A popular research trend in recent years, positive psychology has offered the promise that with forgiveness, optimism, kindness, and positive thinking, people can turn around their relationships even after a serious transgression. But as James McNulty of Florida State University investigated positive psychology and well-being, he began to see a different trend: “I continued to find evidence that thoughts and behaviors presumed to be associated with better well-being lead to worse well-being among some people — usually the people who need the most help achieving well-being.”
McNulty therefore set out to examine the potential costs of positive psychology. In a set of recent studies, he found that forgiveness in marriage can have some unintended negative effects. “We all experience a time in a relationship in which a partner transgresses against us in some way. For example, a partner may be financially irresponsible, unfaithful, or unsupportive,” says McNulty, who is presenting his research at the APA annual convention this week in Orlando. “When these events occur, we must decide whether we should be angry and hold onto that anger, or forgive.” His research shows that a variety of factors can complicate the effectiveness of forgiveness, including a partner’s level of agreeableness and the severity and frequency of the transgression.
"Believing a partner is forgiving leads agreeable people to be less likely to offend that partner and disagreeable people to be more likely to offend that partner," he says. Additionally, he says, anger can serve an important role in signaling to a transgressing partner that the offensive behavior is not acceptable. "If the partner can do something to resolve a problem that is likely to otherwise continue and negatively affect the relationship, people may experience long-term benefits by temporarily withholding forgiveness and expressing anger."
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Marrying multiple husbands at the same time, or polyandry, creates a safety net for women in some cultures, according to a recent study by a University of Missouri researcher. Extra husbands ensure that women’s children are cared for even if their fathers die or disappear. Although polyandry is taboo and illegal in the United States, certain legal structures, such as child support payments and life insurance, fill the same role for American women that multiple husbands do in other cultures.
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From Talking Philosophy:
The debate over marriage equality, as it moves towards its happy legal conclusion in many territories (most recently Scotland) is generally framed in terms of rights and, more specifically, the right to form a particular kind of contract. More precisely, the right to marry is generally conceived as the right to form a particular kind of contract, which is recognised in a particular way, with the person one chooses. This characterisation of marriage leaves the way open for a number of arguments against extending marriage to same-sex couples. Supporters of same-sex marriage might suggest that the underlying conceptualisation of marriage as a contract one has the right to enter into does not capture what we actually mean by “marriage”, in legal or everyday terms.
Supporters of marriage equality can make the simple argument that the burden of demonstration or argument falls squarely on those who would restrict marriage, just as would be the case with any other kind of equality. People who want to marry someone of the other sex are free to choose their partner, so long as they fulfil certain eligibility requirements, which are broadly the same in most territories. Discussions about the meaning and purpose of marriage become redundant; it is for the opponent of marriage equality to demonstrate why it should be restricted.
Opponents of marriage equality often claim that extending marriage to same-sex couples changes the nature of marriage, as if marriage is an action performed by participants who fit a particular definition, whilst proponents of marriage equality often talk of marriage as if it were an institution to which some are denied the right of entry. Thus, the discussion remains at cross-purposes. Which definition fits better with our legal and everyday understanding of marriage?
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