When married couples argue, it often leads to hurt feelings. Now, new research shows high-intensity arguments can cause broader emotional and physical troubles.
Researchers at The Ohio State University recently took a deeper look at their 2005 research. Back then, they found that just one stressful argument can harm immune system function.
Now, they have discovered that arguing can become part of a broader, deeper and more vicious cycle. Typically, the researchers found, it goes like this: Combative arguments among the study participants were linked to more negative marital communications. That, in turn, leaves a trail of persistent negative emotions and biological markers that cause poorer health outcomes.
In particular, the stress of arguing and negative communication can lead to chronic inflammation, diminished immune-system function and emotional struggles.
During the study, the scientists looked closely at data from a group of nearly four dozen couples who had been together for an average of 12 years. Among other factors, the researchers observed wound healing as an indicator of proper immune system functioning. Couples with more relationship strife and negative communication habits needed more time for their physical wounds to heal.
In the new study, the researchers noted that couples’ negative communication tactics — especially mutual avoidance or making demands — have a cascading effect on both emotions and immune-system function.
But all is not lost. Couples can use therapy or education to boost their communication skills. And there’s also that time-honored tactic for dealing with a marital disagreement: Choose your words wisely.