Julie Fitness

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Betrayal, revenge, and forgiveness in close relationships Julie Fitness, PhDMacquarie University,Sydney 2109 : 

Betrayal, revenge, and forgiveness in close relationships Julie Fitness, PhDMacquarie University,Sydney 2109

Introduction : 

Introduction Background to topic Research studies Observations about betrayal, revenge and forgiveness in marriage Directions for future research and conclusions

Background : 

Background Research on emotions in marriage Interesting findings re anger and hate Both emotions are elicited by partner-blame attributions Hate and disgust The role of power Intriguing consequences of hate and anger

Forgiveness : 

Forgiveness Still not well understood in academic literature What are the ‘rules’ of forgiveness in close relationships?

A forgiven offence : 

A forgiven offence Betrayal: appraised by victim as unfair/wrong victim feels angry, wants to retaliate victim expresses hurt and anger Offender: acknowledges offence accepts responsibility feels and expresses remorse/guilt Victim forgives offender

An unforgiven offence : 

An unforgiven offence May involve more victim shame, humiliation and hate May involve more revenge seeking behaviours by victim May involve more offender shame than guilt May involve fewer reconciliatory behaviours by offender

First major study : 

First major study 90 long-term married individuals Married average of 21 years 70 divorced individuals Married average of 10.5 yrs, divorced for average of 4 yrs Asked to recall and record details of self or partner-caused forgiven offence (marrieds) or self or partner-caused unforgiven offence (divorced)

Results : 

Results Compared with forgiven offences, unforgiven offences were: more likely to have occurred before more likely to have involved humiliation and hatred for offender Unforgiven offenders: assumed partners hated them

Shame and guilt : 

Shame and guilt Shame - associated with dysfunctional behaviours (withdrawal, attack) Guilt - motivated relationship repair (apology, compensation) But offender remorse did not automatically elicit forgiveness And lack of remorse did not automatically preclude forgiveness

Why forgive an unremorseful partner? : 

Why forgive an unremorseful partner? Extenuating circumstances (45%) Passage of time (25%) The ‘right’ thing to do – duty (22%) Love for partner (8%)

Why were you forgiven? : 

Why were you forgiven? Extenuating circumstances (40%) Passage of time (0%) The ‘right’ thing to do – duty (0%) Love for partner (60%)

The role of punishment : 

The role of punishment Common to forgiven and unforgiven offences Forgiven offences involved ‘reminders’ Unforgiven offences involved acts of revenge Both reminding and revenge were motivated by victim’s need to communicate depth of pain, regain power, or deter future offending

Some problems with study : 

Some problems with study Individuals might have been remembering offences through emotional lenses Compared to divorced individuals, long-term married individuals might have been remembering offences as less severe or damaging

Experimental study : 

Experimental study Created 8 scenarios of marital offences Manipulated various aspects Asked 250 people to read and rate participants’ likely thoughts, feelings and behaviours Half the sample were told this is a happy marriage, half were told this is an unhappy marriage

Types of offences : 

Types of offences Staying out late without contacting partner Breaking a promise to partner Spending savings at Casino Making a major purchase without consulting Criticizing partner in public Fighting with partner in public Embarrassing partner in front of work colleagues Discovering partner has told intimate secrets to others

Results : 

Results Crucial role for marital happiness: Compared to ‘happy’ marital condition, in “unhappy” marital condition offences were rated as more serious offenders rated as less sorry victims were considered less likely to forgive

Compared to recall study : 

Compared to recall study Again, contrition seen as crucial for forgiveness Repetition not a factor in forgiving offence Best predictor of forgiveness – low hate (not anger) for offender Urge for revenge seen as equally likely in both marital conditions, and not associated with ease of forgiveness

Implications : 

Implications People’s relationship experiences and expectations can be profoundly shaped by beliefs about relationship quality Problem – marital unhappiness will make offences seem more severe and harder to forgive Sets up a vicious cycle, hard to escape from

Individual differences : 

Individual differences Emotional intelligence – does it facilitate forgiveness? Important role for emotional clarity Narcissism – does it impede forgiveness? The role of shame-proneness

Caveat : 

Caveat Marital happiness did not preclude the use of punishment “Hot sauce” study Future research Conclusions

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