“Intelligence” generally has us thinking of cognitive abilities and intellectual functioning. True, but when it comes to relationships, especially a marital relationship, “emotional intelligence” is the most important and effective kind of smarts to nurture healthy relationships. Emotional intelligence is paramount in communication for a strong and healthy marriage.
What is emotional intelligence?
Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. According to American psychologist Daniel Goleman, emotional intelligence consists of five elements:
How is emotional intelligence important in a marriage?
Using emotional intelligence allows you to focus on both yours and your spouse’s emotions, responding to each other appropriately and effectively. Without it, a couple may experience communication breakdowns, misunderstandings and unnecessary complications.
When people are experiencing negative emotions, they commonly vent to those closest to them assuming that this is the safest, best place to get those feelings out. For married couples, the recipient of theses emotional outbursts is often the spouse which can then lead to further unregulated emotional moments, including arguments.
An emotionally intelligent person is able to regulate their emotions and deal with them appropriately at the right time and in the right place (e.g. not in front of the children, or in a rush before work) rather than pushing it aside or taking it out on their spouse.
Recognizing your own and your spouse’s emotions helps you to control them more. For example, understanding that when you or your spouse are feeling frustrated is not a good time to talk to your spouse about paying bills, or any other topic that frequently causes heightened arousal.
When spouses are sensitive to each other’s emotions, they can be more compassionate towards the struggles they each face in their roles. How many times have you had an irrational angry outburst because your spouse came home late or because the house was a mess when you returned home from work, only to feel terrible afterwards?
Actually, he was tired and exhausted after a long hard day and you pounced on him, instead of considering how he’s feeling- exhausted. Or maybe while she was so busy tending to the children all day that she didn’t have the time or energy to tidy up. Spouses who empathize with their spouses emotions will refrain from passing any negative comment in the knowledge that this is inappropriate and would only add to the mental exhaustion. When this appreciation is present, spouses are less likely to pick faults with one another or respond irrationally to certain scenarios.