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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Do relationships harm your health?

Do relationships harm your health?
This is one of those questions we are conditioned to ignore. There is an unspoken and unwritten concept that all humans need to be in some form of close relationship with one other human being.
But is this true? There are well publicised cases of  loving couples where  the death of one follows very quickly by the death of the other, could not live without them etc.
Merely from observation I would suggest that there are many thousand  times more situations where one part of a partnership survives for many years after the death of a loved one, This is such a common occurrence that it is not reported or even thought about, yet any complex for elder people contains far more singletons than couples.
Why this should be is not clear, after all most people marry a person of at least similar age, plus or minus 5 years. This would lead to both passing away at similar  ages. The times when  most men  died  young, because of the physical and hazardous nature of their working lives, has past. Women do still live longer, according to the statistics but I am sure this is changing, in our modern world it is childbearing that is the most physically demanding and dangerous thing most "western" humans do. Obviously I am leaving out members of the security, and armed forces.
So why is this situation so common? One possibility that should be considered is that human relationships can be, in fact I suggest commonly are, stressful and it is stress that brings about a great deal of our emotional, mental and physical  poor health.  It should not be assumed that marital stress automatically leads to a physical illness but it does reduce our capacity to resist  infection and it does lead to a deterioration of the immune system, even if this diminution is temporary it is still reducing our well-being. So often in relationships, whether sexually involved or not, one person suffers from reduced self esteem,because of this relationship. The most common is mother and daughter relationships, so many women have suffered from poor self esteem because of their mothers, How many times have we heard a middle aged lady say they could never please their mother, they were never good enough, they just wanted mother to say they were proud of them. There are so many other causes of low self esteem and it affects both men and women of all and any age group.
Low self esteem leads to stress. This may sound like a wild generalisation but experience shows that if one member of a relationship suffers from very low esteem, then stress is generated. The partner of the one with low self worth gets stress by the constant unending need to take such care never to say or do anything that even vaguely can be construed as a criticism.  This is so hard to do on a continual basis as even a little  light hearted banter can be tuned into an emotional battle. Third party comments directed at a person with low self worth, gets brought home to their partner, who often has no idea what has been said or by who but is expected to pick up the emotional fall out. This again is stressful to both members of this partnership.
Money usually adds the biggest stress of the lot, or rather the lack of money. The old saying is that money is the  root of all evil, I am not so sure about the ALL in this but lack of money is certainly one of the biggest stress inducers in our life. This is made far worse for present generations by the constant stream of advertising we are subject to, these advertisements are always suggesting we should have such a thing; live like some celebrity, always we should be happier with some other possession, while we may know this is false, it is a fact that  the never ending bombardment eats away at out subconscious and we end up dissatisfied with what we have. This adds stress to any and every relationship. Whilst an individual can accommodate going without, the pressure of knowing a loved one is going without, due to your inability to buy something, that is a much harder and more stressful situation. Being in debt raises this to yet further levels of tension, fear and stress.
Expectation can be managed by an individual but managing the expectations of others is so much more difficult; ask any manager of a football team.
So why do so many couples form and why do so many last so long? It can not always be because one is so dominant the other is just along for a simpler ride through life. It must have some mutual benefit, not just stress for one and  the needs of the other. So what is it that binds couples to together? I must me love, that emotional bonding that is so hard to define. May be an element of one feeling  improved self esteem because  the other one is dependant on them, is involved but that would not sustain a relationship through hard times.  Love is the binding that keeps couples together but the question is do relationships damage our health? We accept the compromises that have to be made in order to keep the daily mechanics of a shared space working. This means just about everything, from having windows open as you sleep through such things as what and when you eat  and  what is on TV have to be  a compromise, which generally means neither person gets all they wish for, love is what stops this dissatisfaction becoming  a cause for separation. Health is different, in a loving relationship we may argue our case over what is on TV but neither party will set out to damage the health of the other. The risk of reduced health and well-being tends to come from the desire to prove our love; from an intention to show how much we care and from a need to make life better for our loved one. The end result is that some times a relationship is bad for your health, paradoxically  through your own desire to show your cement and strengthen that relationship.
Loneliness can also damage your mental health. Many people need relationships of some kind or other  to keep them functioning in the business of life. Others can be self contained and actually do not feel lonely in any circumstances.
It is worth thinking about what  you do to yourself and your partner.