Happy Spouse, Healthy Life

Well, not for me.  Years ago, when we were first dating, a woman I know told me never to marry someone who hated what he did.

Unfortunately, I did, because I loved him, but over 30 years with a man who violently hates what he does (he's a dentist) has made my life, well, if not unhealthy, then extremely hellish!

A new study has found that if your spouse is happy, you will be healthy.  Newswise.com reports that having a happy spouse could be good for your health, at least among middle-aged and older adults, according to a new study published by the American Psychological Association.

In a nationally representative study of 1,981 middle-age heterosexual couples, researchers found that people with happy spouses were much more likely to report better health over time. This occurred above and beyond the person’s own happiness, according to the study.

“This finding significantly broadens assumptions about the relationship between happiness and health, suggesting a unique social link,” says William Chopik, PhD, an assistant professor of psychology at Michigan State University and principal investigator of the study. “Simply having a happy partner may enhance health as much as striving to be happy oneself.”

Previous research suggests happy people are generally healthy people, but Chopik wanted to take it one step further by exploring the health effects of interpersonal relationships. He says there are at least three potential reasons why having a happy partner might enhance a person’s health, irrespective of one’s own happiness:

• Happy partners likely provide stronger social support, such as care-taking, as compared to unhappy partners who are more likely to be focused on their own stressors.
• Happy partners may get unhappy people involved with activities and environments that promote good health, such as maintaining regular sleep cycles, eating nutritious food and exercising.
• Being with a happy partner should make a person’s life easier even if not explicitly happier.

“Simply knowing that one’s partner is satisfied with his or her individual circumstances may temper a person’s need to seek self-destructive outlets, such as drinking or drugs, and may more generally offer contentment in ways that afford health benefits down the road,” Chopik said.

Now, it's not all bad.  My husband did get me to begin exercising regularly and I can now outrun him (if you don't count the fact that he has a bad knee), and that has made me a happier person (yes, I compete with him but it's more about the endorphins I get from closing in on 4 miles -- we won't talk about how long that takes me!).

And he's taught me (and our son) to get enough sleep.  He's a nut about that.  Finally, he did get me to give up fried chicken, my all-time favorite food.  So I guess he qualifies for some of that.

But the worst thing about his unhappiness is that it makes me unhappy to see him so stressed and uptight and unable to enjoy so much of life.  Sometimes I think how different my life would be if I were with someone who liked what he did.  We probably wouldn't fight nearly as much (resentment of what he does makes him angry), and we'd have a lot more fun.  Instead, we spend most of our time commiserating about how patients refuse to open their mouths or, when they do, complain when he puts his hands in.

So what can we do?  I love what I do, so that makes it easier, in some ways, for me but not so much for him.  I just have to remember all the other reasons I fell in love with him (he's kind, he's decent, he's (still) hot) and most of the time, it's enough.  But listen to my friend?  I'm not so sure I shouldn't have.  Might have saved me a few trips to the ER -- broken wrist, slit eyelid, bruised nose.  But then I could blame him for that, too. It's dangerous when I'm running! 


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