The Decision to Forgive: Sex, Gender, and the Likelihood to Forgive Partner Transgressions.

By Guest Author Andrea Milholland

Most people crave the closeness and security found in romantic relationships.  However, as humans, we also make mistakes that can put these relationships in jeopardy.  As a female who is currently dating, I am curious to discover if gender plays a role in likeliness to forgive a romantic partner, and why.

In this study, 145 heterosexual couples (ranging from causally dating to married) completed surveys concerning their individual gender role, forgiveness towards their partner, relationship satisfaction, and apology trends.  The researchers discovered the following:

Gender role: Four gender categories for both sexes emerged based on a BSRI scale: masculine, feminine, androgynous (masculine & feminine), and undifferentiated (neither masculine nor feminine).
Forgiveness: Concerning biological sex, men were found to be the most forgiving.  Women reported more feelings of ‘hurt’, which affects their likelihood to forgive. However, concerning gender roles, feminine/androgynous men and women were more likely to forgive their partners when compared with masculine/undifferentiated.
Relationship Satisfaction: Both men and women were more likely to forgive when satisfied with their relationship.  Women, overall, showed more relationship satisfaction than men.  Couples involved in longer relationships tended to rate higher in terms of relationship satisfaction.
Apology trends: Men apologized slightly more often, with more sincerity, according to their partners, than women did.

In essence, forgiveness is dependent on a variety of factors, including the severity of the transgression.  Forgiveness is seen as an interpersonal act that requires empathy, caring, and understanding.  Traditionally, these traits are viewed as feminine in most societies.  However, it is important to note that feminine and androgynous men were most likely to forgive. Regardless of gender, relationship satisfaction was found to be the primary factor regarding likeliness to forgive.

Understanding that relationship satisfaction has the largest impact on forgiveness, it is important for the partner to weigh the positives and the negatives resulting from their significant other’s flaw or mistake.  If the transgression does not compare to the happiness caused by the relationship, forgiveness is beneficial.  However, if this is not the case, the relationship should end.  Based on this study, if you view forgiveness as a positive trait in a significant other, it is best to look for increased feminine or androgynous characteristics.


Sidelinger, R., Frisby, B., & McMullen, A. (2009). The decision to forgive: sex, gender, and the likelihood to forgive partner transgressions. Communication Studies, 60(2), 164-179.

Forgiving your parents…

By Guest Author Juliris E. De La Rosa

When someone commits an act of betrayal, it goes without saying that the victim might start to reevaluate their relationship with the perpetrator. S/he might completely end the relationship or s/he might forgive the perpetrator.

This is not always easy when parent or parents commit an act of betrayal to their children. Children, including adult children, cannot easily abandon their relationship with their parents, and generally choose to go through the process of forgiveness.

When the adult child goes through the stages of forgiveness, their commitment (how close parent and adult child feel) trust (knowing that both parent and adult child can rely on each other) and relational satisfaction (how parent and adult child feel about the relationship) with their parents will change throughout the process.

In a study by  Braun, Rittenour, and Myers, 61 adult children ranging from the ages of 18 to 64 were asked to write about a moment when their parents betrayed them. They saw betrayal as emotional or physical abuse, non-supportive behaviors like not accepting the adult child’s significant other, favoritism in the family, etc.

They note the three stages of forgiveness:

I.         Impact – When the victim starts to wonder whether they deserved the betrayal in the first place. Along with that comes refusal to believe and accept the betrayal and a lack of emotions.

II.         Definition – When the victims ask the perpetrator why they committed the act of betrayal in the first place.

III.         Moving On- As the name suggest, this is where victims decide to let go of any negative emotions, feelings, and thought about the betrayal and move on with the relationship

Participants experiencing Impact try to avoid any type of communication with their parents. The first stage is where this is little to no commitment, trust and relational satisfaction resulting from the initial shock of betrayal. Participants in the second stage, Definition, wanted to know why their parents did such acts of betrayal. In the third stage of forgiveness, Moving On, participants wanted to move on with the relationship with their parents.

Participants felt different levels of commitment, trust and relational satisfaction during the three stages of forgiveness. As the next stage of forgiveness came, the levels of commitment trust and relational satisfaction increased.

There have always been studies about marital betrayals and friendship betrayals, but little exists on betrayals between parents and their adult children. Parent and adult child relationships differ from all the other types of relationships in the sense that you cannot choose who your parents are. When you are in a relationship with a friend or significant other, you have the option of ending the relationship if it is no longer in your best interest to stay in that relationship, whereas with your parents, this relationship has more permanence.

For that reason alone, we, as the adult children, should forgive them if they do indeed commit an act of betrayal. It is important for society to invest more time into parent and adult child betrayals so we can get a more in-depth look at what happens to a relationship that cannot be so easily broken forever.


Brann, M., Rittenour, C., & Myers, S. (2007). Adult Children’s Forgiveness of Parents’ Betrayals. Communication Research Reports24, 353-360.