The Importance of Being -- Married
There are many reasons to choose wisely and carefully when picking a spouse, but here's one you may not know: New research suggests that a good marriage is good for your health -- and that a bad one can be a real heartbreaker.
The Benefits of Wedded Bliss continued...
"There are physical benefits and mental health
benefits," says Gottman. "You have less depression, less anxiety
disorders, less psychosis, less posttraumatic stress disorders, fewer phobias.
You also have fewer injuries due to accidents."
"The process gets reversed when relationships
dissolve," he points out. This is especially true when one spouse dies.
Oftentimes the surviving partner will die of what some call the
"There is a bereavement process that is really
well-documented," says Gottman. "People really go through [physical]
grief and they secrete [the stress hormone] cortisol, and a lot of systems
really shut down. [The grieving spouses] become more vulnerable to all kinds of
infectious agents; their immune systems aren't working. So a person will get
something like pneumonia and die very quickly. And they also lose the will to
In this scenario, men are more likely to be the one who dies of
broken-heart syndrome, Gottman notes. But then again, men also typically reap
the greater health benefits from being married while alive.
For Guys, for Better or for Worse Is Mostly for Better
"If it is a good marriage, the benefits are equally as
great for women as for men; for men, just being married confers a
tremendous amount of benefits," Gottman says. "One of the major ways in
which marriage confers effects is to reduce risk: Men stop engaging in risky
behavior like bungee jumping and driving drunk. ... [They start] getting their
health looked at on a regular basis and eating well. Single men really don't do
that; they sort of fall apart.
"Women are less prone to risky behavior, more likely to go
to doctor when they are sick, and they take care of themselves better," he
says. "The other big, big difference is men have lousy social support
systems, and women have great support systems."
This just goes to show you how much men get taken care of in a
marriage, says David Woodsfellow, PhD, director of the Center for Relationship
Therapy in Atlanta.
"While the traditional role has man as the provider, that
role is really as the provider of money," he says. "In that
traditional role ... the woman is the provider of nurturing comfort, home, and
often food, clothing, and furnishings. I think it is those roles and their
vestiges that account for the finding that marriage is better for men."
Bridging the Differences
So being married can benefit your health. How can couples get
the maximum benefit for both parties involved?
Woodsfellow offers these four tips for bridging the inevitable
differences and keeping a marriage healthy and happy.
- Talk to each other every day. "Make a point of learning what the other
one's day was like," he says. "That becomes one type of quality time:
- Say nice things to one another; give one another compliments. "Do this
frequently," he says.
- Try not to reject each other. "Be aware of the little moments when your
partner is reaching out to you and try to respond to them rather than turn your
back to them, even if you are busy," says Woodsfellow.
- Develop your own little habits, rituals, secret words, or secret signals.
"Little, special things become special bonds, special moments of
intimacy," he says.