speak louder than words. You can apologize as many times as you want to, but it won't mean anything if your actions aren't backing up what you have been saying. If you want to save your relationship and truly overcome your guilty feelings, then you must make sure that you do the right things moving forward.

If you hurt your significant other due to treating them poorly, then you must make an effort to start treating them with respect. Your actions can make a difference, and working on your issues will allow you to cope with the guilt that you're feeling, too. There are many steps that you can take to show that you're improving yourself.

Work on improving yourself

Working on improving yourself is another positive way to process the guilt that you're feeling. You can't take back your actions, but you can try to do better. Working on improving certain aspects of your character will go a long way toward redeeming yourself. If you're trying to save your relationship after having hurt your partner, then you'll want to work on things to make it up to them.

For some people, this will involve working on big problems such as anger issues. If you have an anger problem and wound up hurting your significant other due to an angry outburst, then you need to work on anger management techniques. Going to anger management therapy might be a necessary step for you to develop into a healthier person. Many different therapy offices will offer anger management help, and you can also get help online.

Other ways that you can focus on improving yourself include working on your communication skills, learning to be more empathetic toward others, and coming to terms with the fact that people are imperfect. You're going to make mistakes, and you might even have to stumble a bit before you're able to make amends with your partner truly. What matters is to have a sincere desire to change. If you want to do better and be a better person, then you'll be able to make progress.

Don't focus entirely on the negative

Feeling guilty is a normal response when you know that you have done something wrong. Even so, you shouldn't spend the entirety of the rest of your life feeling bad. It's important to be able to forgive yourself for hurting someone and be able to move on. As mentioned above, you should do what you can to make amends to show your partner that you care. Even if you aren't dating this person any longer, it can be therapeutic for both of you to have some closure.

Once you have apologized and committed to recognizing your mistakes, you're going to need to stop focusing on the negative aspects of what happened so much and stop feeling guilty. If you continue to dwell on the bad thing that you did, then you're just going to get depressed. Feeling depressed or anxious over what has happened won't help you to grow from this experience. Being able to face what has happened while still being able to move forward is going to take strength.

Try your best to focus on other aspects of your life. Talk about what happened with other people in your life if you need to vent or get advice. After you've said what you need to say, you should try to focus your attention elsewhere. Pour energy into succeeding at work and spend more time working on the hobbies that you're passionate about. Life is too short to let guilt consume you, so do your best to move on while still owning your actions.

Getty/Vadym Pastukh
Guilt can weigh heavily on us when we cause pain

Consider couples therapy

Online couples therapy is a fantastic way for people to get the help that they need. Even couples who have gone through significant struggles have been able to receive the proper help when turning to the most dedicated online therapists. These licensed professionals understand how to help you work on your issues so that you can move forward together. If you can commit to working with the right therapists, then your relationship will be able to improve.

The guilt that you're feeling inside is a sign that you want to be able to make amends. If your partner is willing to take your hand and work toward a future together, then the online therapists would be happy to help you make that happen. It will take some time, but you will be able to learn how to communicate more effectively. This will allow you to avoid having the same problems in the future. You'll be able to have a much healthier relationship, and the online counselors will be there to guide you every step of the way.

Signing up for online therapy is generally effective, and you will even be able to get help whenever you want to. You don't have to worry about adhering to strict office hours. It's the convenient therapy solution that will work for any couple that needs assistance. Take the time to contact an online counselor now if you want to work on your relationship issues.


It is understandable to feel strong emotions of guilt or shame as you come to terms with the reality that you have hurt someone's feelings or let them down. There are several things you can do to try to process your guilt, make amends, or learn from previous harmful behaviors. A licensed online therapist will work with you nonjudgmentally to help you reach your relationship goals.

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