Scientific Study Reveals How Better Fighting Helps Couples Live Longer

We all hate fighting with our significant other. Whether it be who took out the trash, or didn’t, whose turn it is to walk the dog or a disagreement over how to discipline the kids, we all hate to be seen as that nagging, irrational, angry spouse or partner who is always getting at their significant other. But apparently, getting it out in the open (although please, please avoid screaming at each other at the grocery store…) can help couples to live longer, according to a recent scientific study.

Of course, if the fighting escalates to violent outbursts, it is essential to get yourself away from danger as soon as possible.

Squabbles and occasional bickering is inevitable. Research suggests that the average American fights with their partner 19 times a month, spending 5 nights a month sleeping alone on the couch. We all have said things in the past we’d rather take back. But let’s take a positive look at couples’ conflict.

Fights Might Not Be All That Bad…

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Despite how they leave us feeling – frustrated, upset and disappointed – family fights aren’t bad for your health. It’s often difficult to calm yourself down after a blazing row, your heart is pounding, your breathing is elevated. But a new study, published in the Journal of Biobehavioural Medicine, has found that adverse health implications of fighting only occur in couples whose fighting and anger-management styles are mismatched.

The study followed 192 married couples over 32 years. It asked the question: does a partner’s behaviour influence your mortality and longevity? That is, does a more argumentative partner reduce your life expectancy? Each couple was asked questions about how they would respond in given scenarios. They may respond with answers like “I’d let it all out in one explosive shouting match” or “I’d be angry, but I’d keep bottling it up.”

Matching Your Fighting Styles Is Key…

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The results found that the greater the mismatch in response styles between partners was linked to an increased risk of early death. In particular, in situations where one partner bottles up their anger, while the other unleashes it in an epic shouting match, the risk of early death doubles. Unsurprisingly, the study found the best way of dealing with anger was for both couples to have a blazing row where they air all their concerns and each speaks openly about their plans and doubts.

Crucially, the findings might be explained by our social psychology. Where couples were mismatched in how they deal with anger, both partners felt the situation had not been dealt with properly. For instance, a wife screaming blue murder at a husband bottling it all up and refusing to say a word leaves both the wife feeling like her rage has had no effect and the husband silently fuming at his wife’s outburst.

Such situations lead to continuous stress, an increase in everyday tension in family life and a negative impact on both partners’ health. Additionally, the same pattern consistently repeats itself as everything that was bottled up spills out time and time again.

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Communication Is Vital…

So, what can we learn? Well, the only way to release the tension and move on from the argument is, yep you guessed it, to talk it out properly. If you open up, both partners begin to learn about what hurts each other and how to overcome and avoid it. It’s the age old adage, what your partner doesn’t know about, they can’t fix! As ever, communication is key. But it’s also about how you communicate, trying to match your styles when possible.

Couples with similar conflict-response styles have fewer fights and thus maintain better health. By working together, they can find the right outlet for their emotions and learn to agree on an action that is better for both of them. So what might seem like two people screaming at each other could actually be an interesting take on team problem-solving! Although equally, it could be because neither of them is listening to the other…

So, next time you and your partner begin an age-old battle over whose turn it is to do the dishes, pause. Take a moment to analyse the fighting patterns you normally fall into. If when the argument is over, you still don’t feel heard, take the time to discuss it. Work out how you can compromise on your responses to conflict so you can stay together for longer, and live together for longer! It could change your relationship and prolong your life!

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