Let’s say a problem has come up in your marriage. It could be anything — your spouse isn’t 100% truthful about something, or you’re beginning to feel like your spouse doesn’t love you anymore. Regardless of how big or small the issue, it’s getting to the point where you’re withdrawing emotionally. And naturally, it’s stressing out you and your spouse.
Do you keep your mouth shut? Or do you finally say something? Stressing out you and your spouse!
Most of us would like to believe we’d say something. After all, it’s the only way to get all our feelings and emotions on the table to see if the situation is as bad as we think it is or if it’s simply all in our head. Well, believe it or not, many couples choose to zip it! And as a result, they continue to have problems — either because they think they know how their spouse will react, they’re too worried to say anything, or they’re too focused on things that haven’t even happened yet.
This plays into our ongoing conversation about emotional intelligence and the importance of improving the emotional connection between couples. When we don’t feel emotionally safe, our hearts and spirits feel disconnected and closed. On top of that, we build walls, making it even more difficult to effectively deal with stress and conflict.
Do any of these unhealthy signs of a struggling relationship sound familiar to you?
- I’m not sure if my partner cares about or loves me
- Constant angry outbursts and demands
- Harmful words and threats
- One or both spouses ignoring key issues
- Withholding love, affection, time, and humor
- Feelings of inadequacy
- Unwarranted criticism
- Disconnection and a lack of closeness
Conflict and stress is usually driven by what couples are NOT talking about
To illustrate our point on emotional intelligence, here’s a quick scenario. Dana thought that her husband Phil was much more generous with his ex-wife than he’d ever been with her. Although Dana and Phil had been married for several years, Dana worried that Phil just didn’t love her. In her mind, she’d never been treated as well as Phil’s ex, and she was angry. But instead of bringing this worry up to Phil in a calm and non-threatening way, she kept her mouth shut to avoid making the situation worse.
On top of all of this, Dana believed that she knew exactly what Phil was thinking. She made up a scenario in her mind to make the pieces fit together. And because she didn’t approach Phil with her feelings and doubt, he didn’t even know what she was thinking. Because of this, Dana withdrew from Phil emotionally, and he felt rejected.
This scenario perfectly highlights emotional intelligence and three habits that may be stressing out you and your spouse.
Trying to Read Your Spouse’s Mind
- Thinking you can read your spouse’s mind. That’s exactly what Dana did in the example above, and it will get you into trouble almost every time. Granted, there have been plenty of times in our marriage — and I’m sure yours, too — where you must make a decision based on your knowledge of what your spouse would think or feel. However, doing this on a regular basis will get you into trouble. We are all simply too unique in our world view and life experience for anyone else to guess what we’re thinking.
Avoiding the People Involved could be stressing out you and your spouse.
- Avoiding dealing directly with people involved — When Dana finally did talk with Phil about her feelings of being less-than when compared to Phil’s ex, she came off sounding like she was accusing Phil. It would have gone must more smoothly if she had used a softened start up. He already felt ashamed because he’s afraid of his ex-wife’s anger, which is why he tends to be more generous with her. Dana’s anger leads to him becoming defensive, so Dana just drops the conflict.
Focus on Future Events
- Focus on future events — By focusing on the potential bad outcomes in the future, we have almost zero ability to affect the present. This means that by worrying and playing those future scenarios over and over in our minds, we are throwing away the chance to do anything differently. When you start saying, “What if” then STOP and ask yourself, “What can I do differently today?” In Dana’s case, if she only focused on future events, she might see zero hope for their relationship and might think Phil couldn’t ever be the loving, supportive, and generous husband she’d hoped for. What a shame to end a marriage over a perceived situation that really wasn’t at all what she thought.
So, how do we overcome these habits? Here are a few fixes to the above habits.
HABIT #1 FIX — Ask what your spouse is thinking
Wait until a time when it’s not too chaotic and tell your spouse what you’re feeling in a kind and loving way. You could start with a statement like, “When you’re really generous with your ex, it makes me feel like you don’t love me much. Tell me what you’re feeling.” If your spouse doesn’t want to be open and talk about this situation, at least you’ve let them know what you’re seeing and feeling. Bringing your feelings and emotions into the light can help relieve the hiding and secrecy of unspoken thoughts. As a result, you and your spouse will talk openly about the situation and come to a clear understanding of what’s really happening.
HABIT #2 FIX — Begin with honest, open-ended questions
Let’s go back to Dana and Phil. Imagine if one day, she asks, “How do you feel about me?” Phil answers with these soothing words, “Whenever I look at you, I feel blessed. I get scared sometimes that maybe you don’t love me as much or are angry with me. My parents were always angry with each other or me. Being married to you seems too good to be true.”
Dana then asks, very simply, “And, how do you feel about your ex-wife?” Phil responded, “The two of you are night and day. You’re wonderful. She terrifies me. She always rants and screams, just like my father used to. Even five years after our divorce, I’m still afraid to stand up to her.” Do you see what just happened? The truth is revealed!
HABIT #3 FIX — Push thoughts of the future into the future
Why focus on what hasn’t happened? Instead, concentrate on the here and now … the next pivotal step. We start by not allowing what-ifs and mind reading games to play havoc with our most important relationship — our marriage.
What we are saying is that we could all stand to improve our emotional intelligence. Let’s focus on Not stressing out you or your spouse.
It’s easy to get caught up in a lot of bad habits that put undue stress on our marriage over the long term. Being emotionally intelligent and recognizing the importance of having open conversations with our spouse helps avoid these pitfalls and leads to a safe and connected marriage. And we all want more of that.
Our heart is devoted to caring about people and marriages!
Our heart is and always has been devoted to caring about people. We want to ensure you have the tools to know and understand how important trust in a marriage is for you and your spouse. Plus, we want to help other couples just like you. The best way we know how to do that is by spreading the word to more people and let them know that we are here. Join us on social media. IG – MikeandSusanDawsonCo. FB – MikeandSusanDawson