Everyone knows that couples argue. You can’t be with someone and not have the occasional tiff. But as it turns out, how you argue with your partner when conflict arises could predict some pretty big health problems in your near future. Especially if you’re the type to lash out during an argument.
Researchers at UC Berkeley and Northwestern University wondered how arguing in a long-term relationship affected our overall health. The study showed that those in a couple who tended to keep quiet (you know the kind of teeth-clenching quiet we mean) while arguing have a higher likelihood of back pain and stiff muscles in the long wrong. And as for those who let it all out? Well that style of argument was linked to future cardiovascular problems.
So… it kind of seems like you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t.
Or maybe not. The study looked at extreme cases of “letting it out,” as in people who could maybe use a little bit of anger management. As for those who kept it in — or “stonewalling,” as the study puts it — they could perhaps learn to talk out their feelings a bit better.
In order to gather all the results, the researchers followed 156 heterosexual couples over the course of 20 years, and studied the way they interacted every five years when discussing their life events. Even when taking factors like age, education, caffeine, alcohol abuse and levels of activity into consideration, the links were clear — especially when it came to the husbands.
“We looked at marital-conflict conversations that lasted just 15 minutes and could predict the development of health problems over 20 years for husbands, based on the emotional behaviors that they showed during these 15 minutes,” says Claudia Haase, who headed up the study. “Our study shows that these different emotional behaviors can predict the development of different health problems in the long run.”
All right they got us. Maybe there is something to the happy wife, happy life adage after all. Take note, fellas.