How emotional intelligence can save your marriage

| Kate Soucheray | January 8, 2019 | 0 Comments

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Throughout this new liturgical year (which began with the first week of Advent), we will hear from St. Luke’s Gospel, which is known for highlighting Jesus’ compassion. As we hear the readings, we are invited to place ourselves within the context of the Gospel stories and become a more compassionate, caring person as well.

One way to achieve this ideal is to work toward the maintenance of a happy, resilient marriage, which is no small feat in our current culture. In fact, the Pew Research Center contends that the chances of a marriage failing for Baby Boomers has doubled since the 1990s to at least 50 percent.

According to noted marriage researcher and author Gary Chapman, “Keeping love alive in our marriages is serious business.” This is especially true in long-term marriages, where complacency and self-righteousness often set in, preventing us from seeing fully our part in disagreements or dissatisfaction with our spouse. Particularly as couples become empty nesters, working out difficulties and disparities is of the utmost importance, for this is the period of the highest incidence of divorce. Couples at this stage of life have to work on their relationship if they intend to stay together, for the children are often no longer the primary impetus for the partnership.

In order for long-term marriages to survive and thrive, couples must commit to remaining committed to each other and to their marriage, which can be achieved through a few simple steps. According to marriage researcher John Gottman, couples who are open to influence from each other — which means they are able to hear and care about what their spouse is saying — report they have happier marriages. Couples in these marriages have a stronger bond with each other, which facilitates a greater chance of success in maintaining a long-term marriage.

Gottman says that “when both partners commit to making small but consistently positive shifts in their interactions, they can take their marriage to a much happier place.” He states it is easier to make small changes, rather than larger ones, because they are easier to do. As a result, spouses have many more opportunities to move in the right direction, rather than waiting for the larger moments to help achieve the shift they are hoping will occur.

ACTION CHALLENGELocate a copy of Daniel Goleman’s book “Emotional Intelligence” and implement his suggestions in your marriage to become a more emotionally-connected partner. In addition, read a book or watch a podcast by John and Julie Gottman and employ the strategies they suggest to strengthen your marriage.

In order to begin a difficult conversation to address a transgression, Gottman suggests a strategy he refers to as “the softened start-up,” which is the ability to begin talking with your partner about your complaint without criticism or insult. In addition, he suggests using the strategy of “turning toward your partner,” which means demonstrating the willingness to listen, be open and engage in the conversation your partner wishes to have, as opposed to turning away and ignoring his or her bid for emotional closeness, or turning against your partner with anger or hostility.

These suggestions from Gottman require couples to develop and strengthen their emotional intelligence, which is a person’s ability to understand and manage his or her own emotions, as well as understand and remain open to others’ emotions.

According to author Daniel Goleman, an emotionally intelligent person thinks about feelings, pauses before engaging others, strives to control his or her thoughts, benefits from criticism, shows authenticity, demonstrates empathy, praises others, is able to apologize, forgives and forgets, keeps commitments, offers to help others, and protects his or herself from emotional sabotage.

At the beginning of this new year, let us commit ourselves to improved relationships through compassionately engaging our partner. This will be attained through the development of emotional maturity and becoming a more emotionally intelligent person.

Soucheray is a licensed marriage and family therapist and a member of Guardian Angels in Oakdale. She holds a master’s degree in theology from the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity in St. Paul.

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Category: Simple Holiness