Emotional Intelligence, also called “EQ” (Emotional Quotient), is best described as having the ability to identify and regulate your own emotions, while at the same time understanding and adapting to the emotions of others. There are several key attributes that easily identify if you are someone with a high EQ. Those attributes include; self-awareness, acute social skills, high level of empathy, and an ability to regulate your emotions. If you excel in most of those areas, you are more likely than not someone who has strong Emotional Intelligence.
In marriage, having Emotional Intelligence can be of great benefit if it is utilized in healthy ways. Being aware of, and empathetic to, your spouse’s emotions gives you the opportunity to respond to their needs. However, having a heightened awareness of your spouse’s emotions can also lead you down the path of being reactive and overly-sensitive to their criticism, expectations, or communicated desires. It is typical in a relationship for one person to have a much higher EQ than their counterpart. In addition, It is more common for women to have higher Emotional Intelligence than men but this is not always the case.
Be aware that many, if not most, communication challenges in marriage have their origins in spouse’s having different levels of Emotional Intelligence. How many times have you heard (or said), “They say that they are listening to me but I don’t feel that they are listening to me?” Maybe in this instance they really are listening but they lack the EQ to feel and communicate the level of empathy that you want from them. Another example might be, “He is too sensitive! Why can’t I just have a hard day without him correcting me or trying to fix me?” In this example it could be that the overly sensitive spouse is reacting from their partner’s hard day (high EQ can cause someone to be overly sensitive).
Here are some tips for how to utilize all of the benefits of Emotional Intelligence in your marriage:
1. If you don’t already know, find out where you and your spouse are on the Emotional Intelligence scale. There are numerous online resources/tests (the best of which charge a small fee for test results).
2. Communicate with your spouse about how you feel that their, either higher or lower, EQ level makes the relationship better and more challenging (there are always positives and negatives).
3. Now that you have an increased awareness of each other and each other’s EQ levels (those of you with higher EQ probably already had some idea), take responsibility for having realistic expectations for your spouse. Someone with a low to moderate EQ will never reach the level of someone with a very high EQ. Someone with a high EQ will never not be able to “notice how you’re feeling.”
4. Set specific goals for yourself that help you both to achieve unity in connection and communication. One goal for a person with high EQ might be to intentionally not pay attention to every sigh, eye roll, or negative tone of their spouse. Just because you are aware of your spouse’s emotions it does not mean that you have to point them out or “fix” them. One goal for a person with low to moderate EQ might be to make an extra effort to “check-in” with their spouse, asking them about how they are feeling. Oftentimes, people with higher EQ will communicate about life through the lens of feelings, while people with low to moderate EQ prefer to communicate about their lives through the lens of “what happened” (the facts of their day to day life).
5. Relationship Coaching can help you both to acquire the tools needed to develop a deeper understanding of how to become a stronger couple through understanding how to maximize each other’s unique differences.
LMFT, KCN Elite Relationship Coach