Oct 18 2009

COUPLES FIGHTING – BAD FOR YOUR HEALTH?

By admin

TAKING MARITAL SPATS TO HEART

Back in the 80s – up in Vancouver at the University of British Columbia– it was somewhat of a novelty to ‘put marriages under the microscope.’ At the time, the world of therapy was not as evolved — many therapists and coaches had experienced roadblocks when trying to teach people how to talk to each other differently or use behavior exchange programs – –“If you take out the garbage, I’ll do the dishes.”

Emotionally Focused Couples’ Therapy (EFT) was in its infancy but we thought there had to be something better than just behavior training programs.  That’s when we decided to test the effectiveness of EFT.  The powerful positive results we found were amazing.

We looked at the anatomy of the fight cycles that couples get into (you may recognize such repetitive patterns in your own relationship) and helped them get under those cycles to the soft underbelly – to access the pain and vulnerable feelings under their angry reactions – the next step was for partners express those feelings to each other and ultimately feel more understood and accepted by each other.

Now, researchers are once again putting marital spats under the microscope to see if the way you fight with your spouse can affect your health. This time men and women were asked if they bottled up (known as “self-silencing”) their feelings during fights.  As you may have guessed, men did more bottling.  But, more surprising, women who didn’t speak their minds during the fights were more than four times as likely to die during the 10 year study period as women who always told their husbands how they felt.  In contrast, men who kept quiet during fights didn’t experience any measurable effects on their health. For a woman, suppressing feelings during conflict with her husband is doing something very negative to her physiology.

Arguing style had a different effect on men.  For a man, heart risk increased if disagreements with his wife involved a “battle for control.”  An example of a controlling comment made by a partner might be, “you really should just listen to me on this – because I said so!”

What do you think?  What have you found in your relationship?   I can be contacted at audrey@draudreygoldman.com and I would love to hear from you!  See my longer article on my website on Marital Spats.

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