Most of us have heard that married people are healthier than their single counterparts. But new research shows that the state of your union matters more than just being married.
One recent study found that couples living in a miserable marriage are 25 times more likely to suffer a major depression than those in a happy marriage. And if you have suffered a heart attack, a bad marriage could increase your risk for a second attack. It can also cripple your recovery from cancer and weaken your immune system. Even a single bad argument can raise your blood pressure sharply, putting your health on the line.
Facing tough times is part and parcel of matrimony. In fact, the first 5 years of marriage have been shown to be the most stressful, as couples navigate the transition from dating, take on new financial responsibilities, consider becoming (or become) parents, and build a life together. But how you choose to respond to the slings and arrows could save your life. Here are 4 tips designed to alleviate stress, increase communication and help make your relationship and you healthier.
Identify Your Stressors
Sit down with your partner and write down everything that causes stress in your relationship. Divide triggers into 2 categories: in your control and out of your control. Then pick 3 items from the “in your control” list, brainstorm ways you can work together to solve them, and write your strategies down.
Conflict is a natural, inevitable part of any relationship and running from it will only seed trouble, not solve it. But it’s how you fight that counts.
The healthiest way to disagree is to view an argument as an opportunity to work things out and develop effective communication skills. Explain how you feel, ask for what you need, encourage your spouse to do the same and listen well when they do. Follow the 5 to 1 rule: for every single negative thing you say to one another, you wipe out 5 positive things you have said.
Make Peace Over Money
Experts (and amateurs) agree that having a different approach to spending money is one of the greatest relationship stressors and the cause of many fights and divorces. Explain to your other half how your parents dealt with money and how that informs your choices and have them do the same. Then each of you should clearly explain what you need or want and where your priorities lie. Come to an agreement about how you will spend, and how you will talk about spending, that you both can live with.
Controlling the stress in your life is a great first step to improving your health. Bolster that commitment with other healthy choices. Make more meals at home, never skip breakfast, pack healthy lunches, and limit how much you eat out (which will cut down on money stress and overeating).