How To Let Go Of The Mistakes You Made in a Past Relationship

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We’re all going to make mistakes in relationships. Gee, we make mistakes every day in life – both the big and the small. But the mistakes we you made in a past relationship have a habit of eating away at us. There’s always the wonder of “but what if I didn’t do that?” “what if I’d been more like this?” It can drive you insane – particularly if you’re not over your ex.

How To Let Go Of The Mistakes You Made in a Past Relationship

So how do you let go of the mistakes you made in a past relationship? Put them behind you? Learn to forgive yourself for them and accept what has happened?

That’s what I want to get to the bottom of in this post. So that you can start to move forward again.

1) Start By Accepting It

Until you accept what’s happened, you will remain stuck in the same place. If you want to let go of the mistakes you made in a past relationship then you have to stop going over it.

It’s done. Replaying it again and again won’t take that away. Whether you like it or not, you can’t change it now. There’s no rewind button, unfortunately. But actually, we wouldn’t want there to be either.

Our past mistakes are what enable us to make progress. They shape us more than anything else and teach us the lessons we need. In fact, sometimes the ‘worst’ things that happen, end up being the most fundamental part of our personal growth.

If you’ve screwed up, you’ve screwed up. It doesn’t make you a bad person. It just makes you human. But the best way to accept it, is to have faith that something better will come out of it.

You don’t need to know what yet, nor do you have to feel ‘good’ about it. After all, we’re not condoning your behaviour when it’s wrong. But there’s no point beating yourself up about it and you must believe that there will be a turning point as a result of it.

‘Don’t carry your mistakes around with you. Instead, place them under your feet and use them as stepping stones…’

Choose to see that this happened for a reason – not because of fate but more to do with essential life lessons and growth.

You made a mistake, but you won’t let that define you, you’ll make things better in any way you can and go on to become a better person. That’s all you can really ask for.

Remember, we’re all human. We’re living, we’re learning, we’re growing. So try not to be too hard on yourself.

2) Deal With Your Emotions Properly

When it comes to letting go of the mistakes you made, it’s vitally important you recognise how you feel, and everything that comes with it – in order to release it. So you want to:

– Allow Yourself To Feel

Don’t try to block things out. I know I’m telling you to accept it and move on, etc. But that doesn’t mean denying yourself the time to actually feel the natural responses that will appear after what’s happened.

You’re likely to feel a mix of guilt, embarrassment, shame, sadness, resentment. The list could go on and on. Don’t ruminate on these thoughts and feelings. That’s only going to bring on MORE bad feelings.

Just recognise that these are normal, natural and part of the healing process. It hurts, but it will make you stronger. Click here for how to properly feel, and deal with, your emotions. (Yep there is a process!)

– Don’t React Straight Away

You can’t think rationally at the moment, so if you act based on how you feel, there’s a good chance you may end up making more mistakes… which will in turn make you feel even worse.

Calm your mind. Take care of yourself. BREATH. And process everything. Certainly don’t hit the bottle and use alcohol as your escape, because this is only going to escalate your negative emotions. This leads me onto my next point…

– Find a Healthy Outlet

It’s good to release all this stress and tension. It’s not healthy to keep emotions bottled up inside.

So consider speaking to a coach or therapist, talking things through with your friends, writing in your journal, channelling your emotions into something creative, working it all out in the gym.

There’s alternatives for everything. You’re only hurting yourself further by making more of the wrong choices. And when you’re aware they are bad choices but still choose to do them anyway – that’s when you can’t be surprised when things don’t get better.

Learn to help yourself. To love yourself. To look after yourself. And part of that also means forgiving yourself too. This leads me onto my next point…

3) Learn To Forgive Yourself

I know it’s hard. Particularly if you did something that was wrong, ended up hurting the person you love, and you now have to live with the regrets. But please be kind to yourself.

The fact you feel so bad about it now, shows what a pure heart you have. 

Everyone makes mistakes. But your mistakes don’t define you. Nor are they where the story ends. You can still make things better. And that doesn’t mean trying to win your ex back, if that’s the mistake you’re beating yourself up about. 

It simply means, this is part of your journey to becoming the best version of you. However, if you want to take in all the lessons, you have to make sure you forgive yourself fully first. Otherwise it remains inside of you.

Because of this, forgiveness is a key part of being able to let go of past mistakes in a relationship. So, how do you go about doing it?

Five Steps To Forgiveness

Here’s the five key steps to forgiveness, which will help get you started. This is a key part in how to let go of the mistakes you made in a past relationship…

Learning To Forgive Yourself

– Recognise where you went wrong.

Don’t just bury it away or pretend it didn’t happen, because when you do this, you run the risk of it resurfacing or happening again.

Face up to it. Admit the things you’re ashamed of. Speak out about them instead of bottling them up.

When you do this, you may also even feel a sense of relief. This is a good sign. It’s part of the healing. It’s a key stage in the process.

– Look at why you did it.

What made you behave that way? And try not to blame other people on this one. Yes, they may have had an influence, but you ultimately are in control of your actions.

You did something that wasn’t acting true to you. That’s why you’re beating yourself up about it now. But dig a little deeper to see why.

  • What were you thinking in that moment, or were you not thinking at all?
  • How about your rational- what was that like?
  • What did you think it would achieve?
  • Or what kind of emotion was you craving?

– See if you can spot any patterns.

Has this happened before? Is this a regular defence mechanism? Self sabotage perhaps? Toxic behaviour due to unresolved issues? Or is it a one off? Just one mistake but which you know you would never do again? It’s important to get clear on this as it will influence the way that you choose to see it moving forward.

– Consider if you need to take action.

This will vary depending on your answer to the last questions. If it was a one off, but you’ve learnt from it – you may not need to do anything specifically.

However, if these mistakes have happened before in relationships, you have to put the work in to break these habit and stop them from happening again.

If you keep making the same mistakes, you’ll make it harder to find that closure and forgiveness. After all, you won’t feel like you deserve it.

But if you can do something positive about it, get the help you need, make some progress, that’s when you can learn to let it go.

– Take something away from it.

I spoke about it here, but I’m a big believer that you can find the positive in almost any situation. And where this isn’t possible, it can in turn be the drive behind your purpose.

Whatever mistakes you’ve made, look for the lessons you’ll take away from them. Look at how this will shape you into a better person. Look at how it will lead you towards better things.

When you do that, you’re shifting your focus, you’re changing your state and will in turn find it easier to forgive and move on.

Be Kind To Yourself…

Forgiveness is the only thing that will truly enable you to let go of the anger, guilt, shame, sadness, or any other negative feelings you may be experiencing.

If you want to forgive yourself, you can. It’s not about anyone else. It’s about you and how you see things. Which means you decide if it is or isn’t possible.

I want you to know, you are worthy of forgiveness. Honestly you are. Mistakes are inevitable. If we were to beat ourselves up about every single thing we did wrong, we would be truly miserable. And trust me – no matter how low you may feel about yourself right now, you do not deserve that.

Everyone makes mistakes, not just you. Okay? Oh and hey, REALITY CHECK whilst we’re on the topic of it… You’re probably going to make them again, only different ones next time.

Why? Because no-one’s perfect, but that means no-one’s expecting you to be either… unless you put those expectations on yourself, which will always just end badly. So stop being so hard on yourself now.

4) Try To Put Things Into Perspective

Yes, if you didn’t make the mistakes you didn’t, MAYBE things would be different. Maybe not? We won’t really know. Nor does that actually matter. You have to live in the here and now. 

Dwelling on the past won’t change your future. Which is why we have to accept, reflect and then focus on moving forward.

All you can do is be the best person that you can possibly be, but you can’t actually do that without falling down sometimes or getting things wrong. Think about it.

Aside from what’s happened recently – think back to another mistake you made, but learnt from. How did it change you for the better? What good things did it lead to?

And if you think you didn’t need to make the mistake for that to have happened, well… perhaps not. In theory. But you actually need to go through these different things for you to truly understand them. And for them to create the lasting change you need.

So, if you really want to think about it this way – these mistakes are a good thing. Uh huh, I bet you didn’t expect that turn-around hey? But it’s true. It’s all about which way you choose to look at things.

‘Mistakes have the power to turn you into something better than you were before. You can’t learn anything from being perfect. Decide to use this as your strength and drive…”

5. It’s Time To Look Forward

It’s time to look forward again now. To well and truly let go of the mistakes you made in a past relationship and to focus on making progress forward again.

To do this, map out a plan. It doesn’t need to be a big one. But write down 3-5 things you’re going to do from here. Use that pain to influence something positive.

So for example, let’s say (worst case scenario!) you cheated on your ex and discovered that you were self-sabotaging because you didn’t think you were worthy of love and were scared of it all breaking down.

That’s why you lashed out as an escape when things got ‘scary’ for you, and now you can’t take it back. In this case, you could create an action plan, including:

  1. Writing an apology letter: Whether you send it or not, this would be a positive thing to do. It would put closure on that chapter. It would show your sincerity and get everything off your chest… all the things you wish you could have said when things broke down. You may not be able to take away the pain you caused, but at least this way you can show that you are truly sorry. There’s not much more you can do than that.
  2. Working on your issues: And I mean properly. Preferably with a coach or therapist, because that’s the best way for you to truly process how you feel and work through it. But if not, with books, podcasts, articles. Immerse yourself in it all until you fully understand your behaviour and what you can do to stop it.
  3. Looking at how you can become the best version of you: Particularly when it comes to relationships. Figure out what’s holding you back, get to the bottom of what’s really missing, know what you want in a relationship and what starts to freak you out. Understand yourself better than you have before and know yourself inside and out. Don’t rush into anything, keep focusing on self-care and self-improvement… And really make this the turning point. So that the next relationship you have – you get right.

You see? No matter what mistakes you’ve made, you can move past them, if you let yourself. Think about it.


Let Go Of The Mistakes You Made in a Past Relationship
Photo of author
Ella Stearn
Ell is a Breakup, Dating & Relationship Specialist & Coach, with over 3 million annual readers, globally. As the Creator of Forgetting Fairytales, her mission is to help you learn to love yourself, find the right person to give your love to, then make it a love that truly lasts.

27 thoughts on “How To Let Go Of The Mistakes You Made in a Past Relationship”

  1. Aren’t relationships fun? There is so much that goes through the mind when a break up happens and you try to move on. It looks like you have the right frame of mind to tackle it, and I really like the checklist you made for others that maybe going through the same thing. Thanks for the post.

  2. It can be so hard to let go of those past experiences but it really is important not to let them influence current relationships. Great tips! Thanks for sharing

  3. Letting past go and not burdening it onto self is not at all easy, I have faced my relationship being hampered cz of my past and its very ugly. Gladly I am over all of it now.

  4. I have a hard time of letting go of the past.I have 10 phrases that I repeat to myself almost daily to help with this. It has been almost 4 years and I am still angry and hurt.

  5. Self forgiveness is the only way to overcome anything in life. It is so difficult to be happy if we’re constantly criticising ourselves. And relationships can take such a toll on our mental health, leaving us shattered if we don’t pick ourselves up. Have to remember that we’re our biggest critic AND friend. Time to refriend ourselves 🙂

  6. Wow! Such an inspiration! It can be a challenge to not allow the past to affect the future, but it’s something we all have to challenge through. Great read!

  7. What an inspirational post. I haven’t dated in like 10 years but I can’t seem to trust myself into another relationship. I don’t want to be disappointed and just be fed lies anymore. I am going to see a counselor soon after the virus goes away because I have issues in relationships.

  8. Forget the past and not burdening yourself is not easy. I have found that my relationship is hampered by my past and is very ugly. I have now overcome everything with pleasure.

  9. Really helpful advice. I especially like #2….handling emotions. It’s so hard to just pause in the moment. So much damage done in that immediate response. Thanks for your tips, they are very helpful!

  10. Omg, emphasis on finding a healthy outlet! A breakup can be so detrimental to some. I know a few breakups I went through I thought it was going to be the end of the world. Here I am living!

  11. It’s always hard to move on from a past relationship but once you’ve moved own from that person,you start seeing their imperfections and sometimes wonder what you saw in them.

  12. We all have pasts and it is part of our life story. Learn to accept it, forgive ourselves, and move forward. We can’t change the past, but we can certainly make our future even better.

  13. These tips are really good. It took me a long time to let go of things that happened in past relationships. Thank heaven my fiance stuck it out with my basketcase butt.

  14. Sometimes we beat ourselves up over our past mistakes and dwell on them. I’m guilty of spoiling my exes rotten during the relationship because I feel during those times I want to make them happy (since they made me happy). Like, I wanted to return the favour, in other words. I’m guilty of some of the points here and I agree with your solutions. Thanks!

  15. Great tips. It’s not easy to let go of a past relationship. But time will heal and let you make good memories in future. It’s all about moving forward.

  16. I’m sure this is something everyone can relate to. I think it’s super important that we evaluate ourselves and how we contributed to a break up. Then we can learn from it like you said!

  17. Accepting is a very hard thing to do but it is the best way, to begin with…I really agree with all the points you listed here. Thanks for the share.


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