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For Men: Protect Your Health by Protecting Your Marriage

A study published online two days ago (in advance of the journal's printing) offers one more reason for men to Assume Love, Expect Love, and Find Third Alternatives: better health.

Everyone's heard that married men are healthier than unmarried and divorced men, but this study offers a bit more detail. Once they reach middle age or older (when ailments begin to increase), only men with satisfying marriages take better care of themselves. Older men dissatisfied with their marriages experience a boomerang effect, taking even less good care of themselves than those without spouses.

While you cannot control your spouse's behavior, you have a good bit of control over your satisfaction with your marriage, which is what this blog is all about.

First, when something your wife does upsets you, override your amygdala's very primitive threat management system by looking for other possible explanations for what happened. To do this, Assume Love: set aside any doubts you might have and look for explanations consistent with your mate still loving you, still possessing the character strengths you married her for. You know far more about the person you married than your amygdala will let you recall while pushing your body to fight or flea a threat to your physical safety.

Second, don't let resentment build up. Expect love, but don't dictate that love will show up as picking up your dry cleaning, earning a certain income, or wearing something in particular, because, as my friend's AA leader says, "every expectation is a premeditated resentment." And resentment corrodes a marriage.

Third, when the two of you disagree on a choice you must make together, Find Third Alternatives. Don't debate the first two. Don't look for a compromise between the first two that makes you both equally dissatisfied. Look for another alternative that makes each of you as satisfied as going with your first alternative.

I promise you'll find your marriage more satisfying, and if you're anything like the 506 unionized male workers in Canada in the Spousal Positive Social Control and Men's Health Behaviors and Self-efficacy study, you'll probably take better care of your health.

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Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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