Contrary to popular belief and the premise behind most dating apps, compatibility does not guarantee a happy relationship. Relationships are messy. Differences are inevitable. If a couple is using ineffective tactics to manage their differences, it can lead to defensiveness and emotional distance.

Relationship discord can be hazardous to your mental, emotional and even physical health, according to UH psychology professors John Vincent and Julia Babcock, co-directors of the UH Center for Couples Therapy.

“People in unhappy relationships can develop anxiety, depression and substance abuse. For those who divorce, the emotional and financial toll can be staggering, not to mention the negative emotional fallout for children,” said Vincent.

Research shows psychological stress can suppress our immune system, which can increase susceptibility to illness while slowing down recovery. In the most severe cases, troubled relationships can escalate to violence, serious injury or even death.

By contrast, good relationships can have positive health advantages, including reduced pain and stress, longer life, a greater sense of purpose, stronger bones, career success, positive body image, healthier habits and improved cardiovascular function.

The mission of the UH Center for Couples Therapy is to train doctoral students in clinical psychology in effective approaches to couples therapy, conduct research on marital accord/discord and provide services to the community to help troubled couples. So what are the most effective strategies to foster a healthy relationship?

Effective Relationship Tactics
Personal responsibility: Take positive, constructive actions to show your partner that you really care.
Gratitude: Acknowledge and show appreciation for your partner’s efforts to do the same.
Accountability: Own up when you mess up.