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The healthiest way to argue with your husband

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Arguing couple
Arguing couple
Getty Images

Apologies to my readers for almost a week-long hiatus!

Back to the topic at hand: arguing. Just because it is the holiday season, it does not mean us ladies don't sometimes argue with our spouses. The reality of the matter is that the financial and emotional stress of the holidays can increase arguing. However, in this article, we learn healthy ways to argue with our husbands.

A new study of married couples, however, has found physiological evidence for one technique to diffuse tension: choosing the right fighting words.

Couples who used analytical language, such as “think,” “understand,” “because,” or “reason,” during heated arguments were able to keep important stress-related chemicals in check, according to research published in the latest issue of the journal Health Psychology. Cytokines are inflammatory chemicals that spike during periods of prolonged tension and can lower your immunity and lead to early frailty, Type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and some cancers. The authors noted a curious gender twist in their results. Husbands benefited from their wives’ measured language, but a man’s carefully chosen words had little effect on a woman’s cytokine balance.

Researchers in this study measured cytokines before and after discussions with 42 married heterosexual couples. In the first session, couples discussed a neutral topic. In the second, an interviewer gathered a couple’s history and then deliberately provoked a fight by asking them to hash out their hardest issues.  Each person had equal time to talk during the recorded 30-minute sessions, and researchers used language software to count how many “cognitive” words each person used. During the first dispassionate discussion, such conflict-resolution-speak had no effect on the participants’ cytokines, but in the second, more stressful session, those who used more analytical language showed smaller chemical increases.

The study is significant because it’s one of the first to link language with biological markers and show what kinds of words help sparring couples rather than just recommending they “communicate more,” explains James Pennebaker, chair of the department of psychology at the University of Texas-Austin, who has studied the role of language on relationships. Cognitive words are powerful because their use suggests people are working through a problem and trying to acknowledge a partner’s perspective.

Arguing with your husband is never fun, but if it does happen, be cognizant of the words you choose to argue with. If could make a difference between continued conflict or resolution.

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