We all know how important it is to lead a happy life. Being happy helps us become healthier, more productive, focused, outgoing, and an overall better person. But would it be far-fetched to believe that your significant other’s happiness is directly related to your own health? Well, research says so. According to a new study by researchers at the Michigan State University (MSU), people with happy spouses are much more likely to report better health over time.
‘You happy, me happy’
So, how does this work? Dr Suyog Jaiswal, a Mumbai-based assistant professor of psychiatry, says happiness is contagious, and being around a happy person helps you focus on the positive aspects of life, rather than brooding over your problems.
He adds, “A happy spouse helps you stay cheerful, and motivates you during difficult times. Overall, being happy lets you handle stress better, and helps you live a longer, healthier life. A happy person not only improves their own quality of life, they make their spouse and people around them happier too.”
The study also says that happy partners are likely to get any unhappy person around them involved in healthy activities, such as maintaining regular sleep cycles, eating nutritious food and exercising. However, while that may work in a happy relationship, what happens if you or your spouse is unhappy with the way things are going? It’s not always easy to talk about problems, so a lot of people stay quiet and avoid talking about their issues. Silence, however, can be disastrous for a relationship.
City-based couple Nalini Agarwal and Chandresh Agarwal have been married for more than two decades. While Chandresh, owing to his work, used to be away travelling overseas for most of the year, Nalini stayed home and continued with her job as a teacher.
The couple went through difficult times during the first few years of their marriage, as Chandresh never used to be home for long periods of time, and couldn’t spend time with Nandini. Chandresh says, “I went back to work immediately after we got married. There wasn’t even a honeymoon. I came back the following year and never even thought of going on a holiday. Ours was an arranged marriage, and we hardly knew each other. When I would come back to India on leave, most of the time was spent visiting my huge family. I would never give time to my wife, and I didn’t realise that my careless behaviour was hurting her and that she was unhappy.”
Nalini waited for five years, but one day decided to leave Chandresh and go back to her parents. Chandresh says, “I realised the gravity of the situation when Nalini stopped answering my calls. That is when I cut short my work trip and came back to India to get my house back in order.” Chandresh, who quit his job to save his marriage, adds that it took months to bring things back to normal on the home front. He is currently running a business in Mumbai.
Dealing with sadness
So, how do you gauge if your partner is unhappy in the relationship, especially if they don’t want to talk about it? Jaiswal says it’s difficult for most people to hide their unhappiness from their partners. “Unhappy people tend to become self-engrossed, keep to themselves, and are indifferent, irritable and forgetful at times.
Sexual intimacy as well as emotional warmth is generally reduced with an unhappy spouse. Even if the difference of opinion isn’t explicitly verbalised, it’s possible to sense it in your partner’s behaviour,” he says.
People also don’t realise that pretending to be happy may actually be harmful to their relationships. Psychiatrist Riddhish Maru says pretending to be happy may suffocate a person from within. “It’s natural for artificial feelings to fade away quickly. Pretending to be happy will only lead to more unhappiness. You will lose interest in your relationship or anything connected to it. It’s better to open up to your partner,” he says.
Maru adds it’s not difficult to get your spouse involved in activities that may change his or her mood. He says, “Firstly, an unhappy person will refrain from getting involved in any activity. So, convince your partner to do things that interests him or her, but do it together. However, make sure you don’t compare yourselves with each other. It might be a good idea to give examples of couples who do a lot of things together and are happy.”