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Bickering can affect your health

October 9, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Avoiding unhealthy arguments with your significant other can really pay off at your next doctor's visit. Experts weigh in on how to minimize bickering. In every couple's life, there's bound to be bickering.

We all do it -- and you can bet after 45 years of marriage Virginia and Redford Williams have had their share of disagreements -- especially on who's the boss.

"I was the husband, Virginia the wife. I was the strong guy and she was sort of the 'help me,'" said Dr. Redford Williams, Duke University researcher.

But through years of practice at home and at work, their relationship has changed.

"We have gotten much better at discussing differences," said Virginia P. Williams, Ph.D.

A recent British study found over 75-percent of adults in more adverse relationships were more likely to suffer coronary problems, ranging from chest pains to deadly heart attacks.

"There is plenty of evidence and good biological reason for couples who argue a lot to have more health problems from minor cold to the heart attack," said Dr. Redford Williams.

When at work, Redford and Virginia are both known as doctor Williams. They founded Williams life skills. they specialize in teaching people to use communication, empathy and self-awareness to resolve conflicts.

They've even written books about it. The Williams say you need to follow five steps.

"The first thing is to be aware when a situation is upsetting, because they can only address these situations," said Virginia P. Williams.

Once you are aware, think before you act.

"Is this matter important to me? Is what I am thinking and feeling appropriate to the objective facts?" explains Virginia P. Williams.

And when you speak, chose words carefully.

"So important to be a good listener, to not interrupt the other person," adds Virginia P. Williams.

Being less angry will help you improve the quality of your relationship and your health.

Experts say while talking out a topic is healthy, it is possible to argue too much, that's why you should always ask yourself first if something is worth discussing. Keep in mind, experts say, conflict itself isn't the problem -- it's how you resolve it.

Web Extra Information: Bickering and Your Health

BACKGROUND:

We all know frequent arguing with your spouse is bad for your relationship -- but research also shows it's bad for your health. Research shows heated arguments can literally harden your heart over time. One study shows expression of hostility or women acting controlling increases hardening of the arteries in the heart. In a study published in 2007, researchers found women who kept quiet during a fight were four times more likely to die during the 10-year time period than women who always expressed their feelings to their husbands. And psychologists at Ohio State University say when marital partners fight, their immune systems suffer. During an argument, stress hormones like cortisol and norepinephrine jump into action and reduce the body's supply of immune cells. An even more interesting fact is that these stress hormones and blood pressure rise far more in women.

WHAT TO WATCH OUT FOR:

It's important to keep arguments to a minimum -- or at least civil -- not only for your health, but your kids' as well. In a 2007 online poll, kids reported arguments occur in their home every day and 26 percent said it happened every week. If you're worried you and your spouse are at odds too often, check out the following symptoms of unfriendly disagreements:

  • Your arguments are full of comments that make global judgments about the other person's character, i.e., "You're such a chauvinist pig."
  • You answer each other's questions with more, defensive questions. An example of a defensive question is, "Why should I be the one to always parent?"
  • You both use lots of "You should" statements.
  • You bury each other with words.
  • You bring up past events to justify the current problem. Keep in mind that conflict itself isn't the problem -- it's how you resolve it. In fact, healthy conflict can enhance your relationship.

 

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