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Forgiveness in Marriage: Healing or Chronicity. A Dialog Between a Philosophical and a Psychotherapeutic Understanding


Based on experience in marriage counseling and contributions made by philosophy of phenomenology and psychology, we have carried out an in-depth analysis of the forgiveness process in the marriage relationship. Philosophy of phenomenology allows to define the conceptual framework of the marriage relationship and its essential features, which gives the therapist a reference to guide the therapeutical process. The description of the process is enriched with contributions of Psychology and particularly Systemic Family Theories. We have identified a number of steps in the forgiveness process, which can be summarized as the passing from the initial pain, through the recovery of dignity and hope, up to the final consciousness of having reached forgiveness, where the intrapersonal process in the offended spouse is imbricated with the interpersonal relationship with the partner in marriage. This interdisciplinary perspective, bringing together clinical practice, philosophy of phenomenology, and psychology, has proven particularly fruitful: it has allowed us to identify when forgiveness becomes a case of regeneration and strengthening of the bonds of marriage, or on the contrary, the cases in which the problems, together with situations of imbalance or relational pathology progress to a chronic state. Apart from this, we have reflected upon the practical application of this theoretical approach in a therapeutic context with couples that need to pass through the forgiveness process, paying special attention to the risks they may encounter. Finally, we suggest possibilities for further investigations along these interdisciplinary lines of study.

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Mr. Martiño Rodríguez has been able to carry out this piece of research thanks to the Maria Barbeito predoctoral grant awarded by the XUNTA DE GALICIA (Galician Regional Government).

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Correspondence to María del Rosario González Martín.

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González Martín, M.R., Rodríguez González, M. & Génova Fuster, G. Forgiveness in Marriage: Healing or Chronicity. A Dialog Between a Philosophical and a Psychotherapeutic Understanding. Hum Stud 34, 431–449 (2011).

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  • Forgiveness
  • Marriage
  • Couple therapy
  • Phenomenology
  • Psychology