Lesson 4 of 7 - optimize your relationships

Research summary

Staying Silent in Marital Spats
(is) a Killer for Women

By Anne Harding

Psychosomatic Medicine, July/August 2007 via Reuters in Yahoo News, 8-20-07


The Web address of this article is http://sfhelp.org/relate/news/repression.htm

Updated 02-24-2015

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      This globally-published article illustrates how well-intentione4d marital research - and public media reporting it - is superficial and misleading. See my comments after the summary. The links and hilights below are mine. - Peter K. Gerlach, MSW

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Women who force themselves to stay quiet during marital arguments appear to have a higher risk of death, a new study shows. Depression and irritable bowel syndrome are also more common in these women.

Such "self-silencing" during conflict may have provided an evolutionary survival advantage long ago, and unfortunately may be a necessity for women in abusive relationships, Dr. Elaine D. Eaker of Eaker Epidemiology Enterprises in Gaithersburg, Maryland, the study's lead author, told Reuters Health.

Eaker and her colleagues found that, over a 10-year period, the most striking finding was that women who self-silenced were four times more likely to die than women who expressed themselves freely during marital arguments.

The current study is the first, Eaker says, to look at behavior, heart disease and mortality in the context of marital relationships. While many studies have looked into marital status and quality and heart disease, she added, "We had some other questions that I think get more at the dynamics of how people really feel in a marriage, what actually happens in a marriage."

Eaker and her team looked at 3,682 men and women participating in the Framingham Offspring Study, most of whom were in their 40s and 50s at the beginning of the study. Study participants were followed for 10 years for the development of heart disease and for death from any cause.

The study confirmed that marriage is good for men's health - compared with unmarried men, husbands were nearly half as likely to die during the follow-up period.

The researchers also found that men whose wives came home from work upset about their jobs were 2.7 times as likely to develop heart disease as men with less work-stressed wives.

It's possible, Eaker and her team suggest, that a wife's problems on the job could be upsetting to a husband because he is unable to "protect" her in this arena.

"Attention has been focused on the changing roles of women," they note in the July/August issue of Psychosomatic Medicine, "the changing roles and expectations of husbands/men also need to be scrutinized and understood."

The findings underscore the importance of healthy communication within marriage, Eaker says, although she does urge that other researchers confirm the results "before we make a lot out of them."

Nevertheless, she concludes, "both spouses really need to allow another person a safe environment to express feelings when they're in conflict," both for their own health, and for the health of the relationship.

Copyright 2007 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Copyright 2007 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.

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      This research concludes that women who "force themselves" to repress their feelings and needs in marital conflicts risk significant health problems, including premature death. The research doesn't explore why women repress. It also implies that such women can intentionally learn to be more maritally expressive. 

       I propose both premises are misleading. My clinical study of human development and behavior since 1979 suggests that people (not just women) who are passive and socially unassertive...

  • have inherited significant psychological wounds and unawareness because of early-childhood abandonment, neglect, and abuse.

  • the wounds usually include excessive shame, fears, distrust, and numbness - which combine to promote social passivity and repression;

  • unless admitted and reduced, the combined psychological and physiological effects of these wounds and their symptoms promote personal and social stress, illness, and premature death

            and such passive people...

  • were never taught effective communication skills like awareness, assertion, empathic listening, and problem-solving. 

      This research and summary also fails to note that a major reason anyone withholds their thoughts and feelings is that they feel unsafe to do so. This is a social system problem, as well as a personal one.

       Until true (vs. pseudo) self-motivated recovery, wounds and unawareness combine to degrade health, relationships, and longevity in many ways. Both of these primary problems come from a toxic cycle that passes silently down the generations until someone intentionally breaks it.

      This research summary illustrates the widespread public and professional ignorance of this cycle and its major personal and social effects. This online self-improvement course exists to replace ignorance with awareness, and help you break the toxic cycle.

      Also see this related research summary on the value of articulating your emotions.

- Peter K. Gerlach, MSW

      Pause, breathe, and recall why you read this. Did you get what you needed? If not, what do you need? Who's answering these questions - your wise, resident true Self (capital "S"), or ''someone else''?

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