How To Forgive Someone Who Broke Your Trust & Move On

From marital and personal to social and professional relationships, we thrive because we have each other’s back. That is trust.

Trust is fragile, easily broken by little mistakes or misunderstandings. Once broken, forgiveness is a difficult journey that may not end in the rebuilding of lost trust.

Trust has been a human need since prehistoric times, vital for survival and community-building.

Why do we need trust today since our modern societies are safe? Can’t we have relationships without risking the potential hurt of broken trust?

As we’re entering a rapidly evolving world, with AI increasingly replacing human roles, can’t we do away with trust?

Let’s dive into the delicate dance of trust and forgiveness in the today’s age.

What is trust?

Trust is defined as the “confidence that one will find what is desired from another, rather than what is feared” (Deutsch, 1973). Most researchers think trust is a state or attitude that can change depending on circumstances and people.

    How to forgive someone who broke your trust

    How to forgive someone who broke your trust?

    What if the person who broke your trust was someone you loved and trusted with your whole heart? How do you forgive them for betraying that trust?

    Forgiving someone who breaks your trust is always hard, but here are the steps to do it:

    1. Understand what forgiveness means.

    Most of us think forgiveness is about the other person. It is not.

    Forgiveness is primarily about letting go of your pain, your anger, and your grudges.

    You no longer want to waste your time thinking about them or their acts. You decide to stop wanting to punish the person because it is like grasping a burning coal, waiting to throw it at the betrayer.

    forgive instead of holding on to anger

    When you forgive, you throw them out of your mind, replace your anger with positive emotions, and get busy doing things that make you happy.

    Forgiveness is not about forgetting or making up with the person who hurt you. It’s a personal journey to let go of negative feelings like anger. This journey needs time, patience, and understanding.

    When you forgive, you free yourself from the weight of grudges. This can bring you peace.

    Forgive them in your mind, without telling the offender or anyone else that you forgave them. This way, you don’t have to worry that your forgiveness will unburden them of their guilt or shame.

    Your forgiveness is for you, so find ways to forgive them.

    Even if what they did was too bad, forgive them because you deserve forgiveness.

    2. Sit with your hurt feelings.

    The next step in the forgiveness process is acknowledging the difficult emotions resulting from the betrayal of trust.

    Do not try to push your hurt feelings way, or avoid feeling them, or numb yourself with abuive substances.

    The truth is what happened was wrong and it hurt you deeply. Now you have to process those emotions that resulted from it.

    You have to sit with them, label those emotions, and let them wash over you.

    The phrase “sit with your difficult emotions” means to allow yourself to experience your emotions without judgment or resistance. When we are faced with difficult emotions, it is natural to want to avoid them or push them away.

    Sitting with our emotions can actually make them stronger, but allows us to learn to accept them and move on.

    Here are a few tips on how to sit with your difficult emotions:

    1. Find a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted.
    2. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
    3. Pay attention to the physical sensations in your body. Where do you feel the emotion in your body?
    4. Name the emotion. What emotion are you feeling?
    5. Allow yourself to feel the emotion. Don’t try to push it away or judge it. Just let it be.
    6. When you are ready, open your eyes and continue with your day.

    You could also talk to someone you trust to process your emotions with their support and understanding.

    You could write about your feelings to express your emotions. Called expressive writing therapy, it can also help you to make a better sense of what happened.

    3. Be flexible and willing to listen.

    This is important when they are genuinely sorry and asking for your forgiveness:

    Be willing to listen to them and be flexible in your next steps.

    Think about this: perhaps they didn’t intend to hurt you so. They may have acted without fully realizing the consequenses, or the pain they will be causing you.

    Flexibility and openness can lets you give them the benefit of the doubt and a second chance to redeem themselves.

    They may open up more to reveal why they did it, express genuine regret for their actions, and have a sincere plan to change for the better.

    Forgiving them after their heartfelt apologies and promises to make meaningful changes may allow your old positive feelings for them to resurface.

    With time and their continuous effort, your love for them may reignite, allowing you to see past the hurt.

    Remember, everyone can learn and grow from their mistakes, and this process often brings about the most profound changes.

    4. Stop blaming or punishing yourself.

    Self-blame and self-punishment are harmful. They are obstacles that stop you from being happy.

    They stop you from moving past someone else’s hurtful act and slow down your journey to forgiveness.

    Don’t blame or punish yourself for what happened. You aren’t responsible for their actions.

    Be your own friend. Focus on the positive things about you and your life. Shift your attention to your strengths and the good parts of your life.

    Always remember, your value doesn’t decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth.

    Your strength lies in rising above the hurt, learning from the past, and moving forward with grace. Healing is not an overnight process, but with patience and self-love, it’s entirely achievable.

    In your journey of self-healing, keep reminding yourself that you are not to take blame for another’s mistakes.

    Allow yourself to trust other people. Your fragile trust becomes stronger when you aren’t afraid to show your vulnerabilities.

    Beware of people who might take advantage of your trust.

    People ‌like narcissists can betray your trust and then shift the blame onto you. This victim blaming is the cruel behavior of even vulnerable narcissists.

    5. Remember their actions.

    Don’t forget that forgiving them does not mean forgetting what they did or letting them do it again.

    When you forgive someone, it doesn’t mean you erase the memory of what they did or that you give them permission to do it again.

    Forgiveness means you’re letting go of your negative feelings.

    Do not hold onto the pain they caused but remember their actions.

    It is mostly crucial to remember what happened to safeguard your future well-being. This memory serves as a guide, helping you make better decisions in the future.

    While forgiveness lightens your emotional load, it also provides valuable lessons.

    You become wiser, and this wisdom can help you build healthier relationships moving forward.

    Remember, forgiveness is not about condoning the other person, but about freeing yourself from ‌bitterness and resentment.

    You don’t have to agree with what they did or let them do it again. Forgiving means you let go of your bad feelings and start ‌on your path to inner peace..

    Forgive them while keeping their actions in mind.

    “Forgiving is not forgetting.”

    6. Consider their past trustworthiness.

    Trust is presumptive in nature.

    It means we presume (believe without evidence) that people who have been trustworthy in the past with others will continue to ‌be trustworthy with us in the future.

    While it is often a good possibility that people maintain their nature, ‌it is often naive to believe that “a king’s trustworthy minister will be trustworthy to the king’s subjects.”

    Another truth is that even if a person was completely trustworthy in the early days of your relationship, they will slip up some times later on.

    They may stop fulfilling your expectations of trust when you have known each other for some time.

    Why is trust important in a relationship?

    Trust is vital for relationships to thrive, but not everyone has the same ability to trust others.

    Researcher Jane Penaz Eisner says that trust is a trait in close relationships, that is, it is stable over time and consistent across different relationships (Eisner, 1992).

    She found that dispositional trust (“the tendency to believe that others will behave in a trustworthy manner”) importantly influences friendship formation. She lays out the three dimensions of trust as: predictability, dependability, and faith.

    While introducing the Interpersonal Trust Questionnaire (ITQ) in her Ph.D. dissertation, Eisner said,

    “Departing from current state approaches, I argue that (1) trust in close relationships is a trait, and (2) dispositional trust importantly influences friendship formation.”

    – Jane Penaz Eisner, Interpersonal trust in close relationships

    People who score high on the ITQ (Interpersonal Trust Questionnaire) are more likely to form friendships, more likely to believe that their friends are trustworthy, and more likely to disclose personal information to their friends, than those who score low.

    These findings suggest that trust is an important factor in close relationships, and that dispositional trust may play a role in friendship formation.

    We are here today studying our minds and brains because our forest-dwelling ancestors laid down the first rules of mutual trust. That mutual trust keeps modern humans secure from physical, mental, and emotional harm.

    Researchers Larzelere and Hudson found that when one person in a romantic relationship trusts the other, they base it on:

    1. Benevolence – whether the other person is interested in their good or merely seeking their own gain, and
    2. Honesty – whether they can believe in their declared intentions.


    1. Should you forgive someone who broke your trust?

      Yes, you should forgive someone who has broken your trust. Forgiveness is a powerful act that allows you to release the burden of resentment and anger, which can be harmful to your own wellbeing over time.
      Forgiving is taking a strong and mature approach. It does not mean forgetting what happened or letting the person off the hook, but it allows you to move forward. Remember, forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself more than to the person who wronged you. It’s about personal growth and maintaining your inner peace.

    2. Can you forgive someone but not trust them again?

      Yes, you can forgive someone but choose not to trust them again. Forgiveness and trusting again are two different aspects of a relationship.
      Forgiveness is about letting go of the pain and resentment for your own peace of mind. It’s a personal journey of healing that does not need to involve the person who broke your trust.
      On the other hand, trusting again is about confidence in the trustbreaker’s reliability and honesty in the future.
      You may decide to not place yourself in a vulnerable position with an unreliable person. However, you can still forgive them for your own emotional wellbeing. Forgiving someone is about past actions, while trusting someone again is about future conduct.

    3. How do you deal with someone who breaks trust?

      Here are some helpful ways to deal with someone who breaks trust:
      Acknowledge Your Feelings: Accept and validate your feelings of betrayal. It’s natural to feel hurt, anger, or disappointment when someone breaks your trust.
      Communicate Your Feelings: Express your feelings to the person who has broken your trust. Honest communication is important to convey how their actions have impacted you.
      Set Healthy Boundaries: Establish these six boundaries in your relationship moving forward. This will help protect your emotional wellbeing and prevent future breaches of trust.
      Seek Support: Reach out to trusted friends, family, or a professional counselor. They can provide emotional support and advice on how to navigate this situation.
      Focus on Self-Care: Engage in activities that promote mental and emotional wellbeing. This can include exercise, meditation, hobbies, and spending time with loved ones.
      Make a Decision: Decide whether you want to continue the relationship with the person who broke your trust. If you choose to do so, discuss what changes need to happen to rebuild trust.
      Forgive but Don’t Forget: You can choose to forgive the person for your own peace of mind, but it’s important to remember the experience as a lesson learned.

    4. What is it called when someone breaks your trust?

      When someone breaks your trust, it is often referred to as betrayal or breach of trust. It may also be called infidelity (being unfaithful in an intimate relationship), treachery (betrayal of trust, particularly in an underhanded manner), back-stabbing (deceiving someone who deeply trusts you), double-dealing (deception or duplicity), and treason (betrayal of one’s country or government).

    5. Can you totally forgive a person who betrayed you?

      Yes, it is possible to totally forgive someone who has betrayed you. Forgiveness is a personal journey and a conscious decision that you make for your own peace of mind and emotional well-being. It shows strength and maturity that you can move past the pain caused by the betrayal, and not hold onto past hurts.
      However, total forgiveness does not necessarily mean forgetting the incident or reinstating the same level of trust. Remember that forgiveness is for you and not for the person who hurt you.

    6. What do you say to someone who betrayed your trust?

      Here are some examples of what you can say to someone who has betrayed your trust:
      “You’ve deeply hurt me and it’s important for you to understand that.”
      “Your actions have made it difficult for me to trust you again.”
      “I need some time and space to heal and process what happened.”
      “It’s essential for us to have a candid conversation about what led to this betrayal.”
      “Trust is the foundation of our relationship, and it needs to be restored for us to move forward.”
      “If we’re to rebuild our relationship, it will require honesty, transparency, and sincere efforts from your side.”
      “I am open to forgiveness, but it doesn’t mean forgetting what happened. We need to learn from this situation.”
      “In the future, let’s prioritize open communication to prevent such instances of betrayal.”

    7. How can someone lose trust in you?

      There has been little research on factors that contribute to the erosion of trust. Research by Holmes, 1987, found distrust in marriages is marked by: 1. perceptions of neglect by the other partner, and 2. perceptions that the other person is trying to control the relationship.
      Some typical causes for someone to lose their trust in you include: Breaking rules, boundaries, or commitments, showing disrespect, attacking or abusing, or not being open and honest, or dependable.

    8. How to build trust through communication?

      Practice these three things consistently to build trust through communication:
      1. Prioritize listening over speaking. Be genuinely attentive to what the other person is saying, rather than just waiting for your turn to speak. Learn active listening to truly focus on the speaker’s words.
      2. Use open-ended questions to gain deeper insights. “How are you feeling today?” is an open-ended question, while “Are you feeling better today?” is not. Open-ended questions encourage the other person to share more information, helping you to better understand their perspective.
      3. Use phrase-reflections to confirm you understand. A simple way to do this is by repeating what the person has just said. Try saying phrases such as, “I hear you saying…” or “It sounds like you mean…”, or “Let me make sure I understand what you said…”. These phrase-reflections build trust by showing you are really listening and not just forming ‌sentences in your mind.

    Final Words

    Trust is the foundation of any healthy relationship. Without trust, we go through the motions of keeping a relationship alive merely for the sake of it.

    Trust is important for personal and close relationships, and also business and professional relationships.

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    Check out these 12 useful strategies to rebuild trust:

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    Author Bio: Researched and reviewed by Dr. Sandip Roy. His expertise is in mental well-being, positive psychology, narcissism, and Stoic philosophy.

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