A 2023 study published in the journal Personal Relationships examined how married couples learn to forgive one another for their transgressions, which can range from minor breaches of trust to more serious betrayals.
This may include lying to one another, hiding financial information, engaging in infidelity, sharing private information with others without permission, emotional neglect, disregarding each other’s needs and more.
Researchers assert that while forgiveness does not mean completely forgetting or excusing inappropriate behavior, it can be a pathway to establishing healthy communication, gaining empathy for one another and restoring relationship stability.
Here are three factors that encourage forgiveness in marriages, according to the 2023 study.
1. Feelings Of Love
Researchers found that loving and being loved by a partner motivates couples to forgive each other. Love creates deep emotional connections between partners, fostering a sense of security, trust and empathy, allowing partners to understand the perspectives and motivations behind the other’s transgressions. Rather than holding onto grudges, partners may forgive each other to move forward and maintain these feelings of love.
Researchers suggest that married couples view forgiveness as an emotional process of letting go of negative emotions such as anger and resentment and allowing inner space for positive emotions such as empathy, love and relationship satisfaction.
“Most dating and married participants described forgiveness as being an important part of their relationship and contributing to mutual displays of love, understanding and a return to constructive communication. Some participants saw forgiveness as re-gaining trust in their partner and attaining peace and relief in their own life,” the researchers write.
2. Prioritizing The Relationship
Researchers suggest that married couples tend to display high levels of commitment and investment in their relationships. This often leads them to practice forgiveness and prioritize the health and happiness of their relationship above individual grievances.
“My motivation is my partner. I do not want to lose her because of unnecessary arguments,” said one participant.
Additionally, marriages are usually built on a foundation of shared experiences and memories that can create a sense of unity, motivating partners to focus on the shared positive aspects of their relationship and preserve the bond they share.
Married couples may also focus on long-term goals and a “big-picture” view of the relationship and recognize that holding onto resentment undermines these shared goals and values.
Researchers found that joint commitments such as children, a shared household, pets as well as relationship factors such as mutual forgiveness, cooperation, understanding, intimacy and sexuality helped couples forgive each other for their transgressions.
3. Partner Responsiveness
A partner’s personal characteristics and responses to a mistake they have made can also determine how quick to forgive their partners are. “Some participants reported their partner’s unique personality as the reason they could not imagine life without them,” the researchers explain.
Researchers found that when offenders attempted to change their behavior, took accountability for their actions and expressed genuine remorse without making excuses or shifting blame, they were more likely to earn forgiveness from their spouses. A heartfelt apology coupled with a commitment to making amends shows that the offending partner values the relationship and is willing to work towards reconciliation.
The offending partner can also take proactive steps to rebuild trust by being transparent, consistent and reliable in their actions. By actively listening and validating their partner’s hurt emotions, the offending partner can foster a sense of connection and empathy. Moreover, recognizing that forgiveness is a process and giving them time to heal is essential.
Want to know exactly where your marriage stands? Take the evidence-based Marital Satisfaction Scale to learn more.