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Open Up to Your Spouse

If you keep quiet to keep the peace when you and your partner fight, you may want to rethink that strategy. Women who practice "self-silencing" have four times the risk of early death (from chronic ills like heart disease, cancer, and stroke) as those who speak their minds, according to data from a ten-year National Institutes of Health study. No one is sure why, but staying silent may create hormonal imbalances, which can make chronic disease more likely, says Elaine Eaker, lead author of the study. Ways to find your voice:

Plan ahead. Do you see red every time your husband runs up the credit card bill? Take time before it comes to figure out how to start a conversation with him about it, says Susan Heitler, Ph.D., coauthor of The Power of Two Workbook: Communication Skills for a Strong & Loving Marriage. If you've rehearsed a calm approach in your mind, you may not succumb to the urge to just let the issue drop.

Let your kids motivate you. Speaking up for yourself will show them how to deal with conflict constructively.

Seek expert advice. If you still find yourself squelching thoughts, pick up a self-help book, take a class about communicating with others  -- or consider couples counseling.

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