Why Dumpers Feel Guilty After A Breakup

It can be heartbreaking. Watching someone with whom you shared something so intimate slowly (or near instantly in some cases) transform into a complete stranger. Warmth, compassion and conspiracy are torn away in a gust of brutal indifference, leaving only the barren and swept trail of what-once-was.

But is this new-found cold and distance a real reflection of what is? Or is it something else? Is this behavior an attempt to mask their true feelings and move on, or does all this negativity betray the soft, fragile underbelly of remorse? These are the questions I will attempt to answer during the course of this article, as well as explain why I feel that it does make an unfortunate amount of sense.

Defensiveness Versus Indifference

The dumper is usually stigmatized as a remorseless betrayer of hope. But even if the relationship was an unfulfilling one that featured a great deal more lows than highs, smashing a romantic routine is always inherently traumatic.

They will miss you to some extent, even if these feelings lie below kilometers of emotional ice. In fact, it is often the case that the greater the potential for hurt, the thicker the ice will be. Emotional distance is not necessarily the result of romantic indifference.

Although as far as we (as dumpees) are concerned, they might as well be the same thing, because there’s really no clear-cut way of telling. Still, that doesn’t mean we can’t try does it?

  • A defensive ex will react emotionally (even if it is anger, resentment or spite) to our attempts at tying loose ends.
  • An indifferent ex will usually be nonplussed and placid in the face of our existential plight.
  • A defensive ex may not initiate contact, but will respond swiftly.
  • An indifferent ex may never respond at all, and if they do, the conversation is usually devoid of openings for further conversation.
  • A defensive ex is quick to ask questions.
  • An indifferent ex is quick to give you answers.
  • And on…

There are never any guarantees that any of these signs mean that an ex is either indifferent or defensive. The dividing line is often so manifestly subtle that we can drive ourselves insane attempting to assuage our own insecurity by making sense of it all.

Regardless, now that I hope I’ve made a compelling point regarding the existence of two common “ex archetypes” (the defensive and the indifferent), it’s time to look at how regret and remorse afflict them differently (and what it may mean for us as dumpees).

The Regret Of A Defensive Ex

A defensive ex is, despite the posturing, very much still in thrall of their past. If there was nothing to regret, if there was no cost to moving on, there would be no need to don emotional armor. They would simply wave their new-found flag of freedom and disappear into the future.

The nature of the regret of this kind of ex is usually denoted by the ongoing introspective war between insecurity and resolve:

  • They may genuinely regret separation.
  • They may seriously consider mending fences.
  • They may be insecure about how the breakup is affecting the dumpee, and whether or not the road to reconciliation may still be potentially open (crumbs).
  • They may be torn between their idealization of the relationship, and the promise of their future.
  • They may be wary of being drawn in again, of accepting false promises, or heeding their heart (and not their mind).

The regret of a defensive-minded ex is romantic in nature, and not objective and speculative. However, and it bears repeating, a degree of romantic regret is natural, and does not necessarily indicate a fundamental desire to reconcile.

Insecurity will only last so long before the desire to move on to something more fulfilling will prevail (which is why no contact should not be taken too far — sooner or later stress needs to be released, and clarity becomes more important than enduring anxiety, no matter how much they care).

The Regret Of A Romantically Indifferent Ex

A romantically indifferent ex may still care about you (although not romantically), and thus be plagued by a different kind of guilt entirely. After all, at some point, you did share something special.

Their guilt will be over how they handled the breakup, and remorse over how they made you feel. This is particularly common after a moderate amount of time after the breakup, and not quite as common in the immediacy of the fallout.

Once the emotional dust has settled a romantically indifferent ex may reach out in order to smooth their memories out and let go of residual pain, assuming (usually incorrectly) that the dumpee has healed enough to be able to appreciate the intention.

The problem here is that the dumpee is rarely over it, and may misinterpret the communication as a sign that the indifferent ex is regretting the breakup romantically. And a second round of pain and false expectations usually arises, leading to complete separation.

Do Dumpers Feel Guilty?

While I have separated indifference and defensiveness into two sharply divided categories, feelings are never stuck in stone and can change. There is no greater catalyst for the fluctuation of feelings than a breakup, and so an ex can (and usually will) bounce between both of these behavioral poles.

Which, coincidentally, is another reason I urge dumpees to invest in some limited contact. So that feelings have the time to balance-out, and guilt is no longer a destructive variable for emotional confusion (on all fronts).

3 Comments Why Dumpers Feel Guilty After A Breakup

  1. HI was hoping for advice on my situation. I was with a girl a year and a half. She was a bit needy and was very much in love with me.. She was also very jealous. She would also lie to win arguments and make herself look better. These things made it very hard for me to return her love. I did however love her very much. We split once for a couple of weeks and got back together. We did great and were so in love until she lied again saying my friends were telling her bad things about me to support her arguments. I withdrew, tried to end it and she cried and begged for another chance. We talked about marriage, she was more and more insistent. A week later she brought up whether it was working and i said no. We parted again, a week later we were having very regular sex again and she ended this by saying she had a “sort of date”. Well i ended it when she said that. After a week of no contact she tells me she has important mail for me so i go to get it… it’s just a form i left at her house months earlier. I know she has created this to see me… but when i suggest maybe it’s a sign we should be together in a joking tone she rolls her eyes and walks away. I know anyone reading this will tell me to run for the hills but i really love this girl…. what the heck can i do!

    1. James NelmondoJames Nelmondo

      Hey there, welcome to the site!

      I don’t see why you would want to run for the hills just yet, there seems to be a lot left to be said, and quite frankly (and more to the point) — done.

      There is too much manipulation (forgive the bluntness, and of course I could be wrong). On the one side her insecurity led her create a relationship that was denoted by impulsiveness and emotional drama. There seems to be a game being played here.

      She may well have rolled her eyes and walked off as a result of your tentative and joky tone. Or then again perhaps this spiteful edge is a continuance of some sort of emotional payback. Regardless, in both cases it strikes me as if it was intended to bait a reaction at out of you. A reaction which is not forthcoming. If the emotional smokescreen keep ups, either she will lose interest or give up.

      Similarly, an ex who wanted nothing to do with you would not talk about her dates, and her intention here was to make you second guess taking her affection for granted. This isn’t about being right or wrong, this is about compromising your fulfilment and her insecurity (which is understandably now yours as well) in a way that works. Given the dubious chemistry, the fact that it might never work, despite how you fundamentally are attached to one another, is something which should seriously be considered.

      It isn’t over till its over. But if you want me personal opinion, I would drop the mask and make sure that she knows exactly how you feel. This should also mean, again, in my own personal opinion, backing out of any friends with benefits, giving it a little space, telling her how you feel, and slowing down the process.

      You don’t have to confront her if you don’t want to. Send her a mail. Whatever it takes. Even if the answer is no you will have the benefit of clarity, and she will know that you are available for a serious discussion about reconciliation should she charge her mind.

  2. Regina

    Hi, we broke up a week ago..we’ve been together for five years..he broke up with me because he said that he has a lot of financial and family issues and he cant handle it anymore, he was confused and he said that he didnt his priorities now..he also said that his job is not stable as well and he dont want me to suffer and be hurt if he cannot be able to perform his duties amd responsibilities as my boyfriend..we did had this break up back in 2009 with the same issue but after couple of months we got back together..but i think this time is different, he told me that this is final and there should be no communicatio at all no calls and no texts..i was really hurt because i never see it coming because we never had a huge fight prior the sais break up and there were no any coldness at all..its been a week now since we have broke up and i really dont know what to do..i dont why he keeps on doing this everytime he encounters difficulties with his family issues and financial instability..i should be his strength right?..its just that its so infair that he broke up with me because of his problems and he didnt want my help..money is not an issue for me..please help me..i really dont know what do anymore..thanks

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