Marital Arguments: What You Don’t Know Can Kill Ya

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At the beginning of my marriage I remember a fight which was intense for both my wife and me. It came to the boiling point when my spouse said, ““Go to Hell,” with my response being, “I live there.” Being quick witted she replied, “That’s because you’re the devil.” I was left befuddled, but not wanting her to have the last word I blurted out, “Oh ya, you’re the wife of the devil.” She then burst out laughing. Luckily for us she knew how to diffuse the situation with humor. A time or two later when things became heated she would say, with a twinkle in her eye, “Go to hell,” and we would follow the routine, until we started laughing.

I was reminded of these exchanges after reading several articles by Tim Smith from the University of Utah along with several colleagues who focus on marital conflict and heart health. It seems that how a couple fights is strongly related to coronary artery disease. In fact woman who fight with their husbands in a hostile manner have arteries twice as clogged as their non-hostile counterparts. The clogs are worse for those women whose spouses routinely responded in like manner. Men who use controlling or domineering behaviors show arterial clogs 150% greater than their non domineering/controlling counterparts.

While married couples exhibit better health than their single counterparts overall, it appears that those who are “happily married” are even more benefitted health-wise. However, for so many it is difficult to change their style of fighting when pushed to the edge of anger and frustration. The rhythm of the argument style needs to change or it will kill you, literally. Remember, those couples who can refrain from seeing their partner as the enemy on the battlefront, do better at resolving problems. Those who use appropriate humor to dislodge those stuck moments do better. We have also discovered that your mother’s mantra of “don’t go to bed mad,” is one of the worst words of advice she could have ever provided. Go to bed MAD!!!, because the next morning hardly any argument seems as worthy a subject as the night before.

Finally, take a marriage enhancement class or communication seminar. They are beneficial and actually help in other areas of marriage such as romance and sex. For more information about such courses call 1-888-4together.

To Be Continued: Relationship Conflict and Children’s Health. The findings will surprise you.

By Scott Ketring, Ph.D., Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative (ACHMI)

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