This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

To Forgive or to Forget? The Forgiveness Process in Older Adulthood




Peterson, Amanda

Type of Degree

Master's Thesis


Human Development and Family Studies


The ability to navigate transgressions in romantic relationships is imperative for both their quality and longevity, making forgiveness a critical process for all couples. However, the forgiveness process has the potential to change throughout a couple’s time together, as developmental changes that occur later in the lifespan have the potential to influence both how it is enacted and received by older spouses. To understand the complexities of the forgiveness process and how it is associated with marital functioning later in life, the current paper will draw upon a sample of 64 higher-functioning, well-educated older married couples. Our findings revealed that older husbands and wives utilize several different successful avenues to enact forgiveness that are associated with better marital functioning (marital satisfaction, intimacy, and trust) both concurrently and a year later. Older husbands and wives also utilized behaviors such as retaliation that are associated with poorer marital functioning both concurrently and a year later. These findings help us better understand the forgiveness process in older adult marriages and in turn have the potential to shape interventions in marital therapy that capitalize on older adults’ strengths.