Your Marriage and Your Health

Troubled Marriage

Troubled Marriage

Some men and women in troubled marriages convince themselves that they are doing the right thing by not causing open confrontation.

By: Lawrence Birnbach, Ph.D. & Beverly Hyman, Ph.D.

Troubled marriages make people sick. It may be your mental health that suffers, or it may be your physical health, or both, but, one way or another, troubled marriages make you sick. Research consistently proves that men and women in troubled marriages, and their children, suffer physical and mental ailments at a far higher rate than either the general population or people in happy marriages. Your family’s health suffers whether you and your mate argue openly, or you sweep your differences under the rug.

Every couple argues sometimes. What’s injurious to people’s health is when the arguments are frequent, and, most important, remain unresolved. Some men and women in troubled marriages convince themselves that they are doing the right thing by not causing open confrontation. What they don’t realize is that years of stifling your real feelings and your own point of view take a toll. You and your whole family pay a price for your accepting disrespect from your spouse, and behaving with excessive self denial. That price is likely to be your physical and/or mental health.

Here’s what research has proven about the connection between marital discord and family health:

* After a couple argues wounds such as cuts take 40% longer to heal than normal.

* Women who have critical husbands suffer increased frequency and severity of lower back pain, headaches and arthritis.

* After a heart attack the likelihood of having a second one is twice as great among people in troubled marriages.

* Men in unhappy marriages have weaker immune systems than men in happy marriages.

* People in troubled marriages have a higher frequency of periodontal disease, high blood pressure, obesity, stomach ulcers, premature signs of aging, and type-2 diabetes.

* Children and adults from families with troubled marriages suffer much greater frequency of colds, stomach aches, asthma, rashes, headaches, and diarrhea.

* Children from families with troubled marriages exhibit more frequent behavior problems, poorer school performance, use more drugs and alcohol, and engage in sexual behavior at earlier ages than their peers from happy families.

* People in unhappy marriages have more sleep problems, more depression, more anxiety, and more irritability.

* People living in unhappy marriages have more frequent accidents, including automobile accidents.

In How To Know If It’s Time to Go: A 10 Step Reality Test for Your Marriage, we provide a “Marriage Test” and a “Marriage Bill of Rights” as tools to help couples open a dialogue and diagnose what the areas of their disagreement are and how they can take actions to resolve them. So it’s very important for you and all the members of your family that you do a reality check on your marriage, figure out what needs to be resolved if there are problems, and take those steps. Your health depends on it.

About the Authors:

Dr. Lawrence Birnbach is a psychoanalyst who has specialized in working with individuals and couples in troubled relationships for the past 25 years. Dr. Beverly Hyman is an internationally known business and organizational consultant specializing in conflict management. Together, they have written How to Know if It’s Time to Go: A 10-Step Reality Test For Your Marriage. For more information, please visit:

Photo: joegreer2007