You see that special someone from across the room, your eyes meet, and you just know…she is the one. What you might not know is that by choosing her to be the one, you could very well be improving your health and the longevity of your life. As you made the choice to make your partner your forever partner I’m sure you were filled with many wonderfully romantic ideas of what your life would be like. Maybe you thought of the romantic dinners and trips the two of you would go on or the endless “I love you’s” that you would hear. What you probably didn’t think about was the actual health benefits that you gain when you maintain a happy and healthy marriage. Health benefits are NOT romantic or sexy and they typically don’t give you butterflies in your stomach or make your heart skip a beat, but nonetheless they are there and can be a very powerful and very real reason to keep a watchful eye on the status of your marriage.
According to Christopher Fagundes, PhD, psychologist and researcher at The Ohio State University, research has shown that married couples, even more than couples who simply cohabitate, are less inclined to engage in risk-taking behavior and substance abuse. This seems to support the idea that if you have a person in your life whom you deeply care about, you want to be around longer to be with that person., meaning less jumping out of planes and more jumping on the enclosed trampoline in the backyard.
Studies, such as the one published in the journal Physiology and Behavior, suggest that maintaining a quality marriage can in fact lower the risk of many diseases, including cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease, and even the flu. When your spouse loves and cares about your well being he will be more likely to encourage you to eat healthy, exercise more, relax on vacation, and make overall healthy life choices.
Along with lowering the risk of many diseases, a happily married couple can also protect one another from the the negative effects of stress. When you have a close and supportive spouse, she will act as a buffer against many of the physical and emotional consequences associated with stress. As a buffer, your spouse can be your emotional support and sounding board during times of high stress as well as remind and encourage you to take care of yourself. After a long hard day at work coming home and being able to put your feet up while your spouse prepares dinner (a way of alleviating some of your stress) could be just what the doctor ordered.
On the other hand, an unhappy marriage can lead to increased levels of stress as well as an increase in the negative physical and emotional effects that go with it. Frequent marital disagreements or discord, whether quick and intense or slow and simmering, lead to unhealthy physiological reactions such as raised blood pressure and can reduce your ability to fight off infection or physically heal from cuts or other wounds.
While reduced risk-taking behavior, less sick days, and lower blood pressure are probably not the loving and romantic reasons you decided to say “I do”, it is important to keep them in mind as you work towards maintaining a healthy marriage. Being able to depend on your spouse for support and to confide in her when you are down or stressed are imperative to a healthy marriage and as research shows, can lead to a longer and higher quality of life.
Amber groves is a marriage and family counselor and infertility specialist at The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, CO. She helps couples, families and children to have the calm and peaceful life they want in their relationship and family. In her spare time, she is the mother of one busy toddler.