Disagreements With A Partner Ruin Not Just Your Relationship But Also Health, Says Science
More than a decade ago, when my best friend and I were young and naïve, we didn’t understand that some battles are just not worth pursuing. We fought, a lot. But almost every time, our arguments would just dissolve into nothingness because we’d be exhausted from all that bickering. And we thought, are we interested in losing our friendship? The answer would always be a no. Then why should trivial matters matter? What really works for us is knowing that the other person would never have bad intentions at heart and it’s that faith that helps us not bother about li’l things. We have disagreements but we stop and we are pally again. Like just last night, Alisha and I were arguing over where to go for dinner, both of us being irrationally and unusually difficult. We zeroed in on the place right across the road, the food was delicious and filling, which is when we admitted to each other that we were just hangry. Why is it so laborious to find the same kind of understanding in romantic relationships?
Being an incredibly calm person who rarely raises her voice, my family would get really surprised when they’d find me screaming on the phone. The thing is my ex drove me crazy! It was like if we talked, he’d find a way to ruffle up my peace, his insecurities dulling my sparkle, one day at a time. I was losing it, I couldn’t do it. Imagine, you’re going for a job interview and your boyfriend decides to call you, fighting over completely irrelevant matters. I would be cranky, irritated, and short-tempered all the time. Before I knew it, my period got messed up, I was gaining weight, and my face started looking like it had seen a lot and my scalp started disowning my hair.
Why do we stay in relationships that are toxic? Could it be that we are being half of the source of that toxicity? Yes, we could be. Is it unsolvable? Not necessary. But leaving the seeds of that harmful behaviour will only crop into more issues that will rip you off your peace.
Disagreements create cognitive disharmony
According to a study by Yale researchers, “When two people agree, their brains exhibit a calm synchronicity of activity focused on sensory areas of the brain. When they disagree, however, many other regions of the brain involved in higher cognitive functions become mobilized as each individual combats the other’s argument.”
Love is supposed to be resilient and peaceful and relationships should be conducive to our growth and wellness. But too many disagreements will create hyperactivity in your brain, which isn’t quite the plan when you enter a relationship.
I have also been in a healthy relationship in which my bae and I would discuss our issues and make peace. There was so much warmth, understanding, and acceptance between us because with every fight, we came closer. Of course, we had typical conflicts, wherein we’d stay up and argue. But after a while, we just decided to trust each other’s feelings and intentions. We made ground rules that when we are all agitated over something, we will just cool down before we discuss things. We also decided to agree to disagree, and accept that two people need not have the same opinion on things. It’s sweet how we are still friends and there’s no bitterness between us. If anything, that relationship made me glow. That’s what synchronicity can do to you and your connection.
Speaking of which, Hirsch explained, “There is a synchronicity between the brains when we agree. But when we disagree, the neural coupling disconnects.” And in a relationship we don’t want our mental connection to disconnect, do we?
Conflicts Can Weaken Your Immune System
The researchers at Portland State University’s Institute on Aging discovered that relationship conflicts can cause us stress and weaken our immune system. They found that “stable negative social exchanges” or prolonged conflicts and arguments were linked to “lower self-rated health, greater functional limitations, and a higher number of health conditions.” The study reported that this can “impact several health factors, but one key takeaway seems to be that stress can weaken your immune system.”
The study further reported that disagreements can make you more prone to illnesses like colds and the flu as well as physical pain such as headaches or back/neck pain. Disagreements anyway take a toll on our health and it’s even worse during the pandemic because I’d like to keep my immunity on the max. In fact, I wouldn’t want to overthink the flu.
Stress Affects Our Relationships And Health
According to another research, disagreements can cause leaky guts, according to a study by the Ohio State University. Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, PhD, director of the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research at The Ohio State University, and lead author of the study said that it is linked with a phenomenon in which gut bacteria leaks into our blood, causing inflammation and other health problems.
“Inflammation is more and more being seen as associated with a whole host of things you don’t want—cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis, frailty, and functional decline,” Kiecolt-Glaser told Healthline.
How You Handle The Disagreements That Matter
However, she said that conflicts are not to be entirely blamed. It’s the way a couple chooses to disagree that can predict whether it is healthy or not healthy. “Some would respond by saying, ‘We’ll never agree on this.’ Others would get real nasty and say things like, ‘You idiot. How could you possibly say something like that?’” said Kiecolt-Glaser.
The study pointed out that people who had calmer discussions showed minimal leaky gut in comparison with those who did not. “In a healthy marriage, you have to have emotional housekeeping. You have to discuss disagreements, but it’s the way you discuss them that has an impact on your health,” Kiecolt-Glaser explained.
It is common knowledge that stress affects our health in all possible ways; it impacts our heart health, our endocrine system and causes insomnia, gastrointestinal issues, fatigue, etc. However, stress caused by a partner affects us in the worst possible way. “The thing about a spouse is that your spouse is typically your major source of support. If your spouse becomes your major source of stress, you don’t have a major source of support, and now it’s been replaced by a major source of stress, so you now have a double whammy,” Kiecolt-Glaser said.
So How Should We Handle Disagreements?
It is important for us, as individuals and as couples to be more self-aware of our moods, feelings and triggers. Think about your motivation and aim when it comes to the argument. What are you trying to achieve? Is it an ego hassle in which you just want to prove yourself right, punish your partner? Or do you really want to find a solution?
If you feel the argument is getting ugly and you notice signs of you or them being worked up, take a break, cool down, and then return to it. If you constantly keep on engaging in disagreements, it will go nowhere and only make things worse—for you, your partner, and your relationship. So choose your battles wisely and fight it fair.