Elizabeth Entenman
May 25, 2016 10:44 am
NBC

When things get heated with your significant other, what’s your argument style? Do you tend to get aggressive, or are you more likely to shut down? It’s actually important to know, because according to a new study, the way you argue with your spouse correlates with specific health problems that come up later in life.

One finding from the study, which was written up in May 2016 issue of the journal Emotion, is that outbursts of anger lead to cardiovascular problems down the road, particularly for husbands. Another suggests that emotionally shutting down (“stonewalling”) can increase theour risk of stiff muscles or a bad back. Yup, your emotional health can have an impact—and even predict—your physical health.

“Our findings reveal a new level of precision in how emotions are linked to health, and how our behaviors over time can predict the development of negative health outcomes,” says Robert Levenson, author and psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley.

The study examined long-term marriages over the span of 20 years. The participants involved did not suffer from either cardiovascular or musculoskeletal problems at the start of the 20 years, but had developed them based on their argument style by the end.

“We looked at marital-conflict conversations that lasted just 15 minutes and could predict the development of health problems over 20 years for husbands based on the emotional behaviors that they showed during these 15 minutes,” explains Claudia Haase, author and study lead.

It’s scary to think that just a few minutes of bickering could predict so much! The good news is you can do something about how you argue. Consider how you react to confrontational situations make small adjustments to your conflict resolution style. It could improve your health in the long run — and, hopefully, your relationships.

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