How a Toxic Relationship Affects Your Health

No romance thrives without a few flaws. But continuing to commit to an unhealthy relationship might be taking things a little too far.

Even though couples who argue might show signs of a relationship that’s doing just fine, that’s not the case for everyone — and science might prove it.

Does your relationship feel like a never-ending battle four survival? It turns out, in a way, it might be. Research suggests staying in a toxic relationship could be hurting your health in a few unexpected ways.


Marriage | Kzenon/iStock/Getty Images

In one study, scientists followed over 300 couples over their first 16 years of marriage and found that, overall, “bad relationships” led to a series of negative health outcomes. Most of these outcomes were related to stress in some way.

What does a bad relationship look like, exactly? In this specific study, researchers measured conflicts between spouses — in many cases, the subjects they couldn’t agree on to the point of illness.

Couples participating in this study cited conflicts related to both major and seemingly minor topics such as money, kids, leisure activities, and each others’ in-laws.

The researchers also noted that health consequences became particularly damaging when couples argued about the same topics over and over again. So, the fact that you and your partner can’t agree on how to arrange the furniture in the living room the first three times you fight about it probably means you both should agree to disagree. If you can.

It’s not just your mental health that suffers when your relationship does. Physically, your body can respond to stress in a negative way when forced to do so too often.

Conflict also increases the level of stress hormones in your body. Temporarily, this isn’t a big deal. In the long-term, however, heightened levels of stress can lead to a number of problems. People who experience chronic stress¬†are more likely to develop conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, insomnia, and even digestive problems.

Arguing couple

Arguing couple | FlyMint Agency/iStock/Getty Images

Thankfully, just because you and your partner disagree or fight on the regular doesn’t mean your relationship has hit rock-bottom. Many healthy relationships exist between people who don’t always agree on everything.

There are a few signs, however, that might suggest your love story is nearing its end.

  • Both of you deliberately find excuses to spend time apart.
  • You don’t want them to touch you.
  • You barely talk.
  • You’ve kept the relationship alive out of convenience.
  • When you argue, you never end up resolving the issue.

Experts recommend working on improving your communication if you want your relationship to last. Even though a single argument probably won’t hurt, many disagreements over decades definitely will. If all relationships involve some kind of sacrifice, make this one of yours.

Not everyone experiences health problems because they decided to get married. Some people live longer, happier lives with a spouse by their side. Others don’t. If you’ve decided marriage isn’t for you, that’s OK. You could end up decreasing your risk of serious health issues later on in your life. Or not.

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