Volume 17, Number 1
Good relationships tend to be good for health, while bad relationships tend to be harmful to health. From a psychological perspective, good relationships help mitigate harmful effects of stress, while bad relationships function as chronic stressors that are detrimental to health.
The health behaviors of one’s intimate partner are also found to be related to one’s own health. Perhaps it isn’t surprising that diets, physical activity, substance use, and weight tendencies are found to be similar among partnered couples. In some cases this is a product of selection at the outset of the relationship, whereas with others it is a product of convergence over time. What this means is that the heath behaviors of one’s partner can themselves be predictive of one’s own susceptibility to diabetes and heart disease, as well as one’s happiness or vulnerability to depression. The gut microbiomes of spouses have been found to have similarities, a physiological factor known to be related to a number of chronic illnesses.
The correspondence in health behaviors in intimate partner relationships (or spousal concordance for married couples) can be viewed as both bad news and good news. The potential influence of a partner’s unhealthy behaviors on one’s own health can be subtle but substantial. On the other hand, there is evidence that positive health behavior change in an individual tends to prompt similar change in one’s partner. This means that one’s own healthy lifestyle may prompt or reinforce a healthy lifestyle in one’s spouse.
For persons looking for or beginning a partnered relationship, selecting a mate who practices healthy behavior can be an investment in one’s own health. For those already in a partnered relationship, commitment to one’s own healthy lifestyle can either help minimize the negative effects of the unhealthy behaviors of one’s partner, or enhance the positive spiral of healthy concordance when one’s partner practices positive health behaviors.by