We all know that a loving and supportive partner enriches your life and makes you feel happier. On the other hand, a bad relationship can make you feel frustrated, angry, and stressed. Although we perceive our relationships to be deeply emotional, they influence far more than just our hearts. Our relationships have a direct effect on our health and wellbeing, and if we’re unhappy, it can spell bad news for our physical state.
A study in the journal Emotion looked at the health consequences of bad relationships over 20 years. They found that couples who fight a lot and who show little affection may be better off getting divorced to protect their own wellbeing.
“Conflict happens in every marriage, but people deal with it in different ways. Some of us explode with anger; some of us shut down,” says the lead author, Claudia Haase. “Our study shows that these different emotional behaviours can predict the development of different health problems in the long run.”
If you stay in a bad relationship or take no steps to change it, you may even risk your life.
Why exploding is bad for your health
Couples who regularly cause each other’s blood to boil have about an 80% increased risk of developing chest pain, high blood pressure, and other heart diseases over the long run. Aggression may cause your neck arteries to thicken, which is why your risk for heart diseases increases.
We all get angry, but what we do with our anger is what really matters. Instead of screaming or throwing things, take steps to actively calm yourself. One of the best techniques to calm anger is called self-distancing. That’s when you take yourself out of the situation and view it as an outsider, almost like a fly on the wall. According to a study in the Current Directions in Psychological Science journal, people who applied this technique experienced less distress and they showed less cardiac reactivity that’s harmful to your health. Staying calm, even when you are angry is vital to protect yourself.
Why the silent treatment is bad for your health
Giving your partner the silent treatment? You may develop back pain, a stiff neck, and muscle tension in the long term. Although stiff muscles and a sore back is not normally serious, it can be painful, and can stop you from living your life to the full. People who shut down and ignore their partner, also known as stonewalling, often feel overwhelmed by their feelings, and thus stop interacting with their partner, leading to frustration and resentment. When you stonewall your partner, your body is likely to tense up and may result in body aches and pains.
If you regularly give your partner the silent treatment, the first step is to tune into your feelings when you are doing it and to realise the reasons for your behaviour. Is it because you are scared, anxious, or resentful? Once you have gotten to the bottom of your behaviour, it’s a good idea to tell your partner why you don’t want to interact at the moment. For example, you can say: “I’m feeling anxious at the moment. Can we please continue this conversation when I have calmed down?”
The secret to a good relationship is good communication. If you communicate with anger or you decide not to communicate at all, you are not only hurting your relationship, but also your health. Take the necessary steps to improve your relationship and your wellbeing.
(Source: CAMAF newsletter, 10 October 2016)