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impacts marriage and family based on the dual premises that (a) the family is the primary arena in which one learns to forgive and (b) forgiveness can be critical to sustaining healthy family relationships.Forgiveness and ConflictConflict resolution is integral to a successful relationship and resentment engendered by partner transgressions is likely to fuel couple conflict and Summary of Findings Just as health is not the absence of illness, forgiveness is not the absence of unforgiveness. Two factors, reflecting forgiveness and unforgiveness, capture the data on interpersonal conflict resolution more accurately. Husbands’ unforgiveness predicted wives’ current reports of poorer conflict resolution. In contrast, wives’ forgiveness predicted husbands’ current reports of better conflict resolution.Over a 12-month period, wives’ forgiveness predicted husbands’ later reports of better conflict resolution controlling for initial levels of conflict resolution.Because of the documented association between forgiveness and marital satisfaction it is important to note that all findings are independent of spouses’ marital satisfaction.••••Frank FinchamSteven BeachJoanne Davila
impede successful conflict resolution. In contrast, forgiving the partner for the transgression is one potential means of providing closure with regard toa painful or disturbing relationship event. Forgiveness may therefore have substantial implications for long-term relationship outcomes as well as short-term patterns of interaction.Forgiveness is Not the Absence of UnforgivenessMost research examines forgiveness in terms of decreased negative motivation, or unforgiveness (e.g., revenge, avoidance) toward the transgressor. Although decreasing unforgiveness is undeniably important, a benevolent motivational state toward the harm-doer that is not achieved simply by overcoming negative motivation is fundamental to forgiveness.Just as health is not the absence of illness, forgiveness is not the absence of unforgiveness. We tested this perspective in 2 studies that examined the impact of forgiveness on conflict resolution in marriage.StudiesCouples in Great Britain (n= 52) and the United States (n=96) participated in our studies during a laboratory visit.Gender Related DifferencesIt appears that wives’ forgiveness of husband transgressions is particularly important for conflict resolution in marriage both in the short term and over time. In contrast it is husbands’ overcoming of unforgiveness that facilitates conflict resolution, at least in the short term. It is likely that these findings reflect gender differences in response to intimate partner conflict. Women are less likely to avoid and more likely to engage problematic areas in need of discussion than are men. In this context, factors that increase husband withdrawal, such as unforgiveness, might be particularly likely to fuel a destructive demand-withdraw cycle, leading to increased reports by wives of ineffective arguing.