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Couples Therapy: A Health Tool

Couples who are constantly at odds with their spouses or partners are shocked to find out that married people have a much higher sense of well being than those who are single, divorced or widowed.
In fact, the latest Australian Unity Wellbeing Index Survey results pretty much echo past findings that married couples in a happy, caring, stable relationship have fewer health issues. 



In marked contrast, those who are undergoing a relationship breakdown, getting divorced or separated get sick or depressed more frequently; which in turn decreases their productivity, self-esteem and income potential.


Those who have jobs call in sick often, chalking up more tardiness and absences than their married counterparts. 

"Rates in health are higher for married couples and those

in relationships"

While media often portrays the newly-single as having the time of their life, survey figures reveal just the opposite. They face a greater risk for developing chronic diseases; possibly because they have become less vigilant with their lifestyle, particularly in the areas of nutrition and exercise.


Does this mean that health, happiness and wealth favor those who are married?


Not necessarily because those in dysfunctional relationships face a lot of chronic stress termed - a high risk factor for all top killer diseases globally such as

  • heart disease,
  • stroke,
  • hypertension,
  • cancer,
  • diabetes mellitus/metabolic syndrome
  • depression.

However, faced with consistent research findings that you may not fare better alone, it may be high time to give your marriage a second thought.


The science is good on this - a 30 year study at Stanford University conducted by neurobiologist and renowned author Robert Sapolsky affirmed unequivocally that managing stress and achieving balance and harmony increases longevity, decreases incidence of disease, speeds up recovery and increases the chances of surviving life-threatening conditions.


More importantly, it showed that positive social relationships especially in the home can reverse DNA damage caused by chronic stress from any nature.
In short, we can alter our response to stress by having some control over factors that worsen our relationship. In doing so, we revive our marriage and do ourselves a big favor by boosting immunity to ward off disease. 

Don't Worry, Be Happy

Positive relationships enable our brain to release the happy hormone dopamine, regulates our sugar levels so we don't binge and cause appropriate release of melatonin so we are able to sleep well and wake up relaxed and refreshed.
On the other hand, inability to deal with prolonged, sustained challenges causes the normal stress response to go on overdrive resulting to increased blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, decreased mental performance and compromised immune system.
Symptoms like

  • easy irritability,
  • fatigue,
  • restlessness,
  • anxiety,
  • mood swings,
  • lack of appetite,
  • binges,
  • migraine,
  • unexplained rage,

They all point out to the fact that you need to diffuse the pressure - proactively. You and your partner need to recognize that the route you jointly choose is the healthy, win-win solution for your family.  

United We Stand, Divided We Fall

Couples who are wary of the emotional and financial stress of divorce should consider therapy, especially when there are children involved. The cycle of anger, fear, shame and mistrust snowballs and diminishes pleasure and pride in the marital relationship unless communication lines are opened.


This process requires TLC (tender loving care) because the partners may be too involved that it clouds objectivity.
Newlyweds view marriage as a safe haven until personal conflicts and other serious issues rock its very foundation. Loving relationships lose luster when partners lose trust in each other and notice glaring incompatibilities rather than interesting differences.
Some may opt out because they feel stifled or have lost their self-esteem. The morbid desire to get the upper hand creeps in uninvited; couples should recognize that therapy is not a contest.
Realistically speaking, achieving togetherness is a difficult feat, let alone "gazing at the same direction" all the time. Most marriages are like old photographs - slightly frayed, but beautiful in its mellowed state.


Those who are on the outside looking in envy those in seemingly "perfect" marriages, totally oblivious of the fact that the bliss they are witnessing is not accidental but a product of hard work, a clear sense of self, tolerance, humor  and a bit of amnesia.


New Beginnings

One of the best excuses for working out marital kinks is that a compassionate and caring relationship reverses the bad effects of stress, even if it has been going on for some time. Troubled relationships that have a chance to recover require a lot of faith, persistence and trust.
When you first open up channels of communication, you are vulnerable to hostile reactions and verbal attacks. When you try to do it yourself (even with the best of intentions and an armful of self-help books), the initial intent sprung from care may be lost in translation.
Verbal interference blocks productive communication unless there is therapist who can help two once-loving partners "talk" skillfully - honestly but in a non-confrontational manner. Each must be able to self-regulate, be prepared to truly listen and change.
Having a therapist facilitate this "discovery and recovery process" ensures that you are able to do all these without getting blindsided by emotions. When people in troubled marriages are able to communicate without throwing barbs that open new wounds, they are on their way towards getting to know the other all over again.
Couples therapy is healthy since either one of two good things may happen: a fresh start towards intimacy where partners value the same thing and are respectful of boundaries set or an amicable parting with the realization that they have come out winners simply by chucking off their burdens.
Either way, stress is managed and partners walk together or walk away healthier and self-fulfilled.


Copyright Humaneed 2015