How to Forgive Your Partner Who Has Hurt You

Learning to Let Go After Betrayal or Hurt

Forgiveness in marriage

Verywell / JR Bee 

Knowing how to forgive your partner and let go of past hurts is a critical tool in any relationship. Forgiveness is also healthy for you, both emotionally and physically. In fact, forgiving and letting go may be one of the most important ways to keep your relationship going strong.

While some transgressions are so harmful that a relationship can't survive, forgiveness can still play a role in helping you move past the hurt. This article discusses how to forgive your partner who has hurt you and move forward with your life.

Benefits of Knowing How to Forgive Your Partner

Holding onto old hurts, disappointments, petty annoyances, betrayals, insensitivity, and anger wastes both your time and your energy. Nursing your hurt (whether real or perceived) for too long can eventually turn it into hate and bitterness. 

Being unforgiving takes a physical and mental toll. Resentment gains momentum and chips away at the foundation of your well-being and relationship. Instead, share your feelings.

Health experts at Johns Hopkins report that the act of forgiveness can reduce the risk of heart attack, lower cholesterol levels, improve sleep, reduce pain, lower blood pressure, decrease levels of anxiety, depression, and stress, and provide other benefits.

How to Forgive Your Partner

Various techniques can help you foster forgiveness when you have experienced betrayal. The kind of hurt you have suffered can make a difference in which works for you.

Certainly, it is more difficult to forgive someone for years of infidelity than for a minor mistake, such as forgetting to pay a bill. Be patient with yourself as you experiment with different strategies.

  • Be open and receptive to forgiveness.
  • Make a conscious decision to forgive.
  • Think of a calming place or do something else to distract yourself when flashbacks of the betrayal trigger negative thoughts.
  • Refrain from throwing a mistake back in a remorseful partner's face or using it as ammunition in an argument.
  • Accept that you might never know the reason for the hurtful behavior.
  • Refrain from seeking revenge or retribution. Trying to get even will only extend the pain and probably won't make you feel better anyway.
  • Remember that forgiveness does not mean that you condone the hurtful behavior.
  • Be patient with yourself. Forgiveness takes time. Don't hurry the process.
  • Seek professional counseling if you are still unable to forgive or stop dwelling on the hurt.

How to Ask for Forgiveness

If you are the partner who has caused hurt, begin your efforts to rebuild trust by asking for forgiveness. Give yourself and your partner time when working through the process.

  • Show true contrition and remorse for the pain you've caused.
  • Make a commitment to not hurt your partner again by repeating the hurtful behavior.
  • Accept the consequences of the action that created the hurt.
  • Be open to making amends.
  • Make a heartfelt and verbal apology. This should include a plan of action to make things right.
  • Be patient with your partner. Don't dismiss your partner's feelings of betrayal by telling them to "get over it."

How Forgiving Your Partner Affects Your Relationship

Close relationships need forgiveness to thrive. Everyone makes mistakes, and everyone needs to forgive and be forgiven.

This is especially true if the person who hurt you is attempting to make amends and gain forgiveness. It's more difficult if your partner is not remorseful, but you might still find value in offering forgiveness.

No healthy relationship, especially a marriage, can be sustained over a long period of time without forgiveness. But remember: Forgiveness isn't absolution.

Forgiveness is a conscious decision to release feelings of resentment. It's a crucial tool in processing hurt and moving on. Even though you may find forgiveness difficult, it's essential for the long haul.

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When Forgiveness Is Not Enough

If your partner abuses you, continues to betray or lie to you, or makes no real effort to change their behavior, it may be time to split. This kind of behavior calls for serious evaluation.

When your major concerns are not going away despite your efforts to forgive, it may be time to think about separation or divorce.

According to psychiatrist Karen Swartz, MD, forgiveness does not always mean reconciliation. "Having a relationship with someone in the future is about whether they are reliable and dependable and trustworthy," she says. Sometimes, trust is broken in such a way that it's not in your best interest."

In situations involving an extended period of abuse or betrayal that's no longer occurring, forgiveness may take longer, and that's OK. You both must be open to talking about and continuing to process it. This might include seeking guidance from a licensed professional counselor or another mental health professional.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do you forgive someone who has hurt you so deeply?

    Deep hurts can be difficult to forgive. It is essential to acknowledge the harm that was done and recognize the impact it had on you. Allow yourself to feel upset and grieve. Remind yourself that forgiveness can be a way of releasing the hold that act has over you. It does not absolve the other person or suggest that the offense was acceptable; instead, it allows you to move one from the hurt and relinquish the pain that it has caused.

  • How do you heal from a partner who hurt you?

    After a hurt or betrayal, it is important to let yourself acknowledge the pain. Strategies like writing in a journal or talking to a friend can help you release your emotions without slipping into rumination. Focus on caring for yourself and treating yourself with compassion and kindness. In some cases, you may find it helpful to talk to a therapist, either individually or together with your partner.

    Remind yourself that there will be ups and downs on your path toward healing. Things might not be the same again, but you can move forward with strength and resolve.

  • Can you forgive someone who is still hurting you?

    You can forgive someone who continues to hurt you or let you down. An example might be a parent forgiving an adult child who keeps relapsing to addiction. In such cases, creating boundaries, letting go of the need for control, and viewing the other person with compassion can help.

    In cases where a person makes no effort to change despite knowing how badly they are hurting you, it is important to consider the future of the relationship. While you might be able to forgive, that doesn't mean that you need to stay. Ending the relationship can allow you to practice forgiveness, protect yourself from future hurt, and move on in a more positive way.

3 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Toussaint LL, Shields GS, Slavich GM. Forgiveness, Stress, and Health: a 5-Week Dynamic Parallel Process Study. Ann Behav Med. 2016;50(5):727–735. doi:10.1007/s12160-016-9796-6

  2. He Q, Zhong M, Tong W, et al. Forgiveness, Marital Quality, and Marital Stability in the Early Years of Chinese Marriage: An Actor-Partner Interdependence Mediation Model. Front Psychol. 2018;9:1520. Published 2018 Sep 4. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01520

  3. Sandler L. The Healing Power of Forgiveness. Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Additional Reading

By Sheri Stritof
Sheri Stritof has written about marriage and relationships for 20+ years. She's the co-author of The Everything Great Marriage Book.