Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Kristina Coop Gordon

Committee Members

John Lounsbury, Deborah P. Welsh, Robert E. Levey


This dissertation explored the associations between having experienced a major betrayal, forgiveness, and communication behaviors in married couples. The first aim of the current research was to compare the communication behaviors of couples who have experienced a major betrayal and are in various stages of the forgiveness process as delineated by Gordon, Baucom, and Snyder (2005) to couples who reported never having experienced a betrayal in their current relationship. The second aim of the study was to explore whether injured partners and their spouses behave differently when discussing the betrayal event than when they are conversing about a separate problem area in their relationship.

34 couples were observed having discussions about a problem area in their relationship and/or a betrayal event, and 3 undergraduate research assistants coded these interactions for the following communication behaviors: positive and negative affect, conflict, communication skills, positive and negative escalation, and validating and invalidating behaviors. The couples also reported their levels of forgiveness, marital satisfaction, and basic demographics. Analyses of Variance and Covariance (controlling for marital satisfaction) were used to explore hypotheses.

Marital satisfaction was related to how injured partners communicate with their spouses. The injured partner’s level of forgiveness also was found to be related to how both partners communicate with each other regardless of discussion topic. Low levels of forgiveness were associated with less adaptive communication between spouses. Implications, limitations, and future directions are discussed.

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