Understandably, many are not necessarily on board with the emotional intelligence wave we keep hearing about, and we keep writing about too! I certainly believe there is a place for adapting and adjusting to what life throws at you. We all must do that. Embracing emotions and being OK with the pain attached to the difficult times in our lives helps us live our lives to the fullest, protect our relationships, connect with others, and deal with conflict appropriately.
When we embrace emotions, we:
Manage Conflict Better while we Embrace Emotions
James 4:1 tells us the reason we fight is because of our “desires that battle within.”
We all have legitimate desires we are created with-to be chosen, accepted, loved, to be heard and understood, to be respected- to name a few. If you want to know what you are fighting about, look underneath at the needs to be met. What do you want to feel from your partner? Look deeper. When there is a conflict, there is some emotional need that is being unmet. Figure that out, and you won’t fight. Instead, you will work together on loving each other better, more thoroughly, and meeting each other’s needs and wants.
Research in Gottman couple’s lab for more than four decades discovered that most couples were not arguing about specific topics like finances, sex, parenting, or dealing with in-laws. They were fighting about a failure to connect emotionally and didn’t even know it. Couples were arguing about how one partner was not paying attention to the other’s needs or how they were not expressing much interest in things that were important to their partner. They were not fighting about tangible issues at all.
Live a Generous and Forgiving Life
It’s hard to be generous and forgiving without being emotionally intelligent. Generosity means you are expecting the best from your partner because there is emotional safety in the relationship. Your partner’s words, intentions, and actions are positive, loving, and caring. A completely emotionally safe marriage sounds like “I can tell my spouse anything-my hurts, fears- and completely trust they will handle that information sensitively and carefully, and I won’t have to regret telling them.”
Forgiveness is a step toward re-establishing an intimate relationship, and emotions play a massive role in the process of forgiving. Forgiveness puts us in a position to choose to control our thoughts and feelings.
Revealing the hurt and emotions to the person who has offended you, and verbalizing aloud that you forgive them, can have a healing effect. Dealing with your emotions means you describe the experience, the pain, and feelings you have gone through or are currently experiencing. Expressing these emotions can remove life-barriers in your thoughts and emotions. Not dealing with forgiveness can lead to emotions of anger, resentment, bitterness, hatred, fear, and hostility. These are great reasons to embrace emotions, not reject them.
Break Negative Couple Cycles
Understanding emotions break the negative cycles or patterns; couples fall into and perpetuate. One of the most common cycles couples get into is the
Generally, this looks like one partner, say the female, is emotionally lonely or is wanting some need or desire met that she feels is missing. She anxiously or angrily confronts or attacks the male to get what she needs, because she feels she has asked for it before, and he refuses to meet that need. She feels unloved, unwanted, lonely. So, the male feels he can never do anything right, and she is always angry or upset, he is inadequate or not good enough. So, he becomes emotionally overwhelmed (although he would never admit it is an emotional overwhelm) and so he withdraws or avoids the emotional conversation or confrontation. The more he distances, the more she pursues. The more she pursues, the more he distances. And so forth and so on.
So, you see the lack of emotional care for one another perpetuates the negative cycle. Neither is meeting the other’s needs and is “pushing emotional buttons,” so to speak. The cycle will continue, sometimes without either understanding it, until they break the cycle by caring for each other. The wife needs to ask gently for what she wants and needs, and her husband needs to end the distancing and care for her feelings.
Affair-Proof the Marriage
There is always a search for emotional closeness in an affair. For men, there is a need to feel and connected. For women, they are looking to feel chosen. Research shows many don’t cheat because of a need for sexual intimacy, but because the couple doesn’t directly ask for what they want and need in the relationship. In other words, they don’t share the emotions of the heart with one another.
No marriage is affair-proof. Terry Real says “fierce intimacy” is necessary. That is where partners can speak up and share their whole, genuine selves. Not backing off, but telling each other their needs, their feelings, their desires. “When you back away from your real needs, when you stop telling the truth to your partner and yourself-you shut down your generosity, your sexuality, your vitality. Talking honestly about feelings and desires is necessary. If you don’t open up to your own emotions and to your partners too, you may be opening the door to a lack of connection and passion. It does not mean an affair will happen, but you open the door to emotional needs being met elsewhere.
Foster Our Natural Brain Functioning
You are naturally wired for feelings and emotional relationships! Your brain has a natural dopamine system that focuses attention toward and leads to feelings of romantic love. It also uses Oxytocin, which is a naturally occurring hormone produced by the hypothalamus. It fosters feelings of deep attachment and bonding. When you’re attracted to another person, your brain releases dopamine, your serotonin levels increase, and Oxytocin is produced. This causes you to feel a surge of positive emotion.
When couples are not “OK” with difficult emotions and difficult conversations, they tend to numb their feelings. But you cannot selectively numb negative emotions because you will also numb the positive ones.
When we are not open to our natural brain functioning, we can lose our God-given neurotransmitters that help us connect. We must not numb and let our brain function help us love one another well and care for each other as we were intended.
Emotions are not something to dismiss or to downplay. They need to be understood and seen as an essential and integral part of not only the positive, loving parts of a relationship but also the conflicted, hard parts of a relationship.