Relationships can make you happy if everything is going smoothly. While arguments every now and then are normal, sometimes it reaches a point where your health is affected. Anxiety builds up, you become emotionally drained, and then you start feeling isolated and degraded. Studies at Ohio State University showed a connection between anxiety and stress hormones. Researchers discovered that people with attachment anxiety (those who are deeply affected by rejection), produced 11 percent more cortisol – the stress hormones – than those who weren’t anxious. Although anxiety is only a temporary state of existence, the short-term effects can be devastating and lead to serious illnesses. Both partners are deeply affected by frequent conflicts in the relationship.
Effects of a Bad Relationship on Your Health
Findings show that stress in our relationships directly affects our health. Some of the effects of stress include:
- Aches and pains including headaches
- Changes in appetite
- Trouble sleeping
- Weight loss
- You start gaining weight
- Inflammation which can be associated with diabetes, arthritis and cardiovascular disease.
- Raised levels of cortisol, the stress hormones. This affects normal heart functioning and the immune system.
A combined study by researchers from Nevada and Michigan Universities on over 350 couples discovered that couples who agreed with each other lived healthier lives, were less likely to fall ill, and recovered faster when they were sick.
Characteristics of a Toxic Relationship
An interesting fact about unhealthy relationships is that partners may not seem to realize that they are in a toxic relationship even though they feel depressed. Is it that people blame themselves for their bad relationships? Some of the characteristics of a toxic relationship include:
- Your arguments get more vicious and conflicting
- There’s a lot of anxiety in your relationship
- Every time you’re together you feel threatened and frustrated rather than safe
- You’re not happy when you’re in the same environment with your partner and you feel angry at the thought of meeting him or her
- Your partner stops being appreciative and it makes you feel like you have to change to please your partner
These traits can be depressing and lead to low self-esteem. When frustration, negativity, and self-hate kick in, the impact can be both medical and mental.
How to Recognize You’re in a Toxic Relationship
One fight doesn’t harm a relationship. In fact, it can help build a stronger relationship if partners know how to resolve issues amicably. However, constant fighting and disagreements about money, children, work, leisure, in-laws among other factors affecting relationships can be detrimental to the health of both partners. According to Jessica Yaffa, the author of the book Mine Until: My Journey Into and Out of the Arms of an Abuser, a bad relationship not only contributes to physical trauma but also mental trauma.
She also adds that being in a constant state of alarm can weaken your immune system over time. People in a toxic relationship can hurt themselves without even realizing it by:
- Drinking alcohol develops into a habit
- Eating more or less
- Starting to smoke
- Becoming addicted to caffeine or drugs (both prescription and illegal)
Other signs that you’re in an unhealthy relationship include:
- Your partner becomes abusive and violent
- He or she is easily irritable
- Your partner always blames you for everything
- You feel controlled
- You feel criticized
- Loneliness. You may eat, sleep and talk with your partner, but you feel lonely inside
How to Deal with Stress in a Relationship
Undoubtedly, stress is inevitable in any relationship. Your spouse is your major support and the one person you feel comfortable talking to. When the support turns into stress, the best way to address this is by becoming self-aware. When you’re having an argument, stop for a moment to think about how the argument is affecting you, what you can do to help your spouse, and what you can do for your relationship to work.
If your job is the main source of the argument, how can you compromise to find a balance between work and relationship? If you feel the emotions are becoming overpowering, stop and tell your partner you both need to take 20 minutes to get some air. Then you can talk when you’re more calm and relaxed. In a relationship, the most important factor isn’t the argument, but how you argue and how you respond to the arguments.
We need love and affection from our partners with studies showing that healthy marriages and long-term relationships have a positive effect on your overall health and well-being. However, when a partnership turns toxic, or when you feel your partner’s behavior is stressing you out and you aren’t able to get out of it, it starts to take a toll on your health. If everything fails and a relationship ends, the negative feelings may take a while to disappear. But, finding healthy alternative sources of peace and happiness, plus surrounding yourself with positive people will make you feel better and help you heal faster.