You’re in the middle of a screaming yelling fight with your mate. You can feel your heart racing, your blood pressure rising, and after the fight, even though you smoothed things out, your stomach is still a mess. You think “I can’t do this anymore. This is just not good for me!”

Or it’s that daily litany of things that irritate you about your relationship, the annoyances you put up with, the little things that grate on your nerves, like his snoring, or her never quite putting away all her stuff. His overly loud laugh when someone says something he thinks he should laugh at even though he doesn’t think it’s funny, or her forgetting to mail the bills on time. You never quite feel relaxed, you tense up every time he/she does it again, your digestive system suffers and you think “I can’t do this anymore. This is just not good for me!”

And you’re absolutely right. It isn’t good for you. When you feel angry or even very irritated, annoyed, your heart beats more chaotically, your blood vessels may constrict and with that, your heart pumps blood less efficiently throughout your body. Parts of your brain shut down as less blood reaches them, and you’re functioning on far less than your full potential. Various chemicals and hormones are released in response to your agitation, contributing to your physical distress and lowering your immune response. All in all, not a pretty picture.

“Well, now what?” you ask, “Leave my mate to preserve my health?” No, of course not, unless your spouse is abusive, which is a whole different subject. But what you can do, is focus your attention more on what you do like about your spouse, what you can appreciate about what he or she brings to the relationship, to the betterment of your life, and less – much less – on what you don’t like, on what has little value for you, and frankly annoys you.

So you appreciate that he voices his opinion, and you turn your attention to trying to understand why he has an opinion so radically different from yours, rather than angrily defending your position. You appreciate the inevitable good that will come out of working things through rather than screaming them through.

You appreciate the emotional warmth and comfort of sleeping by his side, and look into solutions for his snoring. You take a step back, and value her spontaneity and easy-going nature which benefits you far more than her untidy habits damage you. You appreciate that he does laugh, even if it’s loud. You appreciate how she juggles so many things at once - work, kids, household – and find other ways to manage timely mailing.

Why would you do all this? Because it’s not only good for your relationship, it’s good for your health. Studies show that when you feel and think appreciation, your heart rate smoothes out, good cardiovascular health is supported, your hormonal balance is improved and your immune system enhanced. Your brain functions at full capacity, firing on all cylinders as it were. And the cascade of chemicals and hormones which flow from an appreciative state of mind all benefit the overall well-being of your physical and emotional self.

Collateral benefits: when you look for what works, for what is positive about your mate and your relationship, not only does your relationship improve dramatically, but your personal health and well-being do as well.

Author's Bio: 

Noelle C. Nelson, Ph.D. is a respected relationship expert, consultant, speaker and author. Her latest book is "Your Man is Wonderful," (Free Press, 2009). For more than a decade, she has helped people live happier, healthier lives through appreciation--at work, at home and in relationships. E-mail:, website: