Have you ever had an argument with your spouse, significant other, or close relative? Just kidding… Most of us have had more than a few! But now we know that the way we behave during such conflicts may well affect our health—not just our relationships.
Researchers have shown that self-silencing during quarrels—i.e. the practice of holding in feelings one would like to express—takes a significant health toll. According to a report in Psychosomatic Medicine, women who didn't speak their minds in marital fights were four times as likely to die during the 10-year study period as women who always told their husbands how they felt.
Does this give us permission to take a no-holds-barred approach? Elaine Eaker, an epidemiologist who was the study's lead author, clarifies that this doesn’t mean we should “start throwing plates” at each other, but that there needs to be a safe environment where both people can equally communicate.
In a related study the health of spouses was studied in relation to the style of fighting between husbands and wives. A woman’s health risk increases if she perceives her husband’s style as “hostile”; a man’s risk increases if he perceives his wife’s style as “controlling.”
We want to hear! Do you have any tips for healthy conflict in intimate relationships? How do you express your feelings so that they can be heard and understood without damaging anyone’s heart (both literally and metaphorically)? Share your responses to the weekly discussion question on our forum: Community of Practice Forum