Fatal Attraction: When Your Spouse Makes You Sick

We promise to stick with them "in sickness and in health," so what do you do when your spouse is the one making you ill?

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Married couples share everything - beds, bills, children, even the same moods. That intimacy is one of the reasons we shack up in the first place, but it can also take a very real toll on your health. We've put together a list of the secret (and not-so-secret) ways your spouse could be making you sick and what you can do about it. After all, sharing is supposed to be caring.

The Secret Sex Allergy

In one of nature's cruelest twists, some women are physically allergic to their husband's semen. One in 40,000 women suffers from a seminal protein allergy, which means that a protein inside their spouse's semen stimulates an anaphylactic reaction when it meets uterine immune cells. Manifesting in swelling, itching, burning, and excruciating pain, this allergy often goes undiagnosed because women, and their gynecologists, incorrectly attribute it to a yeast infection or sexually transmitted disease.

What you can do

Talk to your doctor if you experience any of the following during sex:

  • Itching
  • Irritation
  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Burning
  • A rash
  • Hives
  • Difficulty breathing

Find a good allergist to help you tackle the problem.

Use a condom to keep yourself from being exposed to the allergens in your husband's semen.

Explore your fertility options if and when you want to become pregnant. Allergists can help you undergo a slow desensitization program to help your body not react to your partner's sperm. Sperm can also be washed before intrauterine insemination. Or, in extreme cases, in vitro fertilization skirts the problem altogether by introducing the sperm to the egg outside of your body.

Sharing Too Much

You know how hard it is to stay happy and calm when your spouse comes home a grumpy mess? Well, for some women, mirroring their spouse's emotions can actually develop into serious health problems. New research into "emotional poisoning" finds that some women (yes, it seems to happen mostly to women), experience increases in blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and cholesterol when they are around a spouse who is experiencing depression, anxiety, or stress.

Though scientists don't fully understand what causes it, they do know that when some women witness their spouse's bad moods, "mirror neurons" in their brains become activated and recreate the emotions of their mate in their own minds. It's an evolutionary response that helps us understand our mates' nonverbal cues and emotional state, but taking on too much of your partner's troubles can wreak havoc on your health. Depression depletes your immune system and can increase your risk for cardiovascular events.

What you can do

If someone in your family is experiencing anxiety, stress or depression, help them find support and resources outside of the family so that a professional can help you both handle it.   Depression and anxiety are medical conditions the same as high blood pressure and diabetes, and they often require treatment.

You've Heard of Secondhand Smoke...

But did you know that third-hand smoke could be putting your family's health at risk right now? That's right, even if you never smoke when family members are in the room or go outside to light up, over 40 million Americans are still being exposed to dangerous chemicals in the form of third-hand smoke.

Secondhand smoke is the kind you can see (and that you are directly inhaling) when someone near you is smoking. Third-hand smoke consists of the particles that come from the smoke and ash that land on your clothes, furniture, hair, and other surfaces. They interact with chemicals in the air and become carcinogens (cancer-causing substances).

Researchers are now discovering that when your spouse and other family members inhale those particles, it can cause some of the same health problems as second or first-hand smoke.

What can you do

We know it's hard to hear, but what we're saying is that even smoking away from loved ones is not enough to protect their health (you'd have to strip all your clothes off, wash them immediately, and scrub yourself down in the shower after every smoke break). To really protect them, you need to stop smoking entirely. We don't expect you to quit cold turkey, however. You can follow Dr. Oz's Kick the Habit Plan so that you and your family can begin living a healthier life right now.

Your Spouse's Not-So-Secret Bad Habits

Even small nuisances can turn into big health problems. Here are some things you do (or don't do) every day that can take years off your partner's life.

Snoring

Years it can snatch from your spouse: 4

Why Partners of snorers lose one hour per night of sleep on average. Sleeping poorly increases inflammation, impairs the immune system, and is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

What you can do

  • Sleep on your side
  • Don't drink alcohol or take sedatives before bed
  • Lose weight
  • If it's a chronic problem, see a doctor to make sure you don't have a condition such as sleep apnea that requires treatment.

Nagging

Years it can snatch from your spouse: 8

Why The incessant criticism and task piling that come in the form of nagging can raise stress levels throughout the body. That stress, in turn, can cause a build up of chronic inflammation, which can damage both mental and cardiovascular health. Plus, we all know from experience that nagging usually backfires, making your spouse withdraw rather than join you in getting things done.

What you can do

  • Choose appropriate times to make requests of your partner (not during his or her favorite TV show or during the playoffs).
  • Ask in a calm, kind voice.
  • Try making a list of what you need help accomplishing so your spouse can consult it and refer back to it without having to be reminded by you.
  • Set deadlines for tasks and let your spouse accomplish them on his or her own schedule.

Skimping on Sex

Years it can snatch from your spouse's life: 4

Why Sex is good exercise for your brain and your body. The more sex you have (provided, it's safe sex and with a monogamous partner), the healthier you will be. Men who have sex once a month are at more than 2 times the risk of heart disease and heart attack as men who have sex twice a week.

What you can do

  • Set aside 10 minutes every day to talk and reconnect with your spouse (we promise this will pay off in the bedroom).
  • Kiss and cuddle for 10 minutes at least three times a week.
  • Commit to having sex twice a week (make two dates for it if you have to).
  • Get more ideas from Dr. Oz's National Sex Experiment

Remember, the sooner you can commit to a healthier life, the sooner you can get back to the "happily ever after" part you signed up for in the first place.