Disagreeing too often with your spouse could be bad for your health—a finding that might be used to sway arguments in favor of women, as it especially applies to men. It comes from a 16-year study of 373 heterosexual married couples in the US, presented at a recent meeting of the International Association for Relationship Research in Colorado. "We followed married couples over the first 16 years of marriage and compared the subjective health of wives and husbands who reported a greater number of conflict topics to those who reported fewer," researcher Rosie Shrout tells the Guardian. Couples who experienced less conflict in a marriage's early years generally saw health benefits. But too much conflict in a relationship—whether related to children, money, leisure activities, or something else—was found to be "very damaging to health," Shrout says.
While previous research has identified numerous marital perks—married people live longer, are less likely to get sick, and heal faster than those who are single, divorced, or widowed—"we were surprised that conflict was more important for husbands' health than for wives' health," Shrout tells Bustle. She says the higher the number of disagreement topics, the more a husband's health suffers, though "it might be that the number of topics is not as impactful for women, but rather how conflict is resolved." Psychologist Veronica Lamarche, who was not involved in the study, notes health problems may be linked to "different types of physiological responses, such as increased release of stress hormones, inflammation, changes in appetite regulation, and immune functioning." It's for that reason that "it's important to work on communicating with each other effectively."