Health

Forgiveness: Why too much is bad for your relationship

Embarking on a long-term relationship is a great way to learn that nobody's perfect. Not you, and definitely not your partner. So when difficulties arise, we might think our best bet is to keep a lid on our anger and work towards forgiveness.

angry woman on phone

Masterfile

Embarking on a long-term relationship is a great way to learn that nobody’s perfect. Not you, and definitely not your partner. So when difficulties arise, we might think our best bet is to keep a lid on our anger and work towards forgiveness. Well, a recent study called ‘The Dark Side of Forgiveness” suggests that keeping calm and carrying on can actually contaminate a marriage.

The study, conducted by the University of Tennessee‘s James McNulty, demonstrates the power of the “short-term discomfort of an angry, but honest conversation” — especially in marriages. Now, we’re not talking about flying into a rage over someone’s sloppy dishes; the idea is to communicate feelings of hurt instead of bottling them up and trying to move on. Repressing anger or feelings of neglect can, over time, contribute to significant (and increasingly irreparable) hostility and resentment.

The relevance of McNulty’s results also depends on what kind of people you and your partner are. If you’re generally agreeable, you won’t take your spouse’s forgiveness as a cue to re-offend; if you’re generally disagreeable, you will — which is where being too forgiving can go wrong.

Turns out that partners, like children, like to test boundaries. And if you want to protect the longer-term happiness and mutual respect of your relationship, it’s important to demonstrate that you have needs and won’t put up with ‘offences’ on the regular.

Are you generally a pretty forgiving person?