Anyone who says they never fight with their partner is either lying to save face or possibly just not very happy in their relationship. That's because occasional disagreements are part of a healthy relationship; through them, you learn more about yourself and your partner, and this learning can help you acquire great tools to strengthen your bond. That being said, a fight is not always a pretty sight. In fact, it can get downright ugly, shrill and emotionally taxing. But arguments are part of being human, and what matters most is how you handle the situation — because if you two can come out on the other side of a rough argument, you'll feel unbreakable (especially after some sweet make-up sex).
But despite all of that, getting into a spat with your SO is one of the most common ways to invite a little bit of stress into your life — and certain changes happen in our bodies when we face that kind of pressure. You won't necessarily feel them taking place in the moment, because you'll probably be too preoccupied with trying to convince your partner of how annoying and insensitive they are — but the effects of bickering are worth knowing about in the long run, as they're not fantastic for your overall health, particularly if you and your honey are prone to frequent disputes. Your heart rate rises, your blood pressure spikes, and everything tenses up; and those are just the starters. There are a few other ways your body responds to lovers' quarrels — and they are quite surprising.
Here are 6 weird things that happen to your body when you fight with your SO.
1. You Clench Your Teeth
Apparently, arguing with your sweetheart gives you Hulk-like tendencies, and you probably don't even realize it. Your muscles tense up mid-quarrel, particularly in your head, neck, and shoulders areas; before you know it, your jaw is clamped from the stress and you're clenching your teeth.
Anxiety often leads to jaw clenching — a habit known as bruxism when done repeatedly — and this can leave you with sore facial muscles and damaged teeth. If you start to look closely mid-fight, you will probably notice your partner doing the same thing; just don't point it out to them in the heat of the moment, as I doubt it will help you move things along nicely.
2. Your Hormones Are Altered
According to research conducted at Ohio State University about how our bodies react to fights, the effects of an argument can last long after you've made up. Even though disagreements among couples are natural and even healthy, they still cause the levels of hormones epinephrine, norepinephrine, cortisol and prolactin to spike within our bodies. The study found that the more women responded negatively to their partners, the more these hormone levels rose — which could eventually have negative consequences for their immune systems.
While the shelf lives of these hormone spikes are usually short-lived — they generally stick around for 15 minutes — they can potentially have an effect on your whole system for hours afterwards. Ohio State University psychologist Janice Kiecolt-Glaser reported that for men, the consequences of these hormone spikes aren't necessarily that significant, but females are physically more sensitive to hostile interactions — so if we don't make a point to resolve the issue we were fighting about, we could be housing elevated levels of these stress hormones for a while.
3. Your Immune System Is Weakened
Psychological stress can put a dent in your immune system, due to lingering epinephrine and cortisol in your system. While there is such a thing as "good stress," exposure to any stress over a long period of time can cause the cells that usually protect you against sickness to perform poorly. Ronald Glaser, professor of medical microbiology and immunology at Ohio State University, noted that this could result in small cuts and bruises on the surface of your body taking longer to heal.
The health of your immune system is only really impacted if you frequently find yourself in stressful arguments, though; you don't get sick off of just one measly fight.
4. Your Pupils Dilate
When you are trying to defend yourself or something you believe in, your nervous system's fight-or-flight response takes over on your behalf — even though you're not physically threatened — and there are certain parts of the body that physically change as a response.
Evolution has equipped us with the ability to adapt to stressful situations, and if your body feels even slightly threatened, it sharpens your senses so that you can move quickly and have precise vision, especially in the dark. As a result, your eyes get wide and your pupils automatically dilate in order to see more clearly, even if you're just arguing about whether or not you guys need to have more regular date nights.
Scientists say this small bodily function is a sensitive indicator of cognitive, emotional, and sensory response, meaning it functions as a communicative tool to tell other human beings that you're not exactly feeling even-keeled. Your pupils also dilate during any other anxiety-inducing events, as well as during sexual arousal.
5. The Pitch Of Your Voice Changes
It's common for some shouting to take place when we're in the middle of a heated argument — but what you've probably never noticed is that the tone of your voice also rises when you're fighting over whose turn it is to take out the trash. Research shows that there are several emotional states in which our vocal tone changes, including and especially when you are faced with controversy from a loved one. High emotions equal high-pitched voices.
You can't help it; it's the body's natural way of responding to stress and attempting to get someone else to see your point of view, but it certainly doesn't help you prove your case. A squeaky voice usually conveys disconnection and tension to the listener, so your partner is less likely to respond well to it. Try to keep it calm and you'll have a better chance at wrapping up the argument before The Voice comes on.
6. You Might Get Diarrhea
Dr. Francisco J. Marrero, gastroenterologist at the Digestive Disease Institute at the Cleveland Clinic, told Everyday Health that when we get caught in a stressful situation like bickering with our significant other, we will probably experience diarrhea afterwards — or, at the very least, a stomach ache. When we become emotionally overwhelmed, the digestive tract is directly affected; Dr. Marrero says, "There is definitely a connection between the brain and the gut." The neural pathways between the two make it very easy for you to have temporary gastrointestinal problems right after an argument.
When the physiological function of the gut is altered due to stress, there is a chance that the composition of microbotia may change, as well. Once the anxiety levels even out, though, it's not difficult to reset your digestion and restore the healthy bacteria to their highest level of functioning — so your body (and brain) can focus on making up.
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