“Three words, eight letters. Say it and I’m yours.” This was Blair Waldorf’s plea to her on-again, off-again lover Chuck Bass on the television drama Gossip Girl when Chuck wouldn’t admit to anyone his obvious devotion to her. Blair was presumably after the words “I love you,” but considering their long history of slights against each other, she could just as easily have been waiting for the words “I am sorry” to spill from bad-boy Chuck’s lips. As it turns out, the overall well-being of romantic relationships may hang as much on apologies as they do on confessions of love.
Entries in forgiveness (5)
If someone cheats on their partner (boyfriend/girlfriend or husband/wife) should they tell their partner? I have had this debate with many friends and we can never come to an agreement. Some say the right thing to do is to be honest and fess up. Others use the argument "ignorance is bliss" and that as long as they never repeat the offense the damage is better left untold. What do you think?
One way of approaching this question is to gauge how the partner would feel if he or she found out about the offense.
Forgiving partners when they make benign mistakes like forgetting to pick up the dry cleaning is good. Forgiving serious negative behaviors, such as relationship aggression, can have unfortunate consequences. In a recent study, newlyweds were tracked for four years. Men and women who were more forgiving, in general, experienced continued physical and psychological aggression across the course of their marriage whereas less forgiving partners experienced reduced aggression. Forgiveness may reinforce negative relationship behaviors like violence.
McKnulty, J. K. (2011). The dark side of forgiveness: The tendency to forgive predicts continued psychological and physical aggression in marriage. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37, 770-783.
Everyone seems to agree that infidelity is just about the worst thing that can happen in a romantic relationship. In many societies across the world, adultery is more likely to end a relationship than infertility, personality conflicts, inadequate money, and conflicts with in-laws.1 Perhaps that’s also the reason why infidelity is a common reason for taking revenge against romantic partners.2
But not everyone’s experience with infidelity is the same. Some cheaters are forgiven, and some relationships actually survive.
Relationships are full of slings and arrows that can sometimes spark a deep desire to “pay back” perceived offenses. Whether someone has been betrayed by a friend or romantic partner, been offended by a boss or coworker, or been a victim of a crime, the desire for revenge can be very strong. Until recently, however, researchers have known very little about this powerful, volatile experience.