7 Steps to Forgiving Someone Who Broke Your Heart

You might find it easier to forgive if you change your mindset instead of relying on your feelings. Here’s how forgiveness works best, with inspiration from a painful family estrangement I faced, the book Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff in Love by Richard Carlson, and a sprinkle of the Psalms.

Forgiveness isn’t a feeling; it’s a deliberate choice to change your mindset and let the past sleep. Maybe you need to learn how to forgive your husband after an affair or some other betrayal. Or maybe your task is forgiving yourself for neglecting a loved one. Maybe you’re like I was, and you’re struggling to forgive your parents for childhood neglect or abuse.

When you’re learning how to forgive (and it is a process!) remember that forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting, condoning or excusing the incident. To forgive means to acknowledge the hurt and then let it go. The bonus is that you also become free from the burden of anger and resentment. Here, you’ll learn how changing your mindset leads to forgiveness by helping you think about yourself and your relationship differently.

I’ve had two major struggles with forgiveness in my life, and both were related to family issues. My mom is schizophrenic and my dad left us when I was a little baby; I had to learn how to forgive them for not giving me the care, love, and support I longed for when I was in my twenties. I’m 46 now, and have long ago forgiven my parents.

I also had to forgive my sister. She stopped talking to me 10 years ago, and it was one of the most painful experiences of my life. It was easier to forgive her because I thought it was my fault that she cut me out of her life. I hadn’t done anything wrong or bad to her…her decision was based on her own issues.

Learning how to change my mindset was the biggest, healthiest step I’ve ever taken towards forgiveness. Here’s what I learned…

How to Forgive by Changing Your Mindset

Forgiveness is a daily – even an hourly – choice. It’s about setting aside how you feel, and focusing on where you want to go and what you want to accomplish in your life.

1. Acknowledge the pain and anger you feel

You’ve been hurt, offended, insulted, grieved. Your heart may be broken and you may feel incapable of shaking off the past and moving forward. It’s now time to stop allowing those feelings to overcome you. You need to choose to forgive, make a commitment to filling your mind with thoughts of the present moment instead of feelings from past experiences.

Process your grief by writing, sharing your experience with other women, or expressing yourself creatively. Don’t hold it in. Many women hide their feelings of shame and embarrassment, especially when they’re struggling to forgive someone who betrayed them. Don’t hide! Bring your thoughts and feelings into the light.

If you need support and healing, read Words of Comfort When Your Heart is Broken.

2. Recognize that healing requires you to change how you think

“Life becomes easier when you learn to accept an apology you never got.” – Robert Brault.

Maybe the person who hurt you has to change his behavior – but that is secondary. It doesn’t matter, because you don’t have the power to change him. Do you want to let your happiness, joy, and peace be controlled by someone else? You do have the power to change yourself, and that is what you must focus on.

“Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future,” said Paul Boese. Forgiving doesn’t mean you condone the action; it just means you won’t let the action continue to affect you.

3. Decide that today is the focus of your relationship

How to Forgive Someone for Breaking Your Heart

How to Forgive Someone for Breaking Your Heart

“Making the fresh-start commitment means making the decision to drop all concerns, regrets, and disappointments from your past, as well as all of your expectations regarding the future,” writes Carlson in Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff in Love. “Today becomes the focal point of your relationship. This day becomes more important than past mistakes or future plans.”

Learning how to let go of the past is easier than you think! You CAN be free from the pain of hurt and betrayal – but you have to choose to focus on the present moment. You need to change your mindset from “I wish he didn’t do that” to “I accept that it happened. I didn’t choose it but it’s over now. I am now focused on today.”

4. Experiment with different ways to change your mindset

When I was in university for my first degree, I was consumed with jealousy and bitterness. Other students had parents to help them financially, emotionally, socially, professionally, and academically. My mindset was that I had no family, except for my younger sister who didn’t graduate from high school. Other students had reliable cars, loving family members to visit between semesters. My mindset that I was weird because my mom is schizophrenic and unworthy because I grew up in poverty.

But then I changed. I don’t know exactly what happened – I’d have to go back and read my old diaries to find out! Maybe I read a book, or talked to someone about how to forgive. Somehow I realized that it is what it is. My parents were my parents, for better or worse. My childhood was my childhood. And my negative, bitter mindset was holding me back from creating a fulfilling life and becoming fully myself. We really are our own worst enemies. Not forgiving my parents was just making me feel unwanted and unloved.

5. Learn how forgiveness affects your health

Holding a grudge appears to affect your cardiovascular and nervous systems, according to Learning to Forgive May Improve Well-Being on the Mayo Clinic’s website.

In their study on forgiveness, people who focused on a personal grudge had elevated blood pressure and heart rates, as well as increased muscle tension and feelings of being less in control. When participants were asked to imagine forgiving the person who had hurt them, they said they felt more positive and relaxed and thus, the changes dissipated.

Other studies show that forgiveness protects women from depression and improves well-being. And, research shows that making amends increases your self-forgiveness. So if you’re trying to forgive yourself for, say, having an affair or accidentally harming your pet, forgiveness is more likely if you do something tangible to make up for your behavior.

6. Find new ways of thinking about the person

Your old ways of thinking about him – your old mindset – is causing you pain. So, it’s time to find a new way to think about him. For instance, what was happening in his life when he hurt you?

How to Forgive Someone Who Broke Your HeartI found it much easier to forgive my sister when I changed my mindset. I put myself in her shoes (empathy), and realized that she has experienced painful things in her life, too. She cut me out of her life because it seemed like a good idea to her at the time. It bewildered, confused, and devastated me…but instead of continuing to focus on how she “made” me feel, I chose to believe that she was doing the best she could.

We all learn how to forgive differently. Me, I trust God. I learned through my sister’s estrangement that there may be some reason for the pain I went through. Instead of dwelling on what I wish I had, I choose to focus on the positive aspects of my life right now.

That is how changing my mindset helps me forgive: I know God loves me, wants the best for me, and is protecting me. It wasn’t an accident that I was born into my family. I trust that God know what He is doing, and I let my faith carry me through.

7. Taste the sweet freedom of forgiveness!

O, the joy of freedom! I LOVE the feeling of relief, light-heartedness, peace, love, and power that comes with learning how to forgive. It happened gradually – I practiced changing my mindset or how I thought about my sister and noticed that I felt lighter, happier. Then I went back to dwelling on all the bad things I thought about her. That made me feel heavy, dark, bitter, and unhappy. So guess what? I chose to change my mindset.

And I broke free.

Do you know how much God loves you? He created you; He knows every cell of your body. He wants to bless you with love, freedom, forgiveness, joy and peace. He has so much to offer you…and all you need to do is open your heart and receive His love.

What to Do Next

how to forgive let goLearn how to let go. I wrote How to Let Go of Someone You Love: 3 Powerful Secrets (& 75 Tips!) for Healing Your Heart after my sister stopped talking to me. I needed to learn how to forgive her, how to change my mindset, how to be free. I interviewed counselors, psychologists, and life coaches and put everything I learned into that ebook.

Practice forgiveness by simply noticing your thoughts. When you start dwelling on the past or negative emotions, replace them with the present moment and positive thoughts. You might also want to ask yourself what’s holding you back from making a fresh start. How does it serve you to not forgive? Perhaps unforgiveness is serving you someone, perhaps by allowing you to be a victim, use the past as a tool to wield power in your relationship, or feel superior.

Learn how to forgive yourself by accepting all of you. “If you reject or push away some aspect of yourself, it only gets bigger,” writes Isha Judd. “You have to embrace it – it is a part of you and you cannot deny it forever. Don’t label something as ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’; embrace it with honesty and acceptance.”

While I can’t offer advice, I do read every comment. I encourage you to respond to other readers’ comments if you feel led, and to share your experience of learning how to forgive by changing your mindset. Writing often brings clarity and insight, and can help you process your feelings.

Forgive your past and choose not to fear the future. Bless the gift of today. Blossom.

If you feel all alone in your struggle, read 7 Things to Remember When You Feel Like No One Cares.


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19 thoughts on “7 Steps to Forgiving Someone Who Broke Your Heart”

  1. My first boyfriend abused me physically, mentally, verbally and I was too young to even understand that it wasn’t how I should be treated. I left him only when he cheated on me with my best friend. Second was too ignorant, emotionally unavailable and it took me three years to end it. Third boyfriend came when I was recovering from depression. I had very bad anxiety and a ton of insecurities. I told him I couldn’t date anyone at that time as I wasn’t ready. It was his first relationship. He told me he’d love me anyway and he won’t ever leave me. I was happy after years. I finally had my faith on love restored. I loved him with everything i had. Sidelined my family and career and my health to make it work.
    Within a month or two I was being ignored, manipulated. He was also emotionally unavailable. But i didn’t want to believe that. One day he did something horrible. I felt like I was raped, emotionally and physically and I finally understood what my friends and therapist had been telling me. I still forgave him because ending the relationship wasn’t an option for me. But it grew toxic, we fought a lot. I knew i had to leave him but I couldn’t gather the strength to do so. I started compromising again. I told him we’d make it work. I have my thousand percent to him. I thought we were getting better and one day, he broke up with me out of the blue. He has feelings for me for about three years before we dated. I believed him when he said he won’t leave me. I’m depressed again and more amxious than ever. I can’t find a job. I’m living with my parents. I dropped out of my masters and I have to wait for a year to get admission. I forgave him. But I keep getting mad. He knew how emotionally wrecked I am. And he called me saying that he wants us to be friends. He probably felt lonely. He didn’t care about me. And I was hoping we’d get back but no. He’s an indecisive person but he’s very sure that he doesn’t want me back. I yelled at him yesterday and made a fool out of myself in front of me. He ignored my messages and follows 5 new random girls on Instagram everyday. It breaks my heart. I wanted to stop existing.

    1. It’s just a,phase and you will definitely be out if it….
      Just remember you are,awsome dont let any one stop you from being happy try to be the best version you can of yourself more confident than ever…DONT EVER TRY TO BE CHEAP COZ THERE ARE NANY BUYERS OF CHEAP PRODUCTS!!!RATHER be a rare PRECIOUS STONE WHICH ONLY A BEST A PIOUS ONE CAN AFFORD…..LOVE AND RESPECT YOUR SELF AND SO SHALL THE RESPECT AND LOVE AUTOMATICALLY COME TO YOU…..

  2. I do want to forgive my husband, but every time I tried I kept findings more proof that he actually still in love with his lover. I felt devasted all over again. I need to let go of the pain and the hurt, so I can be happy, and take better care of myself and my kids. I want to forgive, I want to let go, and I want to move on, but I found impossible because my husband spent time with that woman at work 5 days a week. I don’t know what to do. He has lied so many times now. I can’t believe a thing that he said to me. I want to my marriage, but I don’t know how to even began letting go, while my husband works with his affair partner.

    1. What a terrible situation… I hope it all has changed for the better by now! My husband betrayed me emotionally with his ex-girlfriend, she lives 4 hours from where we live, but it has been so hard to move on… Better now though… Hugs to you!

  3. I love your site……..in the past 4 years I have lost a nephew, Son and now my Sis. She passed away Nov 1st, 2017. I met with my niece shortly thereafter and gave her a beautiful cookie jar her Mom, my Sis had given me and I bought her a beautiful plant because I bought myself one and I thought both she and I need a lift before Christmas. I believe she gave both as Christmas gifts and it is hard for me to accept. I should have asked her before I gave them to her if she wanted them but I foolishly just thought she did!! I am very hurt by this and love your site with the ways to leave behind hurt. I just mistakenly thought I needed her and hopefully she needed me but apparently not so. Thanks

  4. The best way to shift your focus from someone is to love something with equal passion. You can’t fully forget someone you loved someone deep but the good news is, you will learn to be stronger and to find happiness within yourself. You just have to go with the flow instead of beating yourself. So, focus on your goals and think there a better person out there for you and someday someone will come into your life for loving you.

  5. I agree, Maria, it is tough to forgive someone who broke your heart! But it really is destructive on our own emotional, spiritual, and physical health to hold on to unforgiveness, bitterness, and pain. And the person who broke our hearts isn’t even aware of the hurt they caused!

    Forgiveness is hard to learn, though. Especially when your heart is broken, your spirit shattered. Especially when you really loved the person.

  6. Well, it’s really tough to forgive someone, we might forgive but the pain still remains. However, we should not let our hearts be full of hatred.

  7. Glad I found this page. It’s really time for me to move on. Ended two years ago. Broke my heart when was with him and the memories and my obsessive thinking about it still is. I’ve really tried to figure out what is wrong with me why I don’t let go long after it’s over. I’m going to keep reading your articles because I want to let this go and be happy.
    Thank you

  8. I am leaving my husband because I am ruining his life. Two of my children have decided I am not worthy to be in their lives nor do they allow me to see my grandchildren. I have a child that I gave up for adoption. I found her only to have that beginning be sabatoged. My youngest sees me as a nuisance. I have no energy to heal any of these relationships.

    1. Sounds like a case of self sabotage. I am guessing addiction is the culprit here. If it is find an AA meeting you will be so surprised. If you are suspecting mental illness quickly see a doctor. But if you don’t think its addiction, try going without the alcohol or drug and if you can’t then there is your answer. We self-sabotage when we don’t think we are worth anything good in our life. Ask your husband if he would like marriage counseling first before you make such a big decision. Most importantly pray, it opens you up to Gods help. You will find an answer.

  9. I have a boyfriend who is always cheating on me, and it breaks my heart. We sit down and discuss it but it still continues. I’m hurt every time I visit, I know I’m going to be stressed. What can I do if things are like this.

  10. Laurie,
    I agree that forgiveness is a choice and that it’s not about feeling. But I don’t agree that you can choose to let go of the feelings of hurt; you can only ignore them–until triggered again and then you can’t. Complete forgiveness can only come through neutralizing the hurt. You can do that with an appropriate emotion-based psychotherapy.
    Dina Noricks

    1. Melinda Whittemore

      Dina I agree, after my husband’s affair-we reconciled and I have forgiven him, yet I still feel the pain daily. Simple things like the name of the town the affair started in. Music, and movies about infidelity. Not sure what to do with these emotions. I am driving him crazy by asking questions and reliving the events over and over again. If anyone knows of any group therapy or any resources that can help me with the hurt and pain. Forgiveness is not always the issue. My heart still aches. We are in counseling at our church which is faith based. Any advice would be appropriate.

      1. This is how I feel as well. The triggers are everywhere! A song about a woman with blonde hair, triggered. A prepaid cell phone advertisement, triggered. It goes on and on. Not to mention complete and total loss of trust! He has done EVERYTHING he can to earn my trust. A complete open book. 100% compliant with my outrageous requests. What gets me are the lies. The small repeat offenses with lies. The what if he’s still lying about this or that. He’s come clean. But what if “that’s not all”. It’s been 2 1/2 years since the betrayal. 1 year since he last spoke to her.

  11. Reading this article today was perfect timing. I’ve been struggling with my feelings towards my ex whom I recently broke up with and I very much want to move forward without so much anger and resentment. It can be exhausting and I’m ready to be done. Thank you for your always insightful articles and point of view. ❤️

  12. What happened to you, Jo? Sometimes writing about your experience helps you heal, because it gives you time to process your thoughts and feelings.

    You might also think about what type of help you need…are you looking for help learning how to forgive someone, or do you need to reach out to your friends and family members? It’s important for you to get clear on what you need and how you can get it, because you know yourself best. Writing can help you figure this out…