The Role of Covenantal Forgiveness

an act of an emotional and/or physical betrayal characterized by behavior that is not sanctioned by the other partner; and (2) that has contributed to considerable, ongoing emotional anguish in the non-offending partner” (p. 26).

The first author’s work with couples supports the literature’s suggestion that whether something is considered a breach in relationship trust or an act of infidelity is dependent on the perception of the individual (Dean, 2011).

Various terminology has been used to describe who was involved in the infidelity and who was betrayed. Persons involved in the affair have been described as the “affair” and “unfaithful” partner (Glass, 2004), “offending partner” (Zola, 2007), “involved partner” (Softas-Nall, Beadle, Newell, & Helm, 2008), and the “participating partner” (Gordon, Baucom, & Snyder, 2004).

Per- sons who were not involved in the affair have been described as the “betrayed partner” (Glass, 2004), “nonoffending partner” (Zola, 2007), and “injured partner” (Gibson, 2008). Mental health providers are cautioned to be mindful of the implications and narratives that each of the terms seemingly supports.

That is, the term “participating” might carry much less fault than the term “offending” or “affair” partner. Conversely, the term “nonoffending” and “nonparticipating” partners might assume much less hurt and pain than “injured” partners. Further, Dean (2011) suggested that using the former terms might help reduce the likelihood that nonparticipating partners identify themselves as victims.

The descriptive terms used, however, are less important than how the couple responds to and co-creates the story of the incident as well as the narrative of their healing.

That is, upon the initial disclosure, partners might actually feel like the “offending” and “nonoffending” partner or victim, whereas further down their journey of healing, they both may identify more with

Healing from Infidelity: The Role of Covenantal Forgiveness