All couples fight.It doesn’t matter how much you love each other or how perfect you think your partner is: you’re going to disagree from time to time.
It’s normal, and, in most cases healthy. Frankly, it’s the couples who never seem to disagree that make me uncomfortable.
It’s the WAY couples fight that often gets complicated, embarrassing, and potentially toxic.
Personally, I’m a clammer-upper. When I’ve done something to disappoint my partner, or he does something that upsets me, I shut down. Silence is my way of showing remorse, I think. If I’m really upset, I may even leave the room, but it’s only because I feel like space will help me calm down and process things.
How do you fight with your significant other? A fascinating study out of the University of California at Berkeley found that the way you behave during conflicts says a lot about your physical health, in addition to the health of your relationship.
“Our findings reveal a new level of precision in how emotions are linked to health, and how our behaviors over time can predict the development of negative health outcomes,” said UC Berkeley psychologist Robert Levenson, senior author of the study, in a press release.
Using over 20 years of data, and controlling for factors as age, education, exercise, smoking, alcohol use and caffeine consumption, the study analyzed certain behaviors that occur when most couples fight to see if these behaviors could be linked to future health problems.
Scientists observed body language during 15 minute conversations between couples about disagreeable topics.
Lips pressed together, knitted brows, voices raised or lowered beyond their normal tone and tight jaws, were classified as “displays of anger,” while facial stiffness, rigid neck muscles, and little or no eye contact were classified as “stonwalling” or “away behaviors.”
Then, the researchers tracked health symptoms displayed by the couples over time, with measurements occurring every five years over a 20-year span. What they found is both surprising and troubling!
The spouses who “flew off the handle” more easily were at greater risk of developing chest pain, high blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems over time. Alternately, those who stonewalled by barely speaking and avoiding eye contact were more likely to develop backaches, stiff necks or joints and general muscle tension.
“For years, we’ve known that negative emotions are associated with negative health outcomes, but this study dug deeper to find that specific emotions are linked to specific health problems,” Levenson said. “This is one of the many ways that our emotions provide a window for glimpsing important qualities of our future lives.”