WOMEN

Study Says Forgiveness Matters Most When Overcoming Infidelity

04/24/2014 05:11 pm ET | Updated Apr 24, 2014
Vincent Besnault via Getty Images

Infidelity is one of the biggest obstacles a relationship may face, but new research suggests there is a way to move on from it and create an even stronger bond with your partner -- finding forgiveness.

According to a new study from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, couples who experienced infidelity were able to save their relationships when the partner who was wronged truly forgave their significant other. In fact, when true forgiveness occurred, the relationship became stronger, achieving what is known as post-traumatic growth (PTG).

PTG is defined by the researchers as "a result of intrapersonal struggle to find benefit and meaning in life after a traumatic experience.”

Researchers studied 587 participants -- 86 percent of whom were women -- who were currently involved in committed relationships in which their partner had cheated (93.5 percent were married). One requirement was that the infidelity occurred at least six months prior to the study.

Through questionnaires, the researchers analyzed the context of the affair, the time since the affair, the level of trauma experienced, relationship commitment, relationship satisfaction, and the participants' current stage of forgiveness.

At the end of the study, researchers determined that working towards and reaching forgiveness played the largest role in overcoming the pain and hurt associated with cheating. Forgiveness mattered more than time, commitment, and relationship satisfaction.

"Forgiveness trumps all in terms of PTG,“ the researchers write. "Those who were more able to forgive their partners for the infidelity also experienced more growth after the event."

The takeaway, according to the researchers, is that in the event of infidelity, it is possible to recover and to even become stronger as a couple. But in order to reach that goal, forgiveness must be achieved. They encourage couples who are recovering from infidelity to become educated on and focus on forgiveness in couples therapy or while working through their problems.

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