Forgive First, Forget Later Likely to Make Forgiveness Easier in Infidelity: Study
Thu, January 27, 2022

Forgive First, Forget Later Likely to Make Forgiveness Easier in Infidelity: Study


A new study revealed the steps for a person to achieve forgiveness after a failed romance. These emotional steps, however, should lead to a virtuous circle to ultimately achieve a deeper meaning of forgiveness.

New research on the emotional steps of forgiveness for failed romance was conducted by researchers at De Montfort University and the University of Stirling. The steps were derived from experiments, and between forgetting and forgiving, forgiving first would be better to achieve the former. The reason was forcing oneself to forget would likely make forgiveness less achievable. They published their findings in the Journal of Experimental Psychology.

Unfaithfulness Is a Common Cause in Romance Failures

A person may experience multiple failures in life that can result in emotional pain. These failures can be experienced in friendship, romance, and occupation. When a person has been betrayed by a friend, their relationship is likely going to end for good. But depending on the root cause and seriousness of redemption, the bridge may still be repaired. When romantic partners split up, the main reason can range from incompatibility to infidelity. As such, being disloyal or unfaithfulness is attributed to romance failures among monogamous individuals.

According to Statista, a survey by Durex showed the most unfaithful nationalities. The data was based on the prevalence of someone to cheat on their partner. Thailand had the highest rate of 51% among the top 10 countries. It was followed by Denmark at 46%, Italy at 45%, Germany at 45%, France at 43%, Norway at 41%, Belgium at 40%, Spain at 39%, the UK at 36%, and Finland at 36%.



Meanwhile, a different survey by YouGov among 1,660 respondents showed the individuals usually involved in an affair among British people. About 32% of men and 53% of women were more likely to have an affair with a friend. While 44% of men and 32% of women were more likely to have an affair with a colleague. The two categories highlighted the most likely social circle of the third party. Around 27% of men and 9% of women would likely to have an affair with a stranger, 9% of men and 14% of women with a former partner, 13% of men and 3% of women with their neighbor, 9% of men and 5% of women with someone of the same gender, and 5% of men and 5% of women with a relative of their current partner. Approximately 11% of men and 10% of women were likely to have an affair with anyone.




Emotional Steps of Forgiveness Unveiled

UK researchers found the emotional steps involved in forgiveness. These steps were also found to promote the ability of a person to forget an undesirable event. The steps were applied in forgiving and forgetting a romance failure. But they could be tailored for other settings that would result in emotional pain. The main highlight of the steps was forgiveness before forgetting what happened. If done the other way around, it would be less likely for the person to achieve forgiveness.

"Thinking back on the details of that unhappy revelation, your dismay in your partner and your feelings of chagrin only get worse. You replay the event over and over in your mind, and nothing seems to be able to make the rumination stop no matter how much mental effort you exert to push it out of your thoughts," wrote Dr. Susan Krauss Whitbourne on US magazine Psychology Today, and who was not a part of the study.

In the study, researchers Saima Noreen and Malcolm MacLeod investigated the most optimal ways to forget a painful romantic ending. They argued that the more a person tries to forget, the more difficult the task is. They noted that as the ironic aspect of memory, in which it needs to forget a painful memory to move on. But forgetting the memory as the first step happens to be a problem.

Meanwhile, a different approach called construal theory pushes the mind to create a psychological distance to develop a key to overcome the pain. It would enable the mind to put a substantial space from the ugly memory. But applying the theory would trigger the forgiveness cycle, designed to ease the forgiving process. So, they tested these approaches to determine which steps would be most favorable to yield the forgive-first forget-later outcome.

They developed different types of forgiveness instructions. Next, they recruited participants online to join various experiments. Then, they instructed the participants to read prepared scenarios. After that, they told participants to imagine themselves to be in those scenarios, and how they would apply a given instruction to forgive their partner for having an affair. Since there were several types of instructions, one participant had to follow one type and the other had to follow another version.

One condition involved experimental forgiveness manipulation. Researchers told participants to engage in an almost impossible task to be empathic toward their unfaithful partner. Another condition was participants were told to be empathic toward their unfaithful partner after an actual transgression, which they were the target of the offense. Researchers followed a question of how a participant would perceive their distance from the offense. The rates were from 1 that represents as if the event happened yesterday to 10 as if it happened a very long time ago.

Between ironic memory and construal theory, the latter had a greater impact on smoother emotional forgiveness. The person would likely be able to forgive and forget easier if they created a psychological distance. Once the emotional steps of forgiveness were engaged, a virtuous circle would follow and continue until the deeper meaning of forgiveness was reached. These steps would alleviate the negative emotions from the painful memory. If the person would remember that event, they would likely see the positive side of things, compared to ironic memory.



Researchers also considered the decisional forgiveness, a somewhat middle-ground between the two approaches. While the person transgressed with might not seek revenge, they would still hold a grudge toward the transgressor. This could allow forgiveness but their relationship would unlikely to get any better. The possible explanation for that would be the loss of trust.