Therapy That Works...

Gearing Advantage

Doctors Sylvia and Milton Gearing have been serving the Dallas-Fort Worth area since 1985 with compassion and professionalism.

The Gearings implement the latest in psychological research to stay at the cutting edge of their field and bring the most effective and life changing techniques to their clients.

Their methods and strategies have been sharpened over the years, and are now built upon Gearing Up’s Three Gears of Change.

Fighting With Your Spouse Leads to Longer Life - Feb 7, 2008

Fighting With Your Spouse Leads to Longer Life

February 7, 2008

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

A new study reports that fighting with your spouse can actually make you live longer. Here to tell us more is TXA 21 Contributing Psychologist, Dr. Sylvia Gearing.

Q: We hear so much about "fair fighting" and good communication in relationships. Now this new study tells us that fighting with your spouse can actually be health enhancing. How do you explain this?

Dr. Sylvia: We have known for a long time that exploding in anger can eventually devastate your physical and emotional health. For example, a Harvard study of over 1500 men and women, found that angry people are three times more likely to have a heart attack. This new study highlights the need for a balanced and fair expression of conflict. Extreme anger can lower your immunity precipitously.

Q: What are the best ways to express anger constructively?

Dr. Sylvia: Here are several tips:

Keep It In The Chair: Despite what a lot of people say, you don't have to resolve your major marital conflicts to be happy in your marriage. Remember that 70% of things you don't like about your marriage are not likely to change. You may despise your differences, but you will learn to cope with them, to avoid situations that make them worse, and to develop strategies that help you deal with them as a team. Put the problem in the chair and seek mutual resolution for both of you.

Listen and Think Accurately: It is virtually impossible for your partner to accept your point of view if she feels misunderstood, criticized or contemptuously judged. Learn to complain without criticism or contempt, but most of all, learn to listen without involving your own emotions and ego. Couples get tangled up over the silly details without ever realizing that they agree about the important things. Once you place a negative spin on what she is saying, anger can become explosive.

Q: What is the biggest mistake people make when they are angry with their partner?

Dr. Sylvia: One of the key mistakes couples make is to blame their partners for whatever is upsetting them. We call this a "violation of rights" accusation and it is the number one reason spouses fight. You basically accuse the other person of hurting you when he had another choice available. It implies deliberate intent and makes your blood boil.

Q: So what if you do the opposite and you end up suppressing your anger? Does science have anything to add here?

Dr. Sylvia: Nothing good happens! Here is a sampling from research:

A person with high blood pressure who suppresses anger is five times more likely to die than is a high blood pressure victim without suppressed anger.

A study of nearly 700 people for over 17 years found that suppressed and persistent anger was associated with not only more cancer deaths but from mortality form all causes.

One study which followed 2500 men for 9 years found that men who suppress their anger are 75% more likely to develop heart disease than men who let their anger out or who talk about their anger.

Q: Are there any gender differences in how anger is handled in marriage?

Dr. Sylvia:

Men Shut Down: Men are more easily and more quickly overwhelmed by marital conflict than their wives. Eighty five percent of stonewalling--shutting down and refusing to speak--is instigated by men. They shut down to calm down and to back her off.

Women are the Barometers Over Long Haul: In chronically unhappy marriages, women seem to be the barometers of a challenged marriage She may disconnect first and silently before she ends the relationship.

Q: Any tips for our viewers?

Dr. Sylvia:

Refuse to hang onto a grudge and it will be less likely to hang on to you. This is especially true for women, since we have twice the brain space for emotional memory than men do.

For the guys, my best advice is to make sure your wife keeps talking to you. Angry or not, if she stops talking and is silent, your marriage may be in real jeopardy. The open lines of communication means you are "still in play."