Go ahead, explode in his face! Spray him generously with the fluids from your salivary glands!
According to a recent study on anger as published in this month’s issue of the Journal of Family Communication, a good tongue-lashing from one spouse to another may not only resolve marital conflicts but could also be good for the spouse’s health.
The study said results from a survey showed that disputing husbands and wives who don’t show their anger and let it simmer deep inside them die earlier than couples who blast each other at the slightest instance.
“When couples get together, one of their main jobs is reconciliation about conflict,” said researcher Ernest Harburg, professor emeritus with the University of Michigan School of Public Health and Psychology Department. “Usually nobody is trained to do this. If they have good parents, they can imitate, that’s fine, but usually the couple is ignorant about the process of resolving conflict.”
Since there will always be conflict in any relationship, the key is how partners resolve their conflict satisfactorily.
“The key matter is, when the conflict happens, how do you resolve it?” Harburg said. “When you don’t, if you bury your anger, and you brood on it and you resent the other person or the attacker, and you don’t try to resolve the problem, then you’re in trouble.”
The findings support past research showing that the release of anger is good for one’s health. For instance, one study showe that when people are angry they tend to make better decisions, perhaps because this emotion triggers the brain to ignore irrelevant cues and focus on what is truly essential.
Individuals who express anger might also have a sense of control and optimism over a situation, according to another past study.
Anger that’s kept in a bottle and stored in the cellars of the mind adds to stress, which tends to shorten lives, many studies have shown.
In the latest study, the authors suggest a combination of factors to explain the higher mortality for couples who don’t express their anger. These include “mutual anger suppression, poor communication (of feelings and issues) and poor problem-solving with medical consequences.”
Over a 17-year period, Harburg and his colleagues studied 192 married couples in which spouses ranged in age from 35 to 69, focusing on aggressive behavior considered unfair or undeserved by the person being “attacked.” Harburg said that if an attack is viewed as fair, the victim doesn’t tend to get angry.
Based on the participants’ anger-coping responses to hypothetical situations, Harburg placed couples into one of four categories: both partners express their anger; the wife expresses anger; the husband communicates anger while the other suppresses; and both the husband and wife brood and suppress their anger.
The researchers found that 26 couples, meaning 52 individuals, were suppressors in which both partners held in their anger. Twenty-five percent of the suppressors died during the study period compared with about 12 percent for the other remaining couples.
In 27 percent of the suppressor couples, one member of the couple died during the study period, and in 23 percent of those couples, both died during the study period. That’s compared to only 6 percent of couples where both spouses died in the remaining three groups combined. Only 19 percent in the remaining three groups combined saw one partner die during the study period.
The results held even when other health factors were accounted for, including age, smoking, weight, blood pressure, bronchial problems, breathing and cardiovascular risk.
Harburg said the results are preliminary, and his team is now collecting 30-year follow-up data. He expects the follow-up to show almost double the death rate compared with the preliminary findings.
So now that you know this, consider yourself like Agent 007: You now have a license to – no, not really kill – a license to stay alive longer by blowing your top to your partner.