Sleeping on the couch tonight? Not speaking to Mr. Right? Don’t worry: that fight you and your spouse got into last night is actually good for your health. That is, if you don’t hold it in, but instead let your feelings be known. So says a new study tracked 192 couples over a 17 year period.

Researchers at the University of Michigan looked at how suppressed anger and feelings of resentment in a marriage affect overall mortality rates. They found that couples that suppress their anger–that is, neither spouse stood up for themselves during a spat–had twice the mortality rate than couples with at least one partner who let loose. Previous studies have shown that suppressing anger increases stress-related illnesses like heart disease and high blood pressure. Ernest Harburg, lead author of the current study said, “The key matter is, when the conflict happens, how do you resolve it? If you bury your anger, and you brood on it and you resent the other person or the attacker, and you don’t try to resolve the problem, then you’re in trouble.”

Amen Brother! That’s why my wife and I deliberately beat the crap out of each other (verbally, Romans, verbally) every month. Good for the health I tell ya. I’ve always said: Hold on to that anger and you’re just asking for a heart attack, or cancer, or something like that. Pent-up anger and resentment forces one to brood, causing chemical cascades like the over-production of cortisol and other chemicals, which can stress the organs and blood vessels. Over time this can lead to heart or vascular disease, and ultimately, premature death.

There’s this notion in our current society that anger is “bad”. But in truth anger is experienced by every person on the planet at some time or another. When one tries to put forth the illusion that one never gets mad–you know, the classic anger suppressor–then that person is inviting disaster. This doesn’t mean that you have to lose your cool at the drop of a hat–diplomacy and civility still have their place in our world–however, if you gotta get it out, then express yourself; you’ll certainly feel better, and you might just live longer as a result.

5 Responses to Expressed Marital Discord is Bliss

  1. Naomi says:

    Nice to know I’m perfectly healthy… lol Very interesting read!

  2. Cowboyland says:

    I’m so glad that someone else is on the same chapter as I am Dr. Campos :) That’s what I wrote on my last posting as well.

    I do think it has a lot to do with the norms of the society. We want a docile society (I should deduct “I” from that “we”) which is probably why the kids are given Ritalin if they act like, well, normal kids, or hyper. When was the last time the children weren’t hyper? Maybe because we’re programmed that way, and we’re use that energy in productive ways, now that we’re all sitting, and driving, and moving less and less.

    Arguments are good for you (granted that you’re not hurtful); air things out. We have rules. No going bed angry, and with unresolved issues. Kiss and make up. And the biggie is, don’t win the argument, or don’t go into argument to win it. Compromise, and resolve.

    It’s great to have a medical perspective. Thank you!

  3. Rann says:

    What do you do when you’re the outspoken one and the other person says they don’t believe in arguing? All that does is make me angrier. It’s the end – no resolution. I’m talking about me and my twin brother. He was abused by our dad but I stood up for myself even from a child. He’s very suppressed almost too much so, and misunderstandings seem to languish. I love him so much and want to communicate- what does a person do?
    Thanks Nick! Great comments too

    • Talk to him through his value system–what he loves and responds too–and if he still doesn’t want to talk, then accept and honor it. It’s all you can do. Thank you, Rann.

  4. Rann says:

    That is really good advice. I can see where that would work since his value systems were abused and ignored early. It’s clear when you put it like that.

    I needed a male perspective. We’ve butted heads for years. Hopefully I’ll do a good job and our relationship will be healed. Wish me luck! Thank you.

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