An Ohio State University study on the effects of resentment in marriage should send chills down your spine.
The research headed by Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, is clear about the physical toll marital stress takes.
The Unfortunate Conclusion
People in marriages filled with resentment heal more slowly (physically) and die sooner than those in happy marriages.
How does an unhappy marriage steal years from your life? It comes down to the effects a bad relationship has on your physiology. Living in relationship stress is living in a state of chronic, physical stress.
As with any chronic stress, the body reacts by resorting to chronic fight or flight physiology, which sets in motion a series of biological events that are medically proven to shorten life.
One of the primary dangers of relationship-induced stress is slow healing due to a compromised immune system.
The Real-Time Physical Effects of Arguing
In the study, 37 married couples were given vacuum blisters on the arm and then asked to engage in conversation for 30 minutes. Each couple was then videotaped so researchers could grade them on their communication skills.
After 12 days, the researchers discovered that the blisters healed faster for the people who enjoyed positive communication styles. The couples who engaged in mutual hostility had the slowest healing blisters.
Why did this happen?
The researchers at Ohio State who did the study think it might have something to do with oxytocin.
“Oxytocin is a protective hormone,” says Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, the lead author of the study. Kiecolt-Glaser observed that better communicators had the highest levels of oxytocin in their blood samples.
Bad relationships slowly destroy people, one drop of blood at a time. If you’re in a stressed out relationship, you really have two options: 1) work to heal the relationship 2) leave.
Neither of these options is simple in real life. With so much at stake – finances, children, the overwhelming prospect of starting over, the painstaking process of mending the relationship – it may be very tempting to “ride it out” a little longer and give in to being unhappy. Of course, this is a grave mistake (no pun intended).
Still, the complexities involved in either healing a relationship or ending do not change the fact that chronic, stressful emotions involved in bad relationships are physically harmful.
Why Can’t More People Resolve their Issues in Marriage?
In my experience there are lots of surface reasons, but three fundamental facts that dictate why people do not successfully work on their marriage.
1. Lack of relationship awareness skills. Many people do not know where to begin. Which communication skills are vital to success in relationships? How do you manage the inevitable conflict along the way? How do you know if you are even compatible? How do you deal with someone who doesn’t want to make the effort? Where do you even begin?
Education in how relationships work (and fail) is an unavoidable necessity.
2. Passivity. Many people are waiting for “things to get better” or feel so overwhelmed and out of control that they are helpless to take the actions necessary to address problems. The feeling of inner passivity is related to an unconscious belief that the world is acting on you, and not the other way around.
Inner passivity is a plague of the mind that chronically steals your personal power. Working toward solutions feels pointless. Putting forth your best effort seems impossible. Being in charge of your life is a pipe dream when inner passivity rules the day.
3. Self-sabotage. Rejection, self-deprivation and feeling helpless can become psychological addictions for many of us. Because these states are so ingrained and familiar, we can develop and an affinity for them, even though we hate these feelings consciously.
Self-sabotage claims your emotional life when you somehow cannot help but make choices that lead to more of the same problems that make you miserable.
Staying in an unhealthy relationship without addressing the problem is a form of self-sabotage with dire consequences.
Is it time for you to get relationships right?
If so, consider these three options:
1. If you suspect – at any level – that self-sabotage is at the heart of the matter, then you must address it. No matter what other solutions you put in place, self-sabotage will ruin them all if left unchecked. Learn more about how self-sabotage works and what to do about it by watching this free video.
2. Dating, Relating and Mating course. If you need to figure out how successful relationships work at every phase, then check out this course. The DRM course demonstrates specifically how most people get the dating, relating and mating process wrong and what to do to fix it. Watch the DRM free video intro by clicking here.
3. Get outside help. Relationship coaching is often the difference that makes all the difference. We all have blind spots and fears that get in the way of progress. A good coach will compassionately point to them and offer solutions that never occurred to you before.
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