How to move on when someone won’t forgive you: 13 effective steps

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Humans are inherently flawed as individuals.

Through the course of establishing several relationships with other people, we will inevitably make mistakes.

While apologies are mandated when you hurt the other person, forgiveness is not always granted.

Have you ever found yourself in such a situation where you let your emotions dictate your actions and ended up hurting your best friend or partner?

It can be detrimental to your mental health when your mistakes are not forgiven.

At times like these, people end up in a downward spiral and end up captive to their own self-loathing and self-destructive guilt.

Here are 13 steps that you can take to make yourself feel whole again and help yourself move on from someone who won’t forgive you:

1) Empower yourself by developing new interests, hobbies, or skills

It doesn’t help the situation or your relationship by remaining in the same state you were in when the rift happened between the two of you.

Oftentimes, the hurt we cause to people we care about is a manifestation of our own insecurities and deficiencies.

Utilizing the space and time to empower yourself is a good place to start the process of moving on from them.

This is especially true in situations where they are hell-bent on not forgiving you.

It might help your case if they can see that you are willing to commit to growth and development.

Growth can come in many forms such as picking up a new skill, hobby, interest, passion, or even starting to work on a project that you have procrastinated on for a long time.

At the very least, by plunging yourself into working on something productive, you at least divert your time away from falling prey to the self-loathing cycle of thoughts.

2) Unburden yourself of your past mistakes by focussing on the present

As we journey through the corridor of life, we observe a pattern of people walking in through one door and disappearing through another.

We might have lost the opportunity to make meaningful connections and cherish precious moments with these people before even realizing their existence.

Holding on to something that is weighing your heart down and preventing you from moving forward will inadvertently deprive you of the chance to prove that you can be better.

More importantly, by reliving every argument and mistake you made, you are missing out on the most invaluable period of your life – the present.

How many times have you looked back and seen the plethora of doors you didn’t even attempt to open?

This is your chance to break that cycle by unburdening yourself of the past and prioritize focusing on the present.

3) Try to repair the burnt bridge after giving them some space

It’s possible that you aren’t ready to give up on the special bond you once had with this person.

You can (and should) try to mend the broken bridge by extending a warm hand across the chasm.

However, this is a critical step that will require a great deal of patience from both sides.

After all:

If they won’t forgive you no matter how hard you try, then you’re only option is to give them space.

Let them live their life, don’t pressure them to forgive you, and eventually, they might come around.

Sometimes your heart needs more time to accept what your mind already knows.

The more time you give them to cool down, the better chance they’ll be able to forgive and forget.

4) Have honest, open-minded conversations after some time has passed

Knowing how to have the conversation is just as important as understanding when to have the conversation.

The only way you can begin to make amends is by having an honest, open-minded heart-to-heart with them.

Be truthful to the events that transpired and make a genuine attempt to understand how they feel/felt because of your actions.

It’s good to start with a sincere apology in an empathetic way that will make them see that you really are sorry for what you did.

The most important aspect of this conversation should be to stay away from being defensive or critical of them.

You don’t want to start an argument and make things worse.

Conduct the conversation in a non-judgmental fashion and let them know that you’re sorry and you’re also willing to listen to them.

Remember, you can’t expect forgiveness if you don’t make yourself vulnerable enough to apologize without any ifs or buts.

5) Analyze your actions and keep yourself accountable for your actions

While learning to move on is a long and important process, it’s also imperative for you to take a deep dive into the thing that led to the fracturing of the relationship.

The space between your two ears is the place where you can be critical about yourself without the outside world spectating.

Acknowledging, assessing, and analyzing your mistakes doesn’t mean hating yourself or going into a perpetual state of feeling guilty.

On the contrary, holding yourself accountable for your shortcomings and transgressions will give you the lessons that you need to ensure that you don’t repeat them again in your life.

This can be as simple as taking a hard look in the mirror and understanding the person you were to them.

If you truly wish to move on, you must first be willing to admit to yourself that what you did was wrong without justifying it.

6) Take a break and go on a trip to clear your mind

Real-life interactions and relationships are not always white or black.

They exist in a grey area filled with ambiguity.

Any argument, misunderstanding, or spat between two individuals is bound to trigger emotions that will muddle your thoughts.

When both of you are blinded by emotions, there is no hope for a productive conversation.

One way to take your mind off the problem is to take a mental health break.

Go on a trip over the weekend to help you rejuvenate yourself. Reflect, soul-search, and enjoy your own company.

Remember that you are hurting as well.

Approaching the situation after gaining a new perspective and outlook on life will put the both of you in the best position to work on reaching an understanding.

Even if they do not forgive you, you can at least ensure that you get the clarity you need to help you get to where you want to be in life.

7) Understand when to let go and move on

In the famous words of Steve Harvey, “Every person’s loyalty towards a relationship has an expiry date”.

Holding onto a connection that is weighing on your heart and pulling you down will only be toxic to your mental health.

If they can’t trust you to not make the same mistakes, then that lack of trust will only haunt you for the remainder of the relationship.

Once you have exhausted all your options at making peace with this person, you need to understand that some things can’t be repaired and know that it’s time to let go.

Moving on from something that is draining your emotional energy is the healthy option.

8) Learn to accept that sometimes forgiveness will not be granted

One common misconception that people have is that they believe that forgiveness should be granted as soon as they make a sincere apology.

This notion is quite false as the road to forgiveness is a long one that requires patience and trust.

It’s important to understand that apologizing is your responsibility while choosing to forgive is their right.

You have to come to terms with the fact that they are not obligated to forgive you.

While they might forgive you after a few days or weeks, the possibility of never forgiving you also exists.

The best way to move forward from this situation is to make sure you make an apology without expecting forgiveness and be patient by giving them time to process it.

At the end of the day, it’s their prerogative to forgive or not, but you can feel better knowing that you held yourself accountable.

9) Put yourself in the other person’s shoes

Empathy and understanding are key to rebuilding any relationship.

Instead of wallowing in self-hatred, a healthy way to process the situation is to remove your perspective from the equation by putting yourself in the other person’s shoes.

Ask yourself questions like:

“Would I forgive them if they did this to me?”
“How would I feel if someone did this to me?”
“What would I want if I were them?”

This will give you the insight you need to know how they feel and what you need to do to make reconciliation a possibility.

This knowledge will also prevent you from walking down the same roads again.

10) Reinvent yourself to ensure you don’t repeat your past mistakes

Once you have a sound understanding of where you made the mistake and are aware of the precursory incidents that lead up to that moment, it’s now your responsibility to reinvent yourself.

It is irrelevant whether they choose to forgive you or not in this context.

You need to stop being the person that hurt them and learn from your mistakes.

To err is human, but it’s not okay to make the same mistakes repeatedly.

Take your lessons from the relationship and use them to make yourself a better person.

11) Stop beating yourself up and forgive yourself

Yes, it’s quite possibly all your fault.

But, keeping yourself accountable doesn’t equate to repeatedly kicking yourself over and over again.

Ruminating about the incident will adversely affect your mental health, physical health, and sleep.

You need to step up and take responsibility for your actions but should also ensure that you are being kind to yourself.

After all, if you can’t forgive yourself how can you expect them to forgive you.

12) Focus on the future ahead of your by investing in yourself

Once you are ready to move on, you do not need to be captive to the past.

Take the time and invest it in your mental health.

You can also work towards your career so that you can emerge as a person who feels whole inside.

Learn that sometimes life doesn’t go the way you want it, but you should be proud of yourself for striving to constantly correct your imperfections.

13) Meet new people with a fresh face and fresh attitude

Oftentimes, moving on requires a certain stimulus from our environment.

By remaining stagnant with the same group of people in the same locations, memories of the past can resurface and spoil your mood.

The best way to work around this is to face every day with a smile and reiterate to yourself that you are going to be a better person.

Be bold, confident, and meet new people with the fresh attitude that you have invented within yourself.


Having fruitful and pleasant conversations with other people will prove to yourself that you aren’t the same person who wronged the other individual anymore.

And that is the secret to feeling happy and whole when they won’t forgive you.

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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