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Improve Your Relationship with Simple Science

By Debbie Mandel

Relationships correlate highly with health – “for better or for worse, in sickness or in health.” People in good relationships tend to experience an overall boost in immune system function and are more likely to seek medical care when there is a problem. However, if a relationship is stressful and hurtful, health could be compromised, both literally and metaphorically linked, as cardiovascular and digestive issues increase: cardiovascular for the sensitive “heart” and digestive ailments for the “ego/ identity” which is centered in the abdominal region (where the umbilical cord was cut).

If you want your relationship and well-being to run smoothly, you need to know the following two distinct scientific revelations:
  1. Women experience daily stress more intensely than men and aren’t wired to just let it go the way men do.
  2. Men take a breakup much harder than women hurling men into a stressful identity crisis as well as predisposing them to alcohol and drug use. Since most breakups are initiated by stressed out women and men are destabilized by a breakup, the solution is simple and elegant: A man needs to recognize female stress 101 and consequently, reduce his woman’s stress levels to avoid a nasty breakup which will hurl him into stress overload. Stress is highly contagious in the same household.
The science regarding the story

According to Dr. Bangasser’s research published in Molecular Psychiatry female rats are affected by lower levels of stress than their male rat counterparts and do not adapt to higher stress levels like male rats, a process called internalization. The study concludes that higher stress disorders in women could have a similar biological response.

Regarding men and breakups, Robin Simon, a Wake Forest Sociology professor, claims in her research studies that men take a breakup much harder than women often turning the sword inward to substance abuse and alcohol. Suppressed and silent, reluctant to show vulnerability, men lack the support of girlfriends and family who function as front-line therapists. On the other hand, women cry and talk openly about their feelings, immersing themselves in mourning, to move the depression right out of their system and get on with life. Consequently, without this kind of support group relationship stress plays havoc with a man’s identity, hence the expression, “I’m nothing without her” or “Why didn’t I see this coming?”

Can we just get along, please?
  • Ladies, stop saying everything is fine when clearly it isn’t. Men are literal creatures and believe you even when you roll your eyes while making affirmative statements. Ask for what you need because no one is a mind reader. Note: A good fight with your beloved is good for your health- the key adjective is good, as in respectful. Professor Ernest Harburg explains that couples need to air out their differences, fight and reconcile. Brooding about a hurt and burying anger means trouble down the road – emotionally and physically.
  • Men, the best foreplay is helping around the house, sharing the endless to-do list and encouraging her to shed tasks. A woman needs to feel that she has a teammate who carries the ball once in awhile. Knowing how to assess your own worth brings added value to a relationship. You should be able to complete these two statements: You excel and specialize in_______. Your beloved excels and specializes in ________. Together you combine your separate skill sets like a well- run family business.
  • Hold hands! According to a medical study just holding a man’s hand reduces a woman’s stress levels and promotes wound healing. You don’t always have to talk. In an intimate relationship physical cues like: a wink, a smile, a knowing glance and touch communicate a private language created by the couple which in turn strengthens their bond.
  • Exercise together to shed stress hormones, improve vitality and release endorphins. Bonus: exercise boosts libido for him and her. So, get physical!
  • Support and cheer on your beloved’s accomplishments. Most of us are taught to be there for someone during the difficult times, but do not realize how important it is to be there for a person using positive encouragement to help him or her transform from the seed level. Have you ever had an inspiring teacher or mentor flick your switch? Isn’t this person who believed in you, the one you will always remember and glorify?

Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of Addicted to Stress: A Woman's 7 Step Program to Reclaim Joy and Spontaneity in Life, Changing Habits: The Caregivers' Total Workout and Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul, a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker, a personal trainer and mind/body lecturer. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WGBB AM1240 in New York City , produces a weekly wellness newsletter, and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit: