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Fighting Effectively in Marriage Has Health Benefits


Who would have guessed that some conflict in a marriage is actually a good thing? Not all fighting is bad and certainly not all couples who argue end up in divorce court. A new study at the University of Michigan has found that some squabbling between spouses is not only good for the relationship but actually has health benefits as well.

It only makes sense that if two people agree on everything in life, one of them is not being honest. In marriages, constantly avoiding conflict can make a spouse feel like a doormat and cause them to internalize the anger that for whatever reason they will not show to their partner. CNN reported that the study has shown that holding the anger inside can have serious health consequences, and therefore a little fighting between spouses is a good thing.

It seemingly makes sense that spouses who do not fight effectively or express their anger and frustrations constructively with each other may be more likely to get a divorce. After all, a relationship without honest communication is not much of a relationship. Considering the health consequences of not arguing with a spouse, divorce may actually be the more attractive option.

The University of Michigan studied 192 married couples between 1971 and 1988 and published their findings in January. They found that spouses who did not fight back when they were unfairly attacked in an argument did not live as long as those who openly expressed their anger.

The lead study author, Ernest Harburg, Ph.D., has studied the health effects of minor arguments between spouses for 30 years. He says that in addition to other things that people do for their health, they also need to learn to express anger constructively.

In another study conducted in Framingham, Massachusetts, the health risks of being silent during arguments was studied in 4,000 men and women over a period of 10 years. This study concluded that women in particular might be putting their health at risk by not speaking up during disputes with their husbands. The women who constantly avoided confrontation and remained silent during arguments were found to have four times the risk of dying than those women who fought back. The findings of this study were published in 2007 in the journal "Psychosomatic Medicine."

These studies came to the same conclusions. Some fighting in a marriage does not necessarily lead to divorce and expressing anger constructively vs. holding it in has significant effects on longevity. Those seem like pretty good reasons for spouses to occasionally debate in a way so that both parties have their feelings heard.

Learning how to fight effectively can be tricky. For some people, expressing emotions is not easy.

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