Good Health and Good Relationships Susan Raab-Cohen, PhD Psychologist & SACDT Member
Most of us at Seattle Athletic Club are swimming, running or lifting because we want to increase our odds of living today and tomorrow with strength, vigor and flexibility.
It could be, though, that we are overlooking one of the most important variables contributing to good health: the quality of our primary relationships. A good relationship is the single best recipe for good health and the most powerful antidote to aging.
Men gain health benefits simply by getting married. Their health status improves, negative physical symptoms decrease, and positive behaviors increase.
For each year of marriage, a woman’s risk of dying prematurely decreases.
Consistent emotional support lowers blood pressure and bolsters the immune system. It appears to reduce the death rate from cancer as well as the incidence of heart disease and infectious disease.
A secure connection significantly lessens susceptibility to anxiety and depression and makes us more resilient against stress and trauma.
Close connection is the strongest predictor of happiness, much more than making masses of money or winning the lottery.
A successful, long term relationship may do as much for your longevity, mood and physical resilience as the hours you spend working out. However, a lack of attention to your relationship may have the same negative consequences as inactivity:
Men who are divorced experience health risks equal to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.
Women‘s health appears to be more susceptible to marital discord than men’s health. For women, poor relationship quality is associated with an increased risk of premature mortality and an increased risk of heart disease.
Obviously not everyone wants to be in a relationship, nor is it easy to find the right person even if you want to do so. Many people persist in relationships while feeling lonely, angry or hopeless. They have done whatever they can to improve their relationship but their efforts have been unsuccessful. Resignation seems the only possible outcome.
However, we now know more about strengthening the underlying bonds of marriage for straight, gay or transgender couples than we ever have. We understand that the attachment bond that defines the parent/child bond also defines the underlying bond of adult commitment. We see the power of that bond to build resilience in adults. We know what happens when the bond is broken—and we now know much more about how to repair it.
John Gottman, PhD, here at the University of Washington, did pioneering work describing what happens in the interactions of marriage. While Gottman studied thousands of hours of couples trying to get along, Sue Johnson, PhD, watched thousands of hours of couples in marital therapy and figured out what works. She developed Emotionally Focused Therapy, a theory and practice of couples therapy that has an extensive research record demonstrating its effectiveness. She also wrote a book: Hold Me Tight, which gives consumers a theory and outline for improving their relationships.
Sue Johnson also developed a consumer workshop based on her book:
Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for Connection®. This workshop is also evidence-based. It is now being offered all around the world.
My colleague, Dorsey Green, PhD, and I will be offering this seminar here in the Pike Place Market March 7-8 and May 30-31.
Rob Lauren has seen a direct connection between the mission of the Seattle Athletic Club and a focus on relationship health as related to physical health. We are appreciative to him for his willingness to partner with us this spring. SACDT members may attend Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for Connection at a discounted rate. This program is nonjudgmental (neither of you will feel blamed) and intimate (10-15 couples with significant time spent talking 1:1 in a structured way).
Interested? You can learn more about the workshop as well as see comments from past participants on our website: www.holdmetightseminars.com.
Still curious? Click on this four minute video—What Is a Healthy Marriage? http://www.holdmetightseminars.com/what-is-a-healthy-marriage/
Lastly, the video below explains a very powerful research study that describes how love and trust change our neurochemistry and resilience to pain:
Soothing the Threatened Brain: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2J6B00d-8lw
**Research references available upon request