Is Your Spouse or Partner Bad for Your Health

Couple Sitting on Steps

Couple Sitting on Steps

Effect of Long-Term Relationships

While many studies have shown the advantages and health benefits of being married or in a long-term committed relationship (e.g., lowering risk of cardiovascular disease), new research indicates that these same relationships may contribute to acquiring poor health habits from one’s partner.

Bad Habits

The researcher describes three ways that these unhealthy habits are promoted.

  1. A partner can be a bad influence because of his or her own unhealthy habits. In straight relationships, men were unanimously seen as the culprit.
  2. The partner who observes unhealthy habits in the other may not take personal responsibility to try to help the other change.
  3. Synchronicity may be operating. That is, even though one partner might have the desire for an unhealthy habit, he or she may not engage in it . . . but, if the other partner also demonstrates a desire for it, then they both are likely to endorse it for each other. Thus, both wind up backsliding. This synchronicity is particularly exclusive to gay and lesbian couples.

Should a spouse or partner try to shape the other’s behavior if that behavior is believed to be detrimental to the second partner’s health? For example, if she smokes, should you urge her to quit? If he is overweight, should you suggest an exercise routine for the two of you and then accompany him to the gym several times a week? Or should we just let our partner make the decisions concerning his or her own health and fitness?

Do you think that, by trying to change health-related bad habits in your partner, you might hurt his/her feelings, damage the trust relationship you already have, or even push your partner away? Some people feel that any small improved health status in the partner may not be worth risking a positive, long-term, intimate relationship. What do you think?

How would you, if you so desired, try to modify unhealthy habits of your partner?

Do you agree that men are usually seen as the bad influence? And, if so, do you feel they deserve that recognition?

 

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CBT Therapist

Dr. Fuller has been practicing clinical psychology since 2000. He has treated hundreds of individuals and couples with a variety of issues. His private practice is located in Manhattan.

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