According to a study conducted by the University of California Berkeley and Northwestern University, how we argue with our partners may inevitably affect our good health. If you’re a person who either shuts down/tunes out or overreacts passionately and angrily, the study’s findings can predict your future “negative” health consequences.
The research began in 1989 and the same 156 heterosexual couples re-met every five years with the conductors of the study. The couples’ interactions were coded and tracked for behavioral analysis. Also taken into account were other issues within their relationship and surrounding their lives, including their health.
Certain physical signs were observed during the interactions such as jaw clenching, avoiding eye contact, and furrowed eyebrows. Researchers also took note of everyone’s volume and vocal tones.
What was discovered was that those who flew into a rage in reaction to their partner’s words or actions, were most likely to have heart conditions later on. Those who shut down or “cut off” their partner wound up with either neck, back or muscle pain.
These results affected both men and women, but the physical afflictions were more severe in men. In less than 15 minutes of arguing, the study author could determine who would suffer from which physical ailment, occurring even up to 20 years in the future (based on how he/she responded to the quarrel.)
Those are Fightin’ Words
No argument is worth a heart attack—especially if it’s over something that’s really more of a glitch than a super-big deal. Here are some ways to chill out when you start feeling heated:
1. Take a moment (or two): Research has shown that the neurological anger response lasts less than two seconds.
2. Don’t blame others: Take responsibility for your feelings and your responses.
3. Think about how much this argument matters in the large scheme. Is there something else bothering you? Are you still mad from something unrelated?
4. Check-in to see if you’re addicted to the adrenaline rush of raging. If so, take note and decide whether your health is worth the sensation.
5. Tell your partner you need some space. Leave the room and come back when you’re calm and you’ve gathered your thoughts more clearly.
Those are Fightin’ Actions
If you happen to be more passive and despise confrontation, you may be playing other games that are equally as harmful to your health and relationship. Not talking at all, being sarcastic, or acting passive-aggressively are negative responses. Here are some ideas to help combat those types of responses:
1. Find a positive way to voice your feelings. It doesn’t have to be ugly—or kept in silence.
2. Be clear: Sarcasm is a muddled and aggressive way to communicate.
3. Give yourself permission to be appropriately angry. Doing things in an underhanded (falsely innocent) way, as a form of revenge, is very unhealthy.
4. Imagine that you are calm and content. A lot of the angry dialogue in your head can be redirected.
If your relationship still matters and your health is a priority, it may be time to switch up the way you respond. Go get ‘em, champ! (Kindly, clearly, and calmly.)