Communication Studies, Department of


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Published in Journal of Family Communication 12 (2012), pp. 40–56; doi: 10.1080/15267431.2011.629970 Copyright © 2012 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. Used by permission.


This study examined the ways in which individuals communicatively negotiate the process of forgiveness in nonvoluntary (family) relationships. Drawing from relational dialectics theory (RDT) as well as other dialogic perspectives on forgiveness (e.g., Waldron & Kelley, 2008), we examined the complexity of communicating forgiveness in nonvoluntary relationships. Participants’ experiences supported the idea that forgiveness is an ongoing process of communicative negotiations between and among family members. Consistent with previous research, participants also noted that they generally did not explicitly verbalize forgiveness of a family member. Ultimately, the degree to which participants judged their forgiveness as successful often depended on whether the hurtful situation or forgiveness itself was centered in the family relationship. Furthering our understanding of communicating forgiveness in nonvoluntary relationships expands our perspective on the complex nature of families.

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