Relationship Advice Tips from Dr. Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.
Constant arguments leading to insecurity and stress
At the age of fifty three Simon dropped dead one evening while sitting on the settee with a drink to unwind after his long and tense day. His three teenage children didn’t notice as they ran around absorbed in their cell phones, while his fifty year old wife Renee busied herself in the kitchen preparing dinner.
Success in his limousine business had been hard to come by, but for the last 5 years he grew his customer base and brought home more money. The family home was just the way he and Renee had planned and he had a good network of support in his family and community. He belonged to the local gym, and liked to watch NASCAR racing with his friends. But one thing never got any better – that is the demands made on him by his wife, children, extended family and business partner.
The expectations and demands that he felt from all those around him made him feel insecure and stressed. Nothing he did ever seemed enough, and the more his did to appease them the greater the demands became. The only way he could create some space for himself was to argue with everyone. He had frequent arguments with Renee, his children, his employees and his friends. No matter what the issue it seemed that he had to challenge their opinions, decisions or plans. It was stressful and tiring, but he just didn’t feel right if he didn’t argue and defy almost everyone he came into contact with. He couldn’t ‘give in’ or just accept a difference of opinion. He had to argue his case and try to win the point – every time, in order to free himself from their ever increasing demands.
Despite his argumentative nature, Simon’s friends remained part of his life. His parents and siblings thought nothing of it, since that’s how they all grew up together. Arguing was the way they related, especially when Simon was old enough to stick up for himself and not get bullied by his overbearing father, and his anxious but controlling mother. Arguing was the way they stayed alive and got their fair share of space, air time and attention.
Dizzy with stressful demands
During their dating days, Renee made huge demands on him about how their wedding should be organized and how the honeymoon ought to go down. They argued frequently, taking turns to win the battle for a bit of freedom from the oppressive expectations. After they got married they continued the cycle of making demands, and then fighting and making up, after the got to the point of breaking up. Despite his love for his kids, their relationship was also one mainly of conflict. Simon recreated the same combative atmosphere in his marital home as the one he grew up in. It took its toll in his early and shocking death.
Simon’s mortality was compromised by his relating to others through argument. The Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, 2014 reports that irrespective of socio-economic and other health factors, gender or marital status, constant demands and arguing was the most harmful for health, leading to early death, particularly for men who followed over a ten year period for the purposes of this study. Arguing in work, social or family settings didn’t matter – it was the arguments themselves that took a toll, tripling the risk of death from all causes.
So how did Simon’s life of arguing lead to a premature death?
Arguing was stressful because it meant Simon was in perpetual battle mode. Stress in his body depressed his immune system and weakened his ability to cope with life’s ups and downs. It impaired his cardio-vascular system, leading to a cardiac arrest.
Simon didn’t enjoy arguing, in fact it wore him out, so why didn’t he change his way of relating?
Like many of my clients, Simon said he hated conflict, but when it came down to it, he refused to give it up. He didn’t want to feel put upon, weak, victimized or a loser. So he chose not to learn how to deal with the demands in ways that would have avoided the need to argue and fight for air! After all, he grew up with arguments being the norm of family life.
Stress of constant arguments affects his health
But look at the price he paid – and look at the cost to his family of losing him!
You don’t have to follow Simon’s path. If you or a loved one is feeling the burden of excessive demands from your family, colleagues or friends, you may be prone to constant arguments. Learn how to manage the demands in therapy where you can get help to notice what your triggers are; what you are willing to give up and what you insist on fighting for. Psychotherapy can help you feel safe without being a wimp, but without having to argue and battle in order to feel good – your life may depend on it.
Copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.
You might also like:
Five ways to use angry energy to empower yourself
Disclaimer: this article is for informational and educative purposes only. Dr. Raymond is not responsible for any reactions you may have when reading the content or using the suggestions therein. Interacting with this material does not constitute a therapeutic relationship with Dr. Jeanette Raymond