Marriage and the 4 Horseman

Marriage can be a key factor in promoting health. UCLA Professor Robert Coombs found, “Virtually every study of mortality and marital status shows the married of both sexes have lower death rates, whether by accident, disease, or self-inflicted wounds, and this is found in every country that maintains accurate health statistics.”

Men show the largest longevity gains. Wives tend to discourage drinking, smoking, unnecessary risk-taking, and also improve their family’s diet. In fact, men actually decrease many self-destructive patterns up to a year before their actual wedding date. It seems even planning to get married improves a man’s health. Another health benefit comes from emotional support. Researchers found emotional support from a spouse can help people recover from both minor and major illnesses and even help cope with chronic diseases. Some studies even suggest that marital relationships actually boost the immune system, making sickness less likely in the first place. Happily married individuals undergoing heart bypass surgery are three times more likely to stay alive 15 years later than their single peers.

A 1991 study of the mental health in America found that married people have significantly lower rates of severe depression and at least half the likelihood of developing any psychiatric disorder then never-married, cohabiting and divorced people. It brings better mental and physical health, reducing the chance of premature death by 15 per cent, according to major studies in seven European countries.
•Happily married couples behave like good friends, and they handle their conflicts in gentle, positive ways.
•Happily married couples are able to repair negative interactions during an argument, and they are able to process negative emotions fully.

Without corrective measures, marriage satisfaction tends to decline with time often leading to divorce. On average, people who have divorced or been widowed have worse health problems than men and women who are single their entire lives.

If you really want to increase your wealth, get married and stay married. On the other hand, divorce can devastate your wealth. Divorce reduces a person’s wealth by about three-quarters (77 percent) compared to that of a single person, while being married almost doubles comparative wealth (93 percent). And people who get divorced see their wealth begin to drop long before the decree becomes final. $50 billion a year U.S. family law industry often promotes antagonism. Try to get a mediator if you are headed for divorce. For a wake up, check out the film Divorce Corp s which shines a bright light on the appalling waste, and shameless, collusive practices seen in divorce courts.

But staying in a bad marriage is not a good solution. Particularly for woman, a bad marriage negates the health benefits. 300 women who had been hospitalized with severe chest pains or a heart attack; the study found that those who reported the highest levels of marital stress were nearly three times as likely to suffer another heart attack or require a bypass or other procedure. It is notable that these increased risks weren’t associated with other forms of stress. For instance, women who were stressed-out at work weren’t at any higher risk. 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.”

Another study showed after a small blister was inflicted, when couples argued, their wounds took, on average, a full day longer to heal than after the sessions in which the couples discussed something pleasant. Among couples who exhibited especially high levels of hostility while bickering, the wounds took a full two days longer to health

The good news is that marriage outcomes are not random.  There are way to predict a successful marriage. John Gottman by looking at how couples engaged in conflict has repeatedly predicted with over 90% accuracy who would divorce and who would stay married years later. He found that not all negatives are alike. Four of them stood out as being the most destructive and biggest predictors of divorce and separation. Gottman dubbed these, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. They are Criticism, Defensiveness, Contempt and Stonewalling. While most relationships will have some of these, healthy relationships don’t use them nearly as often and do more to repair them when they are used. If you are noticing any of the these styles of communicating increasing in your discussions, act now to learn safer and more effective ways to talk about your differences.

The Four Horseman                                    4 horseman
Criticism: When you criticize your partner you are basically implying that there is something wrong with them. You have taken a problem between you and put it inside your partner’s body. Using the words: “You always” or “you never” are common ways to criticize. Your partner is most likely to feel under attack and to respond defensively. This is a dangerous pattern to get into because neither person feels heard and both may begin to feel bad about themselves in the presence of the other. The antidote to criticism is to make a direct complaint that is not a global attack on your partner’s personality.

Contempt is any statement or nonverbal behavior that puts yourself on a higher ground than your partner. Mocking your partner, calling them names, rolling your eyes and sneering in disgust are all examples of contempt. Of all the horsemen, contempt is the most serious. Couples have to realize that these types of put downs will destroy the fondness and admiration between them. The antidote to contempt is to lower your tolerance for contemptuous statements and behaviors and to actively work on building a culture of appreciation in the relationship. Is it easy? No. Can it be done? Yes. In Gottman therapy there are many exercises we can use to help you learn to reduce, repair and eliminate contemptuous exchanges.

Defensiveness: When you attempt to defend yourself from a perceived attack with a counter complaint you are being defensive. Another way to be defensive is to whine like an innocent victim. Unfortunately, defensiveness keeps partners from taking responsibility for problems and escalates negative communication. Even if your partner is criticizing you, defensiveness is not the way to go. It will only fuel a bad exchange. The antidote to defensiveness is to try to hear your partner’s complaint and to take some responsibility for the problem.

Stonewalling happens when the listener withdraws from the conversation. The stonewaller might actually physically leave or they might just stop tracking the conversation and appear to shut down. The Stonewaller may look like he doesn’t care (80% are men) but that usually isn’t the case. Typically they are overwhelmed and are trying to calm themselves. Unfortunately, this seldom works because the partner, especially if a woman, is likely to assume they don’t care enough about the problem to talk about it. It can be a vicious circle with one person demanding to talk and the other looking for escape. The antidote is to learn to identify the signs that you or your partner is starting to feel emotionally overwhelmed and to agree together to take a break. If the problem still needs to be discussed then pick it up when you are calmer.

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