Is Your LTR or Marriage Toxic?
A bad marriage may strain your health, as well as your relationship. Find out how to start mending it.
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MDYou may have heard that married people tend to have better physical and psychological health, compared to singles.
But here's the fine print: People in unhappy marriages don't seem to get those benefits. In fact, their rocky relationship may make them less healthy.
For instance, a 2005 study showed that staying in an unsatisfying marriage may raise stress and worsen health. A later study showed that people in close, negative relationships are more likely to get heart disease.
That doesn't prove that a good marriage makes you healthy, or that a bad marriage makes you sick. But there's no question -- a bad marriage isn't good for you.
When Anastasia (last name withheld for privacy) married her first husband, she found him to be considerate of her feelings and supportive of her career as a budding recording artist. But things changed over time.
When she became pregnant, he refused to cook her the pasta and potatoes she craved because, as she recalls him putting it, the two foods didn't go together. She also says he once let go of their infant daughter's stroller from atop a hill, thinking it was funny. (Their baby was unharmed.)
Anastasia found that trying to express her feelings to the man who had vowed to love and cherish her became a continual exercise in frustration. He was usually dismissive, telling her not to take things so seriously. “I think the repressed anger and ... just my point of view not being validated, accepted... I think it kind of ruined my health, really,” she says.
Consider the Stress"If you’re in a bad marriage, don’t underestimate the stress that you are carrying around,” says Sharon Rivkin, MA, MFT, a marriage and family therapist in Santa Rosa, Calif.
She says that if your day-to-day relationship is full of stress, fighting, or the silent treatment, "you are compromising your health every day.”
Some couples cannot make it, Rivkin says, like if one partner lacks empathy or is physically abusive to the other one. But she says there is hope for most couples, even if they have years of hurt and resentment.
Here are five of the most common bad marriage habits -- and how to work on them.
Keeping It All InsideEvery couple faces challenges, says Susan Heitler, PhD, a Denver psychologist who specializes in marriage and family therapy, but if you don’t talk about your problems, marital tension and the distance between you will only grow.
Joy (last name withheld for privacy) recalls how she avoided conflict with her ex-husband, a recovering alcoholic, in part to protect his sobriety. “You almost walk on eggshells around somebody,” she says. “You want to make sure they’re OK and not wanting to drink and you don’t want to stress them out and you don’t want to start fights.” The strained communication ultimately led her to become depressed.
People who grew up in families that communicated well about problems “speak the language of cooperation naturally,” Heitler says. But many people don't learn those skills as youngsters and need tools for talking about sensitive issues in a safe way.
Work on it: Improve your communication skills. Heitler, author of The Power of Two: Secrets of a Strong & Loving Marriage, suggests turning to books on communication, marriage education courses, or web sites for help. Marriage counselors are another good option, but Heitler says not all of them teach effective communication skills, so look for one who does.