Tuesday, October 30, 2007

How to Argue and Improve your Health

Is being nice bad for your health?

A recent study in the July report of Psychosomatic Medicine found that married women who bottled up their feelings after an argument were four times as likely to experience declining health as women who expressed their feelings openly.

This reluctance to express emotions and communicate openly is referred to as "self-silencing," and it has a devastating effect on our physical and emotional health. In fact, self-silencing has been linked to depression, eating disorders, and heart disease.

Despite these negative side effects, many couples still refrain from communicating honestly with their partner -- particularly if the needed communication is anything less than pleasant. Couples may fear expressing anger or sadness to their loved ones, as it may come across as criticism or judgment. However, without this crucial candor, relationships suffer and emotions fester.

So how can you communicate with your partner in a way that is kind but effective?

Be Authentic. When couples argue, they tend to get caught up in the "who, what, when, and why" of the argument, rather than truly expressing what the argument really makes them feel. Instead, couples should be more descriptive of their feelings, because that's the crux of the issue. For instance, rather than "I can't believe you were late for dinner and didn't call me! This is just like last month when you [insert past indiscretion here]." A better way to truly express your real feelings about your partner's lack of punctuality would be to say, "It makes me sad when you are late and I don't know where you are. I get worried and feel sick to my stomach."

Fight to Love, Not to Win. If you get into an argument with your spouse with the intention of proving how "right" you are, the argument will never be resolved. Instead, make love your goal during the dust-up. All couples fight, but there is a way to fight with harmony in mind. Insulting your partner, bringing up past fights, giving the silent treatment, or pretending like nothing is wrong are ineffective ways to solve an argument and merely add fuel to the fire.

Keep It Sweet. Utah researchers found that marital arguing style has a correlation to couples' heart health. Couples who argued with hostility (Think remarks like, "Don't you know anything, you idiot?") were more likely to experience poor cardiac health than couples who argued with kindness (Think remarks like, "What you said just now hurt me. Can we talk about it?"). This type of composure during an argument is certainly easier said than done, so have a few safety mechanisms in place ahead of time. For instance, agree to take a breather for 30 minutes when arguments start to spiral out of control, or use a safety word (perhaps a funny reference to your favorite comedy) to defuse the situation.

End each argument or cold spell with your spouse with affection and gratitude. It is easy to forget appreciation and love when you are in the middle of a fight with your partner, which is why it is so important to express these emotions after the issue is resolved.

(Excerpts from Dr.Laura Berman's article,"The Art of Intimacy"


1 comment:

ErnestoDR said...

Your posting about how to communicate with your partner is a time-tested and proven principle in improving relationship. Easier said than done but we keep on trying! My wife and I have attended a number of seminars on this subject and what holds true in our case is the principle of communicating one's feelings rather than opinions; feelings being neither right nor wrong! Because feelings are intrinsic in our lives, and cannot be questioned.
This is true in any other kind of relationship. Communication is the key to success in any human endeavor, the absence of which is disaster.