The One Simple Gesture That Could Make Your Relationship Rock Solid

Photo: CHOTTHANIN THITIAKARAKIAT / Shutterstock
holding hands
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Love

When it comes to holding hands, everybody has their preferred technique: interlocking fingers, cupping palms, interlocking with a thumb rub, or the sweat-friendly pinky-link. Some people are top hands, others bottoms, and some swing both ways.

No matter your style, or how clammy your palms, we all know how good it feels to fit your hand into your loved one's.

But why is it that when we're upset, stressed, or scared, we instinctively reach for our partner's hand?

Conversely, why is it that we always seem to reach for our partner's hand to comfort them when they're upset? 

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A 2006 study by University of Virginia psychologist, Dr. James Coan, showed that the answer doesn't lie between our fingers, but in our brains.

The study involved subjecting 16 happily married women to stressful situations while monitoring their brain activity with an f.M.R.I machine.

After administering an electric shock to each woman, Coan measured the resulting activity in the stress response area of her brains. He then repeated the shock while the women held a stranger's hand. And then again while holding her husband's hand.

The results showed less activity in the stress-related areas of the women's brains even while holding a stranger's hand, and a whole lot less stress when they held their hubby's hand.

So that's it! Holding hands appears to make us feel less stressed because it actually does make us less stressed!

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If happy couples do more hand-holding, and hand-holding reduces stress, and less stress leads to better health, then it can only be assumed that happy marriages lead to better health, right?

Well, according to the New York Times, that could very well be the case.

In 2000, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study that showed how unhappily married couples were at risk of severe health problems.

The study surveyed 300 women who had been hospitalized for chest pains or a heart attack. The patients reported that they were experiencing high levels of stress in their marriage.

So, with constant negativity in a marriage, it can raise the risk for heart attacks and cardiovascular diseases for the couple involved.

So, the next time your loved one is upset for whatever reason — a sad movie, friend drama, work stress, an argument with you — consider some quality hand-holding time.

Just squeeze a little squeeze into your daily routine: across the table hand-holding while the two of you are eating, while you're in the car, at church, while you're watching TV, or just while walking somewhere together.

It's good for your relationship and your health.

RELATED: People In The Strongest Relationships Share These 5 Types Of Intimacy

Editor's Note: This article was originally posted in April 2010 and was updated with the latest information.

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Meghan Overdeep is a staff writer for Southern Living. Her work has appeared in Runner's World, InStyle, Food Network, The Knot, and more.