Forgiveness Will Just Make Your Spouse More Of A Jerk

This image was lost some time after publication.
This image was lost some time after publication.

According to a new study, letting your spouse off the hook is actually a really bad idea — because he or she will just piss you off again and again!


NY Mag's Paul Kix reports that psychologist James K. McNulty asked both members of 135 newlywed couples to record their interactions over the course of a week. They wrote down whether their spouses "did something negative," and how they responded. Those who forgave their spouses for the infraction — be it moodiness, nagging, or neglect (no couples reported abuse, though one, disturbingly, did recount "being sexually coerced") — were twice as likely to see it repeated. And those who sometimes forgave but sometimes stayed mad were a full six times more likely to experience repeat spousal misbehavior.

All this makes a certain amount of sense — says McNulty, "it may simply be that negatively behaving partners realize that their negative behaviors have negative implications for them-anger, loneliness-and thus engage in them less frequently." And flip-flopping between anger and forgiveness may make a partner feel like your reactions are basically unpredictable, so she might as well just do what she wants. Kix makes a joke out of the whole thing — "it's time, people, to stand in judgment of the ones we love most" — and the idea that we need to punish our spouses for their every wrongdoing is a little outlandish, sort of like a meaner version of that infamous Shamu article. But really, the study reinforces a bit of relationship wisdom that's both incredibly useful and often hard to remember: pretending everything's fine when it's not will just fuck things up more.


The Downside Of Forgiveness [NY Mag]

Image via Eric Isselée/

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I let things go 99% of the time. For years I am little Miss Laid Back, I am un-phased by the worst human behaviors, and I truly am: I don't let it bother me. I assume people are working out issues and I am always able to keep myself happy without banking on other people boosting me up.

But everyone that really knows me knows this: one day, eventually, it will hit me that someone is being truly rotten. And seemingly out of nowhere, I will flip out like a crazy ninja, it will be like a nuclear explosion of meanness and truth. It appears to be a family trait. My dad can go 8-10 years un-phased and then suddenly and swiftly cut someone out without turning back. This has only happened a few times in my 35 years. But those that know me know, eventually, if you're a jerk, I'm going to let you have it.

This has worked effectively for me for most of my life, so I think I'll stick with it.