A new study from the American College of Cardiology found that people who are married have lower rates of several cardiovascular diseases compared with those who are single, divorced or widowed. Researchers analyzed records from a database of more than 3.5 million people and found after adjusting for age, sex, race and other cardiovascular factors that marital status had a positive impact on cardiovascular health (Casteel, 2014).
This, of course, suggests that the marriage is healthy. On the other hand, a study of nine thousand British civil servants with conflicted personal relationships were shown to be 34% more likely to have heart attacks than those with healthy relationships. Older research cited in the APA Monitor suggests that women in unhealthy marriages fare worse than men (Dishman & Heath, 2013).
Biology compounds the problem. Powerful marital disagreements can impact blood pressure and heart rate.Chronic marital unhappiness can lead to depression that in turn correlates with many physical problems, including heart failure, obesity, and weakened immunity. On the other hand, recent studies tell us that when we have loving, intimate connections our bodies produce a hormone called oxytocin that induces feelings of closeness and trust and may also help to balance the immune system. While more research is needed about this fascinating subject, there is a growing body of evidence pointing to the need to address marital problems before they seriously affect your health and overall functioning.
What can you do? If you have heart problems, you would obviously see a cardiologist who specializes in these issues. Similarly, if you have relationship problems, seeking help from a therapist who is a relationship expert can be good for your marriage, help your kids, and actually help your heart! A therapist who specializes in relationship problems, and has additional extensive training in couple therapy, just might be the person to consult for both your marriage and your health.
What does a relationship expert do? A therapist trained in couple and family therapy can clarify how to create a happier and healthier marriage. By understanding your relationship patterns, subjective interpretations, and the powerful and often unconscious marital map that fuels them, major change is possible. and, given the latest research, your health may be on the line.
In the early stages of couple therapy, a trained couples therapist can help you track counterproductive, choreographed arguments. These arguments have a life of their own. They block problem solving, create intense emotional distress, and often contribute to feelings of despair. A trained relationship expert helps identify and shift these patterns.
Going deeper, relationship patterns are fueled by interpretations. That is, you are constantly interpreting the “meaning” of what your partner is saying and making assumptions about what they really mean, “He knows what I need and won’t give it to me.” “She is saying that just to make me angry.” Couples therapists help identify, challenge, and reframe these powerful interpretations that add fuel to intense and negative interactions.
Finally, relationship experts can help you identify unconscious marital maps, created within your family of origin, that may be contributing to your unhappiness. When these unconscious maps are made conscious, healing can begin.
Take care of yourself. For the good of your marriage and your health, contact one of the relationship experts at the Samaritan Center, and draw on their years of postgraduate training in marriage and family therapy.
Casteel, B. (2014, March 28). Marriage Linked to Lower Heart Risks in Study of 3.5 Million Adults. American College of Cardiology.
Dishman, R., & Heath, G. (2013). Physical activity epidemiology (2nd ed., p. 103). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.