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Maybe This Is Why You Always Have a Cold

Photograph by Twenty20

Blind passion is a beautiful thing. It is also impossible to maintain without renewed synergy and thoughtful dialogue throughout the course of a relationship, which is hard. And probably one reason the divorce rate is so high in America.

It is rare when a husband and wife can comfort one another during a separation or divorce. More often than not, when a relationship reaches this point, the breakdown in communication is so intense that it ceases to exist.

So, what does this mean for their children?

According to a team of Carnegie Mellon University psychologists, those of us *raises hand* whose parents lived apart and never spoke during childhood are more likely to develop a cold (as an adult) than those whose parents remained together or separated but continued to communicate.


To determine whether or not specific aspects of the family environment (following a separation) would better predict a child's long-term health issues, researchers quarantined 201 healthy adults, exposing them to a virus that causes a common cold, and monitored them for five days for the development of a respiratory illness.

The results showed that adults whose parents lived apart and never spoke during their childhood were more than three times as likely to develop a cold compared to those from intact families. The increased risk was due, in part, to heightened inflammation in response to a viral infection.

The team also found that individuals whose parents were separated but communicated with each other showed no increase in risk compared to the intact families.

"Early life stressful experiences do something to our physiology and inflammatory processes that increase risk for poorer health and chronic illness," Michael Murphy, a psychology postdoctoral research associate in CMU's Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, said.

"Our results target the immune system as an important carrier of the long-term negative impact of early family conflict," Murphy's colleague, Sheldon Cohen, the Robert E. Doherty University professor of psychology, said. "They also suggest that all divorces are not equal, with continued communication between parents buffering deleterious effects of separation on the health trajectories of the children."

Fascinating, but here's a question for the experts: If parents are incapable of communicating, is it better to fake it 'til you make it or avoid confrontation altogether?

Very few relationships can survive without open communication and an honest commitment from both sides.

The thing is that sometimes silence IS better, especially if one of the parents becomes unhinged during the process of separation. For example, what if one parent verbally abuses the other in front of the child, wouldn’t it make more sense to limit that interaction so that the child is not exposed?

Remember, science is a systematic study through observation and experiment, but chemistry is complex. The best thing any parent can do is pre-plan for a worse case scenario. If you and your spouse are struggling to get along, don’t wait to get help. Find a therapist who works with couples—or better yet, families—and make an appointment immediately.

Very few relationships can survive without open communication and an honest commitment from both sides. Toss in a little anger and resentment, and you’ve got an experiment that even the best chemist in the world won't figure out because marriage is a science all its own.

Good luck figuring that shit out!

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