Published on 02/05/09

A healthy you, a healthy marriage

By Ted Futris
University of Georgia

Research shows that individuals in healthy marriages are physically healthier and live longer. They get sick less, are hospitalized less and experience shorter hospital stays. They have lower rates of heart failure, cancer and other diseases, too.

Taking care of yourself can have positive effects on your relationship. How couples relate with one another is influenced by many things, including personal histories, experiences and personality traits.

There are things you can do to maintain personal and marital health.

Keep a positive outlook. It may be easier said than done. In general, happier people feel better and maintain more positive relationships. When you have a negative experience, remain optimistic and reframe that experience in a more positive light. Individuals have control over their emotions, when they have them and how they experience and express those emotions. Regulating negative emotions using various self-soothing strategies, like taking a break or using humor when appropriate, is critical for long-term relationship success.

Physical wellness equals emotional wellness. Taking care of your body will make you feel better and influence how you relate with your partner. Eating well and together as a family and getting enough rest helps couples interact in more positive ways. Think back to the last time you were hungry or full or the last time you were extremely tired. How patient were you with your partner or with others? How well did you interact? Feeling nourished and rested helps you focus on conversations and express your views in more positive ways. Avoid bringing up important topics to discuss right before bed, get your rest first and talk about it the next day.

Work out together. Physical activity promotes health and lowers the risk for many types of diseases. It also benefits mental health and relationships. If you don’t do it already, consider finding ways to add physical activity to your life. Take walks with your spouse or play tennis. The support you provide each other to exercise increases the chances that you will continue to exercise. Also, sharing this experience gives you time to connect with each other. The companionship you develop through joint activities will positively influence your satisfaction in your relationship.

The bottom line: Take care of yourself and your spouse and you will not only have a healthy marriage, but you will live a healthier life.

Ted Futris is a family life specialist with University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.

April R. Sorrow is a science writer with the University of Georgia Public Affairs Office.

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