Fighting Partners and Their Health
No one's telling you to rush out and engage in a below-the-belt, no-holds-barred battle with your mate. But getting those mutual feelings of anger out in the open can have a beneficial effect on your health. The stress that is caused by unresolved anger can result in emotional and physical problems, says psychotherapist Joanne Stern.
"Couples that hold in those feelings build up a huge emotional pile of unresolved, unacknowledged and un-dealt with feelings that can literally kill them," she says. "We can get not only ulcers and migraine headaches, but even cancer."
Anger actually affects people physically in a negative way, says Mary Jo Rapini, a certified anger resolution therapist and sex therapist. When someone gets angry, he or she can experience a rapid heart beat, a rise in adrenaline and an increased breathing rate. None of these are good for the body, she says.
"There can be so much anger that it can cause high blood pressure, which is very had for your health," Rapini says.
Keeping one's emotions pent up can actually cause physical damage over time, says psychologist Karen Sherman, who specializes in relationships. "When things upset you about your spouse and you don't say anything, it creates a rift over time," she says. "But have the fight in an appropriate way. If it turns explosive and toxic, that's not good either. If managed properly, a fight can actually bring a couple closer together."
So, sit down with your mate and resolve not to just simmer in silence.
"Couples who are open and honest with each other have an outlet for their emotions," Stern says. "If not, the emotions build up like a volcano and pretty soon they either explode in unhealthy ways or they do damage internally."
How to Healthily Fight with Your Partner
You're angry, so use the word "I," not "you," says Stern. In other words, say, "I need" and "I feel" rather than "You always" or "You never."
Express your anger, suggests Stern, so it does not turn into resentment, bitterness and revenge, but avoid shouting at each other and using four-letter words.
Don't feel that you have to solve an anger-producing issue before going to bed, Rapini says. "When you try to patch things up before bed, it may not be a sincere patch," she says. There is nothing wrong with waiting until the next day.
If you are feeling really angry, call a short timeout. Take some deep breaths and walk around outside for 10 minutes to release some of the anger, recommends Rapini.
Finally, remember that all marriages have some conflict in them - and that's a good thing. If a couple tells Sherman that they don't fight, she sees it as a red flag. "When you are in a committed relationship, there is bound to be conflict," she says. "Couples need to know that this is a normal part of a relationship."
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