Fight With Your Spouse? You Might Just Be Hungry

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A new study finds that married couples are more aggressive when they have low blood sugar.

A candy bar might do more than just satisfy a sweet tooth. It could actually make you “sweeter” when dealing with your spouse.

A new study found that hunger is often to blame for domestic arguments. According to Bloomberg, research released in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences indicates that dieting, skipping a meal, or just being hungry can be a recipe for disaster when it comes to spousal interactions.

Brad Bushman, the lead study author, said the findings are some of the first to depict the relationship between low sugar levels and the propensity for marital discord, including arguments, simple confrontations and even domestic violence.

Bushman, a professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University, told Bloomberg:

Self-control comes in part from the fuel we give our brains. This is one of the few physiological aspects we can control. People who are hungry are often very cranky.

CNN said researchers tested married couples’ aggressive impulses by using some unconventional strategies – voodoo dolls and a computer game. Here’s how it played out:

  • Voodoo dolls. The couples measured their blood sugar levels each morning and night for 21 days. Each evening they would stick up to 51 pins in a voodoo doll, depending on how mad they were at their spouse. I think it goes without saying that if you jabbed 51 pins into the doll, you were very angry.
  • Virtual game. At the end of the 21 days, the couples were told they were competing against their significant other in a computer game. As punishment for losing a round in the game (which was rigged by the researchers), the victor would play an irritating noise in their spouse’s earphones at whatever volume they wanted. In reality, the partner was not actually hearing the obnoxious noises.

Now for the results:

Study participants with lower nightly blood sugar levels were more aggressive — both in “pinning” their voodoo doll and in blasting their partner with a louder noise for longer. These findings remained true even after researchers controlled the data for relationship satisfaction.

I think it’s obvious that a handful of chips isn’t going to heal a seriously troubled marriage. But here’s what you can take away from this study, according to Bushman:

“If couples have a sensitive topic to discuss, it would be really smart to do it over dinner or better yet after dinner,” Bushman said. “They should definitely not do it on an empty stomach.”

I know that I’m incredibly crabby and short-tempered when I’m hungry. I think anyone who knows me well would agree. “Krystal’s in a bad mood? Give her a cookie.” Next time I have a seemingly irrational urge to lash out at my husband, maybe I’ll take a quick trip to the kitchen instead. What a great excuse to have a bowl of ice cream.

Have you experienced being “hangry” – when you’re so hungry that you are quick to anger over the smallest things? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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