192 Forgiveness in Marriage

Based on research by Fincham, Frank D., Beach, S.R., & Davila, J. (2004) by Juanita N Baker, Ph.D.

Conflicts are inevitable in marriages. Previous surveys found seeking and granting forgiveness contributes to marital longevity and satisfaction and may allow the couple to move on from hurt feelings.1

Psychologist Frank Fincham and colleagues studied forgiveness and conflict resolution further.2 Couples who had been married at least 3 years, average age 31, from U.K. (early marriage) and 42 from U.S. (mid marriage) took measures of marital satisfaction, forgiveness, and conflict resolution and recounted a transgression with their partner’s and their own response to it.

Results suggest that men and women tend to differ. In conflicts, men more likely avoid or retaliate, and women more likely bring up issues to discuss. When a wife’s compassion was lower (less likely to forgive), or when husbands avoided the conflict or retaliated, the couple had more difficulty resolving conflicts. Husbands reporting their own benevolence led to wife’s reporting more conflict resolution. The importance of partners facilitating compassion, and discouraging retaliation seems key to positive resolution.

When you are in conflict, approach conflicts in positive ways to reduce your partner’s automatic tendency to avoid or retaliate. When being confronted, encourage your partner’s approach and kindness. Work toward getting both partners’ needs met.


1Fenell, D. (1993). Characteristics of long-term first marriages. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 15, 446–460.

2Fincham, F.D., Beach, S.R., & Davila, J. (2004). Forgiveness and conflict resolution in marriage. Journal of Family Psychology, 18, 72-81.

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