Forgiveness and Marriage: Are You Ruining Your Relationship?

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Photo via the Daily

Survey says, maybe.

Associate professor James K. McNulty at the University of Tennessee is the author of a recent study, published in the Journal of Family Psychology, that shows that forgiving your partner for bad behavior doesn’t preserve harmony in marriage–it just reinforces the idea that bad behavior is forgivable. Bit of a misfire there, eh?

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The study was performed by asking 135 recently married couples to fill out a survey every night for one week. The questionnaire asked couples to record their spouse’s negative behavior as well as asking if they had forgiven said behavior.

Most of the bad behavior was fairly mild (think moodiness, nagging or being inconsiderate rather than cheating or abuse), but the surveys showed that if someone had been easily forgiven they were almost twice as likely to repeat the same bad behavior the very next day, unlike the people who hadn’t been forgiven. Which, we imagine, is likely to lead to more (and worse) fights down the road.

So if you’re biting your tongue or repressing your rage in the name of making peace, you might just be inviting future fights. Maybe it’s better to make a big deal out of your hurt or anger right away and let your partner know you mean business in order to stop that bad behavior. After all, McNulty points out, how else will your partner realize they need to change?

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“It may simply be that negatively behaving partners realize that their negative behaviors have negative implications for them—anger, loneliness—and thus engage in them less frequently,” McNulty says.

It may seem a little hardline to some, but would you rather be fighting over (and resolving) an issue early on or have it continue day in and day out for as long as your marriage happens to last?   (via