It may seem obvious that being in a safe and secure relationship is good for mental health.  When I reference “emotional attachment” all I mean is a close emotional bond between two people.  But what does the science say about attachment and health?

If we are in a partnership/relationship that is marked by unpredictability, insecurity and a lack of safety, it not only impacts our minds but our bodies.  Relationships like these are rife with conflict, and not the productive kind but the kind that is stressful and does not usually lead to a positive resolution. More specifically:

-Conflict elevates our cortisol levels, which is the chemical our bodies release when under stress.  Prolonged heightened cortisol levels are linked to higher rates of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and decreased immune functioning.  In other words, if we’re in a relationship with a lot of conflict, we can suffer from chronic stress, which can literally make us sick.

-Conflict decreases our body’s ability to heal.  There was a study where subjects were given a scratch on the back of their hand.  One group was asked to recall and focus on negative events in their relationships, and the other group was asked to recall and focus on positive events in their relationship.  The results found that the group that focused and recalled the positive were able to heal from their scratch more quickly than the other group.

-Rejection triggers the same parts of our brain that sense physical pain.  In other words, the saying “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is not true.  When we perceive rejection from others, it affects our brains the same way as physical pain does.

-Research has shown that the experience of a divorce has the same effects on the body as smoking a pack of cigarettes per day (mind you, it’s not just the divorce itself but the events leading up to the divorce and the aftermath, as well).

The good news is, our attachment (i.e., emotional bond) in our relationships can change, and therapy is one of the things that can help with that.  When couples can learn to be emotionally present with each other and feel understood and valued by each other, this is leads to secure attachment.

A secure attachment, or close emotional bond, can:

-Help one heal from trauma

-Enhance resiliency

-Enhance physical health

-Decrease the negative impact of stress and, at times, even decrease one’s perception of physical pain

-Help extend the length of one’s life

In other words, good couples therapy can be very good for your health and your body will thank you for it!