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A Healthy Argument
by Asa Butcher
2008-01-25 09:32:31
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There is a sage piece of advice often handed out to newly-weds: Don't go to sleep on an argument. I totally agree, especially since it is far comfier to go to sleep on a bed. Seriously, according to recent research, it now appears that the advice should be slightly altered: Start your day with an argument. What sort of nonsense is this? Well, scientists studied 192 couples over 17 years and have concluded that couples who bottle up anger are more likely to die earlier than those who engage in full-blown arguments, although the neighbours of the former are happier.

The 17-year study separated the couples into four categories: the first had both partners communicating their anger, the second only had the husband showing his anger while the wife suppressed it, the third only had the wife show anger, and the fourth consisted of both partners suppressing it. Researchers discovered that death was twice as likely in the final group, with 13 deaths among the 26 couples where both suppressed their anger over the 17 year period.

Being a married man for five years I am particularly comforted by this research because it seems that my wife and I will be living long and healthy lives, although she may have notched up a few extra years thanks to her dedication to unloading her anger. I would like to think that I have done all I can, by doing as little as possible, to ensure we both have the chance to resolve the conflicts and enjoy the benefits.

Ernest Harburg, professor emeritus at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, which conducted the study, said, "When couples get together, one of their main jobs is reconciliation about conflict. Usually nobody is trained to do this. If they have good parents, they can imitate, that's fine. But usually the couple is ignorant about the process of resolving conflict. The key matter is, when the conflict happens, how do you resolve it?"

As Professor Harburg said, we can learn how to argue from our parents and this also teaches us that to passionately argue one's opinion with your partner is healthy and eventually productive, just as the study revealed. Many parents believe that rowing in front of their children is a bad example, which is probably right if you are swearing and throwing household knick-knacks, but when children witness a constructive argument they have the possibility to learn about honesty, compromise and reconciliation, each of which are important lessons.

The etiquette of arguing is a relationship skill that slowly develops alongside respecting shared bank accounts and the negotiations of bedroom politics, plus it certainly takes a number of rows to understand what can and can't be said - say the wrong word and it will come back to haunt you in countless arguments to come.

Every couple has a different dynamic and interacts in a completely different way than another, yet the most common argument topics in a relationship are sex and money, especially sex for money. Actually, while on the topic of sex, arguing can also help you burn off calories thanks to the beauty of 'make-up sex' and the scientific proof that claims you burn 360 calories every 30 minutes during sex. Can this get any better?

Should doctors begin prescribing half-an-hour of arguing every week, as if you don't it already? The couple could alternate in who gets to win, which would make a difference in our household, and it could even be turned into a game with certain words having to be inserted into the row, e.g. boondoggle. I'm beginning to get carried away, with the idea of living a healthier, longer life filled with calorie-burning hanky-panky.

It appears that in the name of scientific research I will have to test out this theory by instigating an argument with my wife, so the next time she asks that toe-curling question: "Does my bum look big?" I will confidently answer yes because it is in the interest of our health… you can send grapes and flowers to Helsinki Hospital's Intensive Care unit.

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Emanuel Paparella2008-01-25 11:29:28
Here is the latest joke on arguing couples making the rounds:

A husband and wife were involved in a petty argument, both of them unwilling to admit they might be in error.
--"I'll admit I'm wrong," the wife told her husband in a conciliatory attempt, "if you'll admit I'm right."
He agreed and, like a gentleman, insisted she go first.
--"I'm wrong," she said.
With a twinkle in his eye, he responded, "You're right!"

This is strangely reminiscent of Socrates arguing with his wife Xanthippe who had a reputation for a sharp and foul tongue. Rumor has it that she is the only one who ever beat Socrates in a discussion. That may partly explain why Socrates preferred the agora to the home and why he reached the ripe old age of 71. He might have lived much longer but for the fact that the Athenians did not like to be compared by Socrates to a horse which needed to be stunk by a gadfly from time to time, so in exasperation they eliminated the gadfly with hemlock. One can imagine Xanthippe exclaiming: why didn’t I think of that?

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