Ever noticed how when we are hungry we tend to get more irritable? According to new research, there is a reason for this. When blood sugar is low we become aggressive, displaying more anger and frustration towards our partner, even wanting to blast them with loud noises. None of us enjoy fighting with our partner, but sometimes we just can’t help ourselves. When small irritations lead up into a big fight, there may be more at play than we realise. Couples fight more when they are hungry. So before you launch into an attack on your partner, make sure your stomach is full.
In the research, couples were asked to answer questions about their relationship, measure blood sugar in the morning and notice anger levels at night. Anger was measured by using voodoo dolls, where participants were instructed to stab the dolls in accordance with their levels of frustration with their partner. The result was that even couples who reported that their relationship satisfaction was high tended to feel angrier with their partner when blood glucose levels were low.
Don’t lose your cool
The study also showed that higher levels of blood glucose were associated with increased ability to maintain self-control. It is good to know this information, because then it is possible to change the way we interact with our partner. Knowing that hunger impacts how we feel give us the ability to know that if we have something to eat before we confront the situation the outcome can be more constructive.
HALT is a well-known acronym that stands for hungry, angry, lonely tired. The idea behind this is that when we feel reactive to situations it is a good idea to check in to see how we feel in regards to HALT. If we find the we are hungry, angry, lonely or tired then it is useful to take care of those needs before making a decision to act upon our reactiveness. Applying this in relationships causes more harmony along with increasing the productiveness of any discussions we have with our partner.
Fighting is healthy
Contrary to popular believe conflict is actually really healthy. Arguing with our partner has a lot of benefits such as:
- Negotiating the boundaries and deciding what is acceptable for us in a relationship
- Understanding each other better by knowing what our partner wants
- Commitment to navigating conflict results in a more harmonious relationship
- Appreciating time and effort from our partner to talk about difficult topics
Making conflict productive
Now we know that eating before we pick a fight could change how we feel, what else can we do to make difficult discussions easier?
- Honest self-disclosure: expressing how we feel without blaming the other person results in less defensiveness.
- Don’t criticise: discussing things that annoy us without being critical enhances how our communication is received.
- Be open and willing: facing those annoyances rather than sweeping them under the carpet until they blow up out of proportion results in less relationship tension.
- Stop the silent treatment: be willing to talk and make the time to discuss problems. Stonewalling or silent treatment only creates more resentment.
- Be open to feedback: knowing that we play a part in the problems that arise allows for a more honest discussion where there is more space for each person to take responsibility.
- Balance the anger: ensuring that there are positive acknowledgements interspersed with negative statements keeps conflict balanced and healthy.
Remembering that having a fight is sometimes a good way to sort out problems and deepen the connection could make a big difference. Rather than seeing conflict as something bad, using it to get to know the other person better can enhance intimacy. If we use the above study to our advantage, and make sure we are sufficiently nourished before we discuss contentious issues we may be surprised at how much closer we feel to our partner.