Does improving relationship well-being improve our health?
Esther Perel affirms that, before, couples used to have a role of companionship, of status, of family and of economic support. People used to live more in community and, therefore, shared their attention among different people and places. Although it used to be like that, now with the capitalism and individualism of society today, we are left feeling quite lonely and we sometimes project our needs, that were previously met by other people, on our partner. We ask our partners to give us a sense of home, security, calmness and peace. On the other hand, however, we ask them to be explosive, sensual, passionate. Earth and fire are totally opposite and never in the history of humanity had there been this much demand within relationships, asking for both earth and fire at the same time.
Furthermore, based on the words of Adrián Montesano, couples therapist and director of the Master in Couples and Sex Therapy at the University of Barcelona, the most paradoxical thing is that we ask our partner to fulfill all of those needs, but then when it comes down to it, we often dedicate the least amount of time to our romantic relationship with the busy lives we lead. So we end up spending less quality time with our partners but still demanding a lot in return without giving much.
Many people say that if they treated their job the same way they treat their relationship, they would be fired for sure. These dynamics generate a demand for couples therapy, today more than ever.
Not surprisingly, being in a relationship where there is relational discomfort or relationship well-being seems to have quite a few consequences on our physical and mental health.
What are the negative effects?
Scientific results show that there is a significant correlation between chronic relational discomfort and psychological problems such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse and others, as well as physical health problems. One example is that people who experience relational distress, are three times more likely to have a fatal heart attack.
It is safe to say that couples therapy can save many lives and prevent more problems from arising if we manage to disrupt the emotional discomfort. The most important thing is that these couples not only suffer these negative effects, but also lose the benefits of having relationship well-being, where most of the time we can give a comforting feeling of family, an improved mental health as well as a general sense of well-being, happiness and transcendence. Many can even find a meaning of life from it.
Can couples therapy help?
Can couples therapy make us live longer? It seems like it does! Studies indicate an increase in longevity (Up to a decade!) . Studies also show that those who maintain positive relationships live longer. “People, particularly men, are healthier when they are married and they live longer,” says Dr. Kirtly Parker Jones.
Experts attribute this phenomenon to factors such as stress reduction and to the fact that people often give up bad habits, such as excessive drinking or smoking, in order to support the relationship well-being.
As a result, healthy habits increase longevity. But that’s not all, studies show results of all kinds such as being in a healthy relationship helps lower blood pressure, strengthens our immune system, helps with being more physically fit, improves heart health and has an improved recovery of disease, due to lower levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol. Benefits also include better stress management, less anxiety, and many more.
Therefore, it could be said that one is better off alone than in bad company, but one is better off in good company than alone.
Human beings are somehow wired to connect with each other and therefore a romantic relationship is still a relationship of attachment that also has to do with our survival. For this reason, cheating on a partner can often subconsciously feel like a threat to one’s own survival and identity. Conflicts with our partners can often become a threat to our personal identity. Especially if we invest a lot in that particular relationship.
Sometimes we find it hard to admit that a problem or a negative dynamic takes over our relationship and that it would be best to seek external help from a professional, but the earlier we do it, the more likely we are to succeed in therapy.
How can couples therapy help?
Many people do not know what couples therapy consists of and think that it is a type of intervention intended only for people who are about to separate, or who have many conflicts within the relationship. However, this type of therapy is very useful for all those couples who want to improve aspects such as communication or conflict resolution. Couples who want to optimize their relationship and strengthen it by promoting a healthy bond. It teaches constructive communication that we are not normally ever taught to have.
This is why going to couples therapy can be an investment in mental and physical health just as effective as exercising, eating healthily or having medical check-ups. Invest in your relationship well-being, it will most likely affect most other areas in your life.
You may also be interested in Creating Healthy Attachments.