Does relationship improve your physical health? During the last two decades research clearly shows that people who live together in a long-term relationship, are physically healthier and their life span is longer. Research also shows that relationships affect positively the joy level of the partners, their self esteem and career success.
Research shows more than that; people who got hurt physically and/or mentally from reasons unrelated to the relationship, will recover faster and more effectively when they are in relationship, in comparison to those who are alone.
That said, one can conclude that being involved in a relationship can really support body and mind health; Is that so?
I observe these “truths” through a couple’s therapist’s glasses and wonder in my heart if these studies reflect what I am witnessing when I’m working with couples and families.
Please don’t get me wrong; I fully believe in the strength and the added value that relationships contribute to the physical and mental health of the partners. Yet, at the same time, I wonder what happens to the physical and mental health of the partners when they fall into the deep well of crisis and conflict. What happens when endless fights and mutual blaming substitute loving and gentle communication? What happens when conflicts create long term mutual hurt, resentment, bitterness, distance, that can wear down rapidly the trust and love that used to preside until not too long ago. I find out that prolonged dispute in the relationship is badly affecting not only the happiness, but, it wears down the physical health. Symptoms start to show up, minor flu and colds find their ways easily to the bodies of the partners, and when there are no solutions in the horizon, these become a fertile ground to the development of more serious diseases.
Researchers in the medical school in UCLA, found in their studies connections between the presence of negative relationship and development of inflammation, high blood pressure, and even connections to processes’ development of heart problems and cancer. Prolonged periods of high stress within the relationship, undoubtedly hurt essential body systems like immune system, endocrine system and more systems and inner organs.
The typical emotion prevalent in couples living long periods in unsatisfying relationships is loneliness. This long term emotion causes to an on growing deprivation in love and connection which can cause a deterioration and decrease in the partners’ livelihood and life energy.
Unresolved loneliness and emotional pain might increase the general feelings of pessimism, exhaustion, depression and allergies development, and I found many times in therapy, that these are connected to loneliness and pain in relationships. Many times, spouses are surprised to reveal the connection between their emotional issues and physical symptoms.
An interesting aspect with bad relationships are couples who look like they are in good relationships but appearance of physical symptoms and disease in one of the partners or both, contribute to a rapid peeling of the couple’s facade, exposing under the “harmonious” relationship lots of pain and loneliness.
It’s only after the spouses start to genuinely communicate with each other and mutually expressing their hearts, that health in body and mind has a real shot in being restored. Couple therapy can be the first stop in the process.
Dr. Uri Kenig