Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 42–51 | Cite as

Understanding Couple Shared Reality: The Case of Combined Couple Versus Discrepancy Assessments in Understanding Couple Forgiveness

  • Dean M. Busby
  • Randal D. Day
  • Joseph Olsen
Original Paper


In this methodological study we use the concept of couple forgiveness to explore how to utilize couple data to assess and analyze the systemic idea of a shared reality and other constructs. That is, when couples have a shared reality about a given topic (forgiveness) does that shared view enhance marital outcomes? Shared reality theory, would predict that if forgiveness is scored using a discrepancy calculation, net of previous marital quality and other standard controls, there will be significant and positive increases in relationship quality as discrepancy decreases. Data to evaluate these ideas were collected over three-years from interviews of a community sample of 324 couples. The initial ideas about a shared reality were confirmed in only a few instances. However, individual and combined ratings were significantly associated with couple outcomes but the amount of shared reality was generally not. These findings imply that couple data continues to be crucial for predicting relationship outcomes but combining scores may be more helpful than evaluating discrepancy, at least with a relational construct like forgiveness. Additionally, we found that women’s assessment of personal or partner forgiveness was more statistically powerful in predicting positive marital outcomes than men’s assessments.


Dyadic data analysis Forgiveness Interpersonal perceptions 



This research was supported in part by the Family Studies Center, School of Family Life, and the College of Family Home and Social Science at Brigham Young University, Provo, UT.

Author Contributions

First author, D.M.B.: codesigned and executed the study, assisted with the data analyses interpretations, and collaborated with writing all sections of the study. Second author, R.D.D.: designed and executed the data collection, codesigned and executed the study, assisted with the data interpretations and collaborated with writing all sections of the study. Third author, J.O.: analyzed the data, compiled the tables, and collaborated with writing the results of the study.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All data collection procedures were approved by the institutional review board at Brigham Young University and were in accordance with established ethical standards for institutional and national boards.

Informed Consent

All participants completed an appropriate consent form prior to the completion of any data collection.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Family LifeBrigham Young UniversityProvoUSA
  2. 2.College of Family, Home, and Social ScienceBrigham Young UniversityProvoUSA

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