Infidelity is one of the most painful, traumatic experiences anyone will ever experience. Relationship betrayals break hearts, shatter dreams and destroy trust. Both men and women are guilty of infidelity, but many are forgiven. Infidelity doesn’t have to mean the end of a relationship; It is often the beginning of a deeper partnership in terms of understanding the need for love, loyalty, honesty and respect. Why do some partners choose to forgive the unforgivable? Research has some answers.
Within relationships, people are unfaithful in different ways. Ashley E. Thompson et al. (2020) examined the variables that determined which types of infidelities were more easily forgiven than others.1 When they examined the relationship between behavior, gender, and forgiveness, among other things, they found that men were more likely to forgive infidelities than women and that this was the The most forgivable behaviors were lonely, followed by emotional and online. Sexual behavior was the least forgivable.
Ashley Heintzelman et al. (2014) examined post-infidelity trauma, forgiveness, and growth in staying-together couples.2 They note that both clinicians and researchers recognize that people can heal from infidelity trauma and embrace both forgiveness and personal growth that define them as “post-traumatic growth” (PTG). In studying a group of people who remained in relationships after a partner had been unfaithful, they examined trauma, forgiveness, and relationships of self-separation from family of origin. They found that differentiation is positively related to forgiveness and softens the relationship between trauma and forgiveness. Arguably of particular importance for the ability to continue in a relationship after infidelity, Heintzelman et al. found that forgiveness was the only significant predictor of PTG.
conviction after infidelity
Menelaus Apostolou and Nikolaos Pediaditakis (2022) studied post-infidelity persuasion tactics to gain a second chance.3 Are such tactics successful? Sometimes when they are persuasive. They cited a previous study (Apostolou and Demosthenous, 2021) that identified 32 reasons people would be likely to forgive infidelity, classified into four broader factors, in order of likelihood: (1) if the partners’ children together asking the innocent spouse to forgive their spouse (2) if the innocent spouse (this time) has also been unfaithful in the past or planned to do so in the future, (3) if future infidelity was less likely, and (4) when the innocent spouse was financially dependent on the unruly spouse.
In their research, Apostolou and Pediaditakis found that the tactics used to ask for forgiveness actually mirrored the factors that led people to forgive infidelity in the previous study. However, they found significant gender differences in the use of tactics. Aside from the tactic of enlisting the help of relatives and friends, women were more willing to engage in persuasion. They speculate that this may be due to the difference in physical strength between men and women, which leads women to rely more on psychological manipulation.
In any case, forgiveness is a careful, prayerful decision to grant grace based on a variety of relationship factors unique to each couple—a decision that considers all relevant factors and that optimistically should only be made once.
Facebook image: Thanakorn.P/Shutterstock