Marriage is good for your heart... but there's a catch

We all know the saying “happy wife, happy life” now new research shows we can add “happy marriage, happy heart” to that list. But here’s the rub: not all marriages will provide what’s needed to boost our heart health.

Past studies have shown being married and staying married is better for your health, but a new US study suggests it’s only happily married people who get the full benefit.

Time reports the researchers found couples in unions which are not bad enough to leave but still have distinctly negative attributes do not get many of the advantages of those whose marriages are more fulfilling

Ninety four couples aged from 18 to 63 were asked about their spouse’s behaviour and their “interpersonal-functioning”.

Twenty five per cent were happy and had no complaints, but 75 per cent of the marriages fell into the ambivalent category in which mostly their spouses were great but there were some negative areas.

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The couples had their blood pressure monitored and those in “ambivalent” marriages had worse blood pressure than those whose marriages were happier and more supportive.

It seems feeling invalidated by your partner is more detrimental than the validating is good to you. Put simply: the boost in heart health married people get from being married is not as strong as the negative side-effects when the marriage is ambivalent.

Before you rush to trade your partner in for someone who “validates” you more, take comfort though. It is not difficult to work out what you or your partner are doing to drag each other down, so it should be fixable through good communication or marriage counselling.

The study was conducted by Brigham Young University psychology professor Wendy Birmingham and published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine.

Do you believe that a happy marriage makes for better health? How long have you been married?