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Gender and Forgiveness

By Daniel Tomasulo, Ph.D.
Ask the Therapist

Gender and Forgiveness“The secret of a happy marriage remains a secret. “
– Henny Youngman

But a new study published in a recent issue of the Journal of Positive Psychology may shed some light.

Positive marriages are those determined to have resiliency, courage and strength of perseverance to endure, with the added virtue of partners being able to accept or forgive each other when the feces hits the oscillator. The usual transgressions that a typical marriage encounters assure that every couple will be tested, but statistics show that not all pass the forgiveness test.

Once a betrayal has occurred and trust has been broken, forgiveness, or lack thereof, will determine the couple’s future. Experts report that in the United States, the marriage failure rate increases with the number of tries: Half of first marriages fail. That increases to nearly two thirds of second marriages, and three quarters of third marriages. This daunting data demonstrates that learning how to forgive may be the most important skill for sustained marital happiness.

5 Comments to
Gender and Forgiveness

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  1. Fantastic post, Daniel! I especially like to reference to Decisional Forgiveness and Emotional Forgiveness. They fit squarely within the kinds of topics I speak about to my corporate clients…change your behaviour to change your feelings or change your thoughts to change your feelings…the think-feel-do pathway works in both directions!!
    Regards, Deri

  2. Dr. Dan –

    I apologize for going off-topic here, but
    I just had to say a few words about the response you made to the young woman who wrote to you recently over on the “Ask the Therapist” side of sychcentral. She had just discovered, via pretty incontrovertible proof, that her mother was having a long-time affair.

    I thought your answer was largely on target. It’s a difficult situation all around.

    Then ytoward the bottom you added a side note, literally…

    “As a side note the divorce rate for people who married their lovers is 75 percent. The noted psychiatrist and author Frank Pittman explains this is due to such factors as intervention of reality; guilt; expectations’ a general distrust of marriage; and a distrust of the affairee.”

    You know, I’ve seen this seventy-five percent statistic all over the Internet. And never once have I seen it sourced. It always felt fishy to me. So tonight, I went back and took a look at Dr. Pittman’s PRIVATE LIES, which is on my professional bookshelf. Take a look at pp. 246-247. (You can find the relevant pages at Google books if you don’t have a copy).

    Here’s the thing: Pittman makes it clear in those pages that he’s only talking about such couples in his OWN PRACTICE, not the population of affair-partners-who-later-marry. Now, he’s a marital therapist, which means his practice is by definition a self-selected population of couples having problems severe enough to engage in marital therapy. It is decidedly not sample of an overall demographic of that kind of couple or any other.

    There’s a big difference. Huge, actually. To Pittman’s credit, his assertion is narrow on purpose.

    It’s also a great example of how “statistics” can take on a life of their own on the Internet. I’d love to see a solid piece of social research on the subject. Pittman’s observations from his practice is not that piece of social research.

    You might want, as they say in Congress, to revise and extend your remarks. :)

    That said? I liked your answer a lot, overall. Ugly situation the young woman finds herself in. Very ugly.

  3. Let me be even more clear: Pittman himself is the one who came up with the 75% figure, talking about such couples in his own practice. See those pages of his PRIVATE LIES for the backup.

  4. And just to show that I’m capable of gushing when someone gets something completely right? Your answer of mid-July in the “ask a therapist” arena to the young woman with the aggressive sexual fantasies was a grand-slam home run. Perfect. Short, simple, to the point, convincing.

    Bravo.

  5. I also think that holding on the anger creates under stress and is bad for your health – for one anger creates lines on your face and features making you unattractive to people – not in a superficial sense but they will just sense you have some deep rooted issues. In addition harboring bad thoughts about someone is detrimental to your progress both spiritually and professionally. In my experience the best way to change someone is to forgive them for what they have done – without judgement – this alone is powerful enough to make to live up to that expectation.

  6. What makes a marriage work has to do with how much of an open mind(meaning to experience what ever without thinking, just to allow it to happen)and be patient for it to finish.
    The problem started at as a child when you learned how to use your mind(thinking)to figure, understand, and assume without all things in place.
    To make a marriage work a person has to allow the five senses to feed information to the brain, with time(patience)all is understood.
    When I meet my wife 30 years ago, I hadn’t the mental ability to love her, feel the emotional need to show affection towards her, have any sexual thoughts or feelings, my brain failed to give me a mind to think with and feelings and emotions to connect with her in the ways a wife and mother would need from her husband.
    My wife fail in love with me not knowing I wouldn’t be able to love her back, so, with a short time she knew something was wrong with me and talked to my mother.
    When learned about a near drowning when I was six years old, she decided to help me get better, several years into our marriage I remember hearing her crying as we lay about to go to sleep
    About 15 years later, I remembered, so I ask her why she cried herself to sleep at night back then? She said. I didn’t think you would ever change or get better.
    When I watched the movie “Adam” with Huge Dancy living with Aspergers Syndrome it hit me hard, that was me through almost 18 years of our marriage, in my late 30 to early 40 as somebody put it I had an emotional awakening.
    To make a marriage really great, you have to find your toddler-like feelings, not the ones created during adolescents.
    There is more I was born with a mental condition which left me in a passive state with very little affection only shown towards the family pets. I believe we all have this deep inner feeling when brought out through compassion and love between to people and marriage will work.
    Today, I get to sit beside my wife with a feeling I should have got when we first meet as teenagers. I get to hold her hand and a wonderful feeling runs through my body, I am able to get emotional just writing this knowing I finally have something making me feel alive.
    Three different psychologists can explain how I did it, since certain parts of my brain never worked in that way. So, how did I bring my brain to life? By a wonderful woman loving me unconditionally and helping me to understand how to read emotions, by helping me stay in contact with things that are important in a marriage.
    Today, I can feeling how precious our grandchildren are when I hold them, something I wasn’t able to do when our children were born.
    Stop thinking, start embracing, feel that what you had in the first few years of your life. Like my granddaughter when she was 10 months old crawled over to her crying mother, stood up, put her head on her leg to comfort. Where did that ability come from? I found my feelings. You need to do the same.
    Stop being who you are and become what you’re suppose to be, a loving, caring, and compassionate person. Stop enforcing your thoughts into actions. Stop and think about how you walk through the day thinking at the same time while being able to do something without having to think about how to do it. This action is called habits, its anything you can do without having to think about how to do it.
    This allows your your brain to feed you with what you have trained the brain to do and that is to feed your mind with thoughts.
    Don’t let your emotions get in the way of doing something you know is right. I could think, so, when we fought, I wasn’t able to emotionally remember the fight and would stay close to her.
    You all have altered your natural feelings by creating new ones during adolescents. You really are not the person you were born to be.
    Thinking creates 99% of all mental illnesses, rethinking can cure them too. Just as not thinking to allow things to follow through can save marriages, too.

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