Date of Award

Spring 2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Psychology and Behavioral Sciences

First Advisor

Donna Thomas


Discovery of sexual infidelity is often accompanied by a strong desire for infidelity relevant information (Peluso, 2007). This study explored how information and conceptualization of situational factors affects forgiveness in a spouse who discovers the extramarital sexual activity of his or her spouse. The current study focused on knowledge of details and how such knowledge affected rumination and motivations of revenge, avoidance, and benevolence. Popular literature currently promotes a process of healing that begins with a revelation of the details associated with the extramarital behaviors of the offending spouse. A unique objective of this study was consideration of the specific features of discovery of sexual infidelity on motivations of forgiveness.

It was hypothesized that increasing amounts of infidelity relevant information would be reflected by increasing levels of rumination and diminishing levels of forgiveness. The results of this study fail to support the contention that acquisition of infidelity relevant information has a statistically significant relationship to healing or forgiveness. Results indicate a statistically significant negative relationship between forgiveness and rumination. Motivations for revenge and avoidance were statistically, negatively associated with the single item forgiveness question on the questionnaire. Benevolence was statistically significant and positively associated with the single item forgiveness question. No statistically significant results were found for details and related effects on rumination or forgiveness. As expected, a statistically significant relationship between time since discovery and rumination was found. However, the current study fails to support a relationship between time and forgiveness.

Revenge motivations appeared to be important in this particular study. Forgiveness had a statistically significant negative correlation with revenge, rumination, and neuroticism. A statistically significant negative relationship was found between revenge and agreeableness. Rumination had a statistically significant negative relationship with benevolence and a statistically significant positive relationship with avoidance. Benevolence had a statistically significant negative relationship with agreeableness, but it was not significantly related with neuroticism. There was a lack of support obtained in this study for the contention that details lead to forgiveness. More carefully controlled clinical studies are needed to clarify whether there is any therapeutic value to disclosure of details about sexual infidelity.