Education and Human Sciences, College of (CEHS)


First Advisor

Dr. Gilbert Parra

Date of this Version

Spring 5-2021


Pillai, S. (2021). Attachment injury-related responses from the offending partner and forgiveness in romantic relationships. Unpublished master’s thesis, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Child, Youth and Family Studies, Under the Supervision of Professor Gilbert Parra. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2021

Copyright © 2021 Shruti Pillai


Attachment injuries in romantic relationships carry the potential for several negative outcomes for the injured partner, the offending partner, and the relationship. Forgiveness can serve to repair the damage caused by such an injury. The concept of forgiveness, however, has predominantly only been studied as the responsibility of and of primary interest to the injured partner. There is a growing need for closer examination of what the offending partner can do to promote forgiveness. The Attachment Injury Resolution Model (AIRM) proposes eight distinct steps including actions for each partner that can lead a couple towards recovery. This study examined the actionable AIRM steps for the offending partner to draw conclusions about their association with forgiveness. These steps include empathizing, responsibility-taking, and comforting. We analyzed data collected from 18- and 19-year-old undergraduate students in committed romantic relationships who reported having experienced an attachment injury in their relationships. Regression models were conducted to investigate each of the three offender behaviors in the AIRM and each of the domains of forgiveness (avoidance, revenge-seeking, and benevolence). We found that couples in this age group displayed high rates of offender behaviors as well as high levels of forgiveness pointing to high capacity for self-repair. Findings also offered clarity on the offending partners’ role towards relationship repair. Specifically, a significant association emerged between repair-oriented behaviors from the offender and the injured partner’s experience of benevolence towards them. These results have significant future clinical implications, adding to an evidence-based, attachment-informed roadmap for young couples to achieve forgiveness.

Advisor: Gilbert Parra