A study with couples presented last week has marriage experts all buzzing. Researchers from the University of Virginia experimented on 27 married couples and 27 co-habiting couples. One member of the couple was put under threat of electric shock either alone, holding the hand of a stranger or holding the hand of their partner.
When the threat of electric shock was presented to them, married people holding their spouse's hand showed much reduced levels of activity in the part of their brain that controls the release of the stress hormone cortisol (a hormone released at high levels when stressed that suppresses your immune system, leads to chronic illness and slow healing). People who have high cortisol levels are also more prone to obesity, depression and anxiety.
The co-habiting couples showed little or no effect. The brain was just as stressed as if the person had been alone or holding the hand of a stranger. One of the researchers explained by saying when the brain is stressed it has to decide who will be most reliable when you are put at risk. This decision is made "gut level," and although couples may live together at a deep level, they may not feel committed. The researchers went on to explain the study is showing the impact of commitment on your overall health.
The researchers support the fact that healthy marriage is healthier for you than being single. However, their research suggests it is due to the security, which comes with commitment. The researchers also applied their test to same-sex couples that felt happily committed, and found similar results to the married couples.
This study needs to be replicated several times on larger populations as the findings were based on small sample sizes. However, the chemical changes in the brain cannot be denied. Part of a healthy marriage is the aspect of total commitment. You cannot be half in, or half gone if you don't get your way. A marriage is a work in progress, and working on your marriage is an important priority for those who enjoy high marital satisfaction.
Below are suggestions for everyday ways to show commitment to your partner:
This research underlines the impact of feeling committed and secure in a relationship. It isn't only a heart matter; it's a health matter. If your marriage is struggling, learning to communicate and get along will improve your relationship as well as your health. –Mary Jo Rapini
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