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Why Emotional Intelligence is Important for Your Marriage
Lately, we have been looking at the components of emotional intelligence, or EQ, and how they can impact your personal and professional relationships.
One of the most important applications, in my opinion, hits very close to home.
Let’s talk about EQ and marriage.
I got married at a young age. I was twenty-two, Fran twenty-one.
The beginning of our marriage was wonderful.
My wife and I started our marriage with a foundation of great friendship.
She was, and is, someone I can easily confide in.
We were committed to one another and things seemed to be going without a hitch.
Around six or seven years into the marriage, something shifted.
Nothing drastic, but it became apparent that a relationship that used to come naturally, started to require more effort. We had to work hard to make things work.
Looking back on it, that season is when I really started to see the impact my emotional intelligence, or lack thereof, had on our connection with one another.
I don’t know if I had the framework for how to describe emotional intelligence at that age, but looking back on those early years, I can say my social skills and empathy were high. My self-regulation and self-awareness were very low.
My lack of awareness played a major role in our discord. What I thought was going smoothly, was simply silent pent up frustration on her part.
One of the greatest challenges in marriage is not our spouse—it is the perspective we come into the marriage with.
We enter a marriage with a mental model of what the marriage should and will look like.
That mental model is formed primarily from our home of origin. We consciously or subconsciously base the roles, way of relating, and even value systems on what we saw modeled in our parent’s relationship.
Often, our mental model is profoundly different from that of our spouse’s.
This makes for a very interesting dynamic when we try to blend the two perspectives. It can take a lot of work to make a “new” model.
Without self-awareness, this can be even more challenging.
Because I based my expectations of my wife’s role on the role of my mother, I thought it was absolutely normal for her to take care of all of the household responsibilities.
When the weekend rolled around, I didn’t think twice about finding ways to personally unwind—sport activities, reading the newspaper, hanging out with friends were things I felt entitled to after a hard work week.
The whole time, my wife was thinking—when is it my turn to take a break?
Fortunately, when the tension between us became too much, we sought out help.
Through a third-party, we were able to find ways to identify and talk about our expectations and how they were affecting one another.
I still remember those early moments of realization—when I discovered exactly how clueless I was.
It was a painful, but powerful time.
Not only did that process help develop my self-awareness and overall emotional intelligence—it strengthened my marriage. We got back on track.
Marriage is not only about a commitment to learning one another’s perspective, it is about honoring one another through the differences.
Another key component of EQ is self-regulation.
Self-regulation is simply defined as knowing, or understanding what is going on emotionally inside of us—and then having the ability to regulate our responses and behavior manifesting from that emotion.
When Fran and I first clashed on perspectives and role definitions, I didn’t know how to regulate my offense.
Nothing tests our ability to self-regulate like conflict.
And as most married individuals know, conflict and the potential for offense is a daily part of life.
And as I mentioned earlier, trying to find an agreed-upon model for doing life together takes many difficult conversations.
How you regulate yourself in those conversations can have a lasting effect on your marriage and family. Consistently having emotional outbursts in a relationship can destroy it over time.
The greater your ability to delay self-gratification, and put the needs of your spouse in front of yours, the stronger your relationship will be.
Keep in mind, regulating your emotional responses is not the same thing as stuffing your emotions.
Part of self-regulating your emotions is learning how to talk about your feelings in a healthy way.
Being vulnerable with your spouse about your emotional state is vital to a healthy relationship. Share how you feel, but don’t let the emotions lead in a way that injures you or your spouse.
This equally ties into the EQ component of empathy. Empathy is one’s ability to seek to understand the other perspective.
Because there is a clash of worldviews about what marriage looks like when two people enter a relationship—the issue of empathy is profound.
The key to building empathy in your marriage is seeking to understand where your spouse is coming from. Instead of waiting to interject your view into the conversation, ask questions that will pull out a greater understanding of your spouse’s view.
This leads me to motivation.
Marriage is about commitment. In order to meld two worldviews and thrive in a relationship—we have to be committed to the long-term goal.
Developing the EQ component of self-motivation is key to pressing through the difficult conversations that inevitably come.
In the short term, conflict does not “feel good.”
No one likes to be told that they are doing something wrong, or that their way is not the best.
Being motivated to work through the differences, for the longer goal of a strong and healthy relationship, is key to a happy marriage.
In the thick of a conflict, your motivation is not going to come from your spouse. You need to find that motivation within yourself and rally around the larger goal.
If you are committed to your spouse and the relationship, EQ skills not only come to the front and center—they are imperative.
If all you wanted to do is coast through the commitment as long as it is enjoyable, you probably wouldn’t be reading this blog.
If you are lacking in empathy, self-regulation, motivation, or self-awareness—it isn’t too late to develop them.
Marriage takes work. Developing your emotional intelligence is a great way to strengthen your relationship, or another way to look at it—marriage is the perfect ground for developing your EQ.
Emotional intelligence, the ability to make emotions work for you instead of against you, is an essential quality of effective leaders, employees, and people.
But, how do you practically go about increasing awareness of both yourself and your surroundings?
We’ve created our free guide entitled, “10 Things You Can Do Today To Increase Emotional Intelligence” to help you begin to learn how to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others and leverage this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships. Download it here.