You want some extra incentive for saving your marriage? You’ll live longer.

Marriage has many benefits – which may be hard to see when you’re in the midst of a marriage crisis or trying to survive your spouse’s affair and the ensuing damage.

Researchers call it the marriage advantage. In this blog, I’ll explain to you what it is, and how to maximize it by looking at three areas that could be putting you at a marriage disadvantage.

The Marriage Advantage

Medical research has repeatedly delved into the question, “Who’s healthier: single people or married people?”

A lot of people, especially those who have been struggling in their marriages, would say that surely, marriage will kill you sooner. But research had continued to show a different story: married people appear to live longer, healthier lives.

The research has looked at marriage and its health effects from a range of angles. For example, heart attacks, cancer, the need for surgery – all are less likely for those who are married.

However, researchers fine-tuned their line of questioning and began to ask, “Who’s healthier, single people or married people in troubled relationships?”

Well, it looks like quality counts: one recent study showed that a marriage that leaves you stressed and anxious is as bad for your ticker as a daily smoking habit.

If you want the marriage advantage – a longer, healthier life – you need to examine your marriage for those things that can cause a disadvantage and lead you straight to the grave.

Maximize the Marriage Advantage

All marriages have some level of conflict, and some more than others. Trying to not fight in order to keep things healthy will only lead to more stress than trying to actually work through and resolve whatever the conflicts are.

Marriages, just like all areas of life, have a tendency to fall into grooves or patterns. You and your spouse may currently be in a state of marriage crisis, either dealing with the after-effects of an affair, or simply a drifting apart that has ruptured your emotional connection. To varying degrees, situations such as this within a marriage are unhealthy until they are resolved, and can lead to a great deal of stress.

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But just because your marriage may have worked into a currently negative pattern does not mean it needs to remain there. Here are some key areas in your relationship to examine to see if they are contributing to a marriage disadvantage.

Step 1: Anger

Anger can be constructive as well as destructive. It has its time and its place. But if you find that either you or your spouse are having constant outburst, this is stressful to the body, the person on the receiving end, and on the whole marriage itself.

If you are the spouse who is feeling a lot of anger, take the time to sit down and write out the things that are making you feel this way. Many times, anger is simply an expression of frustration. What is it about your relationship that frustrates you? What are you frustrated with about yourself?

Also, track for one week those times when you do experience anger in your marriage. What was the trigger? How did you respond? By stepping back and examining what these triggers are as well as understanding what you’re feeling inside, you can begin to manage the anger by working with your spouse in finding solutions to what is frustrating you.

Step 2: Emotions

Our emotions can cause us to experience great joy or great distress. Which way are your emotions going recently? If you are the victim of your spouse’s affair, you no doubt are experiencing a wide range of negative emotions, which is stressful on the body. Not only do you feel bad about your marriage and your life in general – your sleep is probably being haunted with negative images and negative thoughts so that you are unable to relax.

Even marriages that aren’t working to survive an affair can be emotionally draining if there are other unresolved issues. Saving your marriage takes a lot of effort, and this is also stressful.

Write down what emotions you are experiencing lately. Track your emotions for a week to see what patterns emerge. Again, simply understanding what is happening with you internally can help you shine the light on areas of stress that need to be attended to in order to better manage your health.

Step 3: Positivity vs. negativity

I talked briefly about conflicts and arguing. These conflicts in and of themselves aren’t necessarily bad. In fact, marriage research shows that couples who argue a lot sometimes have more successful marriages than those couples who don’t.

Why is this?

It’s the rest of the time these couples spend together: they are generally characterized by a lot of positive interactions to offset the negative ones. This makes for much less stress than a marriage characterized by the occasional negative interaction with no balancing effect of positive ones.

This week, track your interactions with your spouse, both positive and negative. Once you have a handle of what your week looks like, look for ways to boost the positive interactions – and do them. It will help relieve the stress of any negative interactions you experience – and boost your marriage advantage.

My best to you as you maximize the marriage advantage in your relationship.

Do you feel you and your spouse are fully experiencing the marriage advantage?

If not, what is causing a marriage disadvantage, i.e. marriage stress?

Please track your patterns for a week, and update daily as needed. Are you finding areas where you can add more positive into the interactions with your spouse, and what difference has that made?

Please share your ideas and personal experiences with other members of the community.

Wishing you hope and healing for your marriage,

Stephanie Anderson
Editor-in-Chief
Marriage Sherpa

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