There have been many studies showing that marriage is good for you. The results find that being married can increase longevity, make you happier, and aid in mental stability. While these things are often true, we’ve probably all seen relationships where we wonder if the relationship is causing more harm to the partners involved than good. This is especially true if either the husband or wife is controlling.
So, this begs the question, if one partner in the marriage is particularly controlling, is the marriage still good for your health?
How To Tell If Your Marriage Could Be Damaging Your Health
When it comes to being mentally and physically healthy there are a number of factors to consider. Many of these things are within your control, but certain ones can be taking their toll without you even realizing it. Things like an abusive or controlling marriage for instance.
Here are some unhealthy marriage risks from the article, Is Marriage Good for Your Health? by Tara Parker-Hope, published in The New York Times. Take note of the effects of having a controlling husband or controlling wife.
Other researchers have also studied how the "drip, drip" of negativity can erode not only a marriage itself but also a couple's physical health. A number of epidemiological studies suggest that couples with a failing marriage are at higher risk for heart attacks and cardiovascular disease than happily married couples.
(Psychology Professor Timothy) Smith's results suggest that there are important differences between men and women when it comes to health and the style of conflict that can jeopardize it.
The women in his study who were at highest risk for signs of heart disease were those whose marital battles lacked any signs of warmth, not even a stray term of endearment during a hostile discussion ("Honey, you're driving me crazy!") or a minor pat on the back or squeeze of the hand, all of which can signal affection in the midst of anger.
Most of the literature assumes that it's how bad the arguments get that drives the effect, but it's actually the lack of affection that does it. 'It wasn't how much nasty talk there was. It was the lack of warmth that predicted risk." Smith told me.
For men, on the other hand, hostile and negative marital battles seemed to have no effect on heart risk. Men were at risk for a higher coronary calcium score, however, when their marital spats turned into battles for control. It didn't matter whether it was the husband or wife who was trying to gain control of the matter - it was merely any appearance of controlling language that put men on the path of heart disease.
The solution, Smith noted, isn't to stop fighting. It's to fight more thoughtfully. "Difficulties in marriage seem to be nearly universal," he said. "Just try not to let fights be any nastier than they need to be."
Here are a 3 of takeaways for your next fight:
- Learn how to fight better
- Include some form of affection toward your wife or husband when you're fighting
- Watch out for battles for control and don't use controlling language with your husband
Tips For Dealing With A Controlling Spouse
Understanding that the stress and pain caused by a controlling spouse can actually have negative effects on your health makes knowing how to deal with that person even more important. The good news is that in most cases you can make positive changes. The bad news is that it can take some time.
If you have a husband or wife who tries to control you, or believes they're the final say on every decision, you will need to be clear on a few areas in order to get them to change. It’s always possible they don’t even recognize what they’re doing or why their behavior is inappropriate. It’s also possible they know and don’t care.
It’s very likely they will resist your efforts at getting them to change, so you’ll need to be prepared to remind and repeat for a while. The next step will be to set boundaries and consequences if change isn’t happening. Here are a few tips to get you started.
- Explain to them clearly how their behavior affects you. “It makes me want to be less affectionate when you act this way.”
- Describe the changes you would like to see. “Please ask me before you make plans,” “Please don’t assume you know how I feel about things,” etc.
- Be patient.
Changing behavior can be a slow process and there are times when the behavior is so deeply ingrained that marriage counseling may be the best and only choice. But if you are dealing with a controlling wife or husband it’s important for your physical and mental health to make sure the needed changes happen – either by them or you. Otherwise you will both suffer and neither of you will truly be happy in your relationship.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published May 1, 2010 and has been updated with new information for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
Looking for More? Check Out These Articles
- Women Can Be Abusive In Relationships Too
- The Mistake Of Staying Silent In Relationships That Are Abusive
- What It's Like To Be Married To A Man Who's Angry
- Get More Help with an Abusive Relationship