“There can be no knowledge without emotion. We may be aware of a truth, yet until we have felt its force, it is not ours. To the cognition of the brain must be added the experience of the soul.”
– Enoch Arnold Bennet, author (Quoted in Goleman & Cherniss, 2001)
Emotional intelligence, also known as emotional quotient or EQ, is to acknowledge and manage emotions – our own and those of others. The importance of emotional intelligence in relationships, therefore, is critical, since emotions are the baseline from which we form personal connections.
“Psychologist Daniel Goleman defines emotional intelligence as ‘the ability to recognize, understand and manage our emotions as well as emotions of others,’” says counselor Sabatina Sangma, (MSc, Counseling Psychology).
“I believe that emotional intelligence is the ability to connect with ourselves and the more we are able to connect with ourselves, the more we are able to deal with our own emotions and others in a better way. Since often, people are not aware about their own emotions or how are they feeling, they end relationships as they are unable to communicate with people in an empathetic way,” Sabatina adds.
The Importance Of Emotional Intelligence
According to a study, 37% of marital satisfaction is predictable by emotional intelligence, which is to say, the acquiring and learning of EQ is important for romantic/marital relationships.
Sabatina explains, “By increasing our own emotional intelligence, we are able to recognize the pattern of our own behavior, so that we can handle our own emotions. By building emotional intelligence, we are able to connect with others better. If we understand that our thoughts create our emotions, we will be in a better place to handle conflicts and make better choices in life. The more attuned we are to the needs of others, the closer we become to them emotionally.”
How Does Emotional Intelligence Affect Relationships?
“It is important to develop our emotional intelligence as couples who are emotionally intelligent are able to understand their relationship; they know their roles and identities as a couple and what causes negativity in the relationship. It makes us aware of the changes in ourselves or in others. People are able to foster stability and harmony through emotional intelligence in relationships,” Sabatina explains.
“People without emotional intelligence in their relationship will rarely know what to say or what not to. They might say something insensitive unknowingly, which might hurt the other partner. Moreover, when there is lack of emotional intelligence, couples will keep blame-shifting onto one another every time something goes wrong.
“Also, if there is lack of emotional intelligence in the relationship, one partner might find it challenging to recognize how the other partner feels, to express or honor the emotional needs. And these might create problems within the relationship. Maybe one partner finds it difficult to accept criticism. In fact, the partner might find conflict resolution challenging and have trouble communicating with loved ones.”
Related Reading: How To Stop Worrying Over Your Relationship: 8 Expert Tips
5 Types Of Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence can be categorized into 5 elements. These may also be called the components of emotional intelligence and are classified thus:
“The first point of emotional intelligence is self-awareness – we need to be aware of how we react to situations and how we deal them,” Sabatina says. “Having limited awareness leads to distractions, arguments and communication mistakes. For instance, to practice self-awareness, we can ask ourselves ‘Am I communicating properly with my partner?’ We must have clear understanding and the ability to discuss matters that will lead to a better relationship.”
Self-regulation helps us understand our own emotions and the consequences of our actions. It enables us to understand how our body reacts to emotions. If one can be in control of their emotions it fosters better thought processes,” Sabatina explains.
Relationships with high emotional intelligence are motivated, not by external factors, but by intrinsic standards and motives. In the world of business, examples this intrinsic motivation would be to have your own goals and key performance indicators.
Similarly, when you practice emotional intelligence in relationships, you’re less motivated by how people see you as a couple and you create your own ‘couple goals’ as per your personalities and the kind of relationship you want.
“Being empathetic is the most important point when supporting your partner. Empathy is all about understanding the other person’s needs, desires and appreciating them for who they are. A lack of empathy for our loved ones can be detrimental to the relationship and therefore, it should be addressed,” Sabatina says.
5. Social skills
Since we’re talking all about how you respond to people, social skills are one of the major components of emotional intelligence. Again, this tends to be used in social and business situations, but it is very relevant in a deeply emotional relationship as well.
Simple practices such as maintaining eye contact, noting your partner’s social skills, or social anxiety, active listening and body language are all factors when it comes to emotional intelligence in relationships.
Tips To Build Emotional Intelligence In Relationships
“Emotional intelligence can be gained at any point in life. Any kind of learning requires insight, and so we need to have awareness into which aspect of emotional intelligence we should work on,” Sabatina says.
Developing emotional intelligence in relationships takes patience and time – EQ is really a skill that you have to work on as you and your emotions change and mature. As clinical as it may sound, healthy relationships are those where couples take active steps to have each other’s backs and work on themselves.
We’ve rounded up some tips on working with emotional intelligence, and the small but important measures you can take to build emotional intelligence in relationships.
1. Acknowledge all the feelings you have for your partner
Yes, we know The Beatles told us that love is all you need, and sure, it’s important that love is the primary emotion you feel for your partner. But as dynamic, deeply human folks, our feelings change and evolve and mutate.
Yes, you’ll have sudden mutant feelings like disgust, resentment, anger etc. towards your partner, and possibly be shocked at them and immediately try to push them down.
Related Reading: What Are The Signs She’s Developing Feelings For You
“I’ve been with my partner, Chris, for 7 years,” says Jenny. “Now, we love each other, but there are things about each other that drive us crazy. I hate that he’s never on time, I find it disrespectful. He thinks I’m far too paranoid about punctuality.
“There are times I wonder if love is enough to align our lives, and the truth is that it’s not. We had to sit down and acknowledge that the feelings we have for each other are not positive all the time. And that’s ok, as long as love is the driving force.”
It’s a sobering truth, but we don’t love the people we love all the time. There are plenty of other feelings we feel for them and when developing emotional intelligence in relationships, it’s vital that we feel them all.
2. Embrace change in your relationship
I’m terrible with change, and it takes me a while to prepare and adapt. When it’s tough to adapt to individual changes, change in a loving relationship, that’s supposed to be all about stability, can be daunting.
However, to resist change in a relationship, is both fruitless and detrimental. Relationships evolve with age, circumstances, geography, job changes, health issues and many other things. Having a baby can change your marriage, for instance. Or the start of your relationship could be mostly about passion and physical intimacy. As you continue your journey together, other things such as companionship, friendship and sense of partnership could take over.
Rather than have a panic attack at the first sight of change, let things flow. Change will come whether you like it or not, so the only thing you can control here is how you navigate it. This is where working with emotional intelligence in relationships comes in.
Remember, again, there are different of types emotional intelligence and what you employ depends on where you are in your relationship. Emotional intelligence in a marriage will look different from emotional intelligence in a new relationship. Don’t become a control freak, Lean into the change, and you’ll be surprised at how much simpler things are.
3. Learn from one another
Sabatina points out that developing emotional intelligence in relationships depends heavily on give and take. Sharing experiences and emotional knowledge makes for a healthy, emotional relationship.
Any relationship with high emotional intelligence involves knowing that your partner has components of emotional intelligence you may not possess, and vice versa. For instance, maybe you’re a better listener, but they are better at regulating their emotions.
Related Reading: 11 Lessons People Learnt From Failed Relationships
“My partner is careful of what he says, and tries his best to steer clear of hurtful language even when we fight,” says Jason. “And yet, he’s not the most empathetic person and can’t really place himself in my shoes. I’m the opposite – I understand where he’s coming from, but I’m also short-tempered, so I’m not careful what I say.”
Jason and his partner are aware that they have much to learn from each other, and they try and absorb each other’s strengths without falling into the pit of insecurity. In the spirit of high emotional intelligence, they also try and ensure that learning from one another doesn’t turn into leeching each other’s emotional energy.
The importance of emotional intelligence in relationships needs to be underlined by action, and actively learning from each other is one the most important things you can do.
4. When afraid, admit it; when in doubt, ask
Honesty is another important component of emotional intelligence. Admit it when you’re afraid of something, and be honest when you’re not sure of things. There’s never going to be a love affair devoid of fear and uncertainty, and you need to be able to voice both these emotions in a healthy way.
Remember, that asking when in doubt also applies to consent. And consent is needed everywhere, not just in the bedroom. If you think going through a partner’s desk violates their privacy, ask before you do so, or ask yourself if you need to do it at all.
Articulate what you’re afraid of, too. For instance, if childhood trauma has left you with abandonment fears, talk to your partner about. If you think you might need therapy to address these fears, talk to your partner. Whether it’s emotional intelligence in marriage of 15 years, or in a brand-new relationship, honesty, when spoken truly and softly, will rarely fail.
5. Master the art of conflict management
Sabatina underlines that emotional intelligence isn’t about being in agreement at all times, but about knowing how to navigate conflict that will invariably make its presence felt.
“Emotional intelligence means communicating through conflict in a way that hurts your partner the least,” she says. This is a tough one to master since we’re all prone to lashing out in anger. However, words can leave lasting scars, so a little emotional intelligence goes a long way in minding what you say.
The art of conflict management goes beyond relationship structures. Even navigating a breakup in the least toxic manner and keeping the love alive even if your relationship didn’t work out, is one of the types of emotional intelligence.
Think of hurtful things you should never say to your partner. Things that trigger them or bring to mind past trauma. Then, make sure you don’t fling them out even when you’re having a heated argument. Also, following a major conflict, be sure to practice forgiveness while maintaining healthy boundaries.
6. Be a friend to your lover
I’m way nicer to my friends than I am to my romantic partners. I share a deep emotional relationship with them, but I also see them as complex people who make mistakes, I give them the benefit of the doubt, and I gently call them in when I think it’s needed.
Romantic love is often seen as the paragon of all love, which means we heap more expectations on romantic partners and are visibly disappointed when things aren’t as perfect as we expected. Paradoxically, we’re also slower at highlighting it when they’re being problematic.
It’s great to have high standards for your partners. But let’s not forget that they’re human and will make mess up and probably won’t live up to your standards all the time. At the same time, don’t put them on pedestals and assume they’ll do no wrong. We’re conditioned to let it slide if our partners are being sexist or particularly unkind.
Being a friend to your lover also means hearing them out, buying them a drink if they’ve had a bad day and occasionally telling them their haircut looks great, even if you hate it. Friendship is at least as, if not more, sacred than romance, so let’s not lose it.
7. Be mindful and intentional
“Mindfulness helps us keep ourselves calm and helps us to focus, making us more self-aware in the process. It is the practice where you focus your attention on the present moment, rather than letting the past dictate your actions,” Sabatina says.
It’s nice to think that love is something simply ‘happens’ to us, and once it does, it’ll all work out in some mystical way. Unfortunately, while there is definitely some magic involved, it also takes work, and intention.
When you’re mindful and intentional about your relationship, you’re tuned in to what’s working and what’s not. And, you’ll take steps to fix it, rather than waiting for the universe to do it for you. That’s a huge part of working with emotional intelligence – actually doing the work. Mindfulness in relationships is a good way to do this.
“Emotional intelligence is not about being nice, rather it’s all about managing our own emotions to achieve the best possible outcomes. When working with emotional intelligence, we are able to actively participate in interpersonal communications, and express our emotions in a socially acceptable way,” Sabatina concludes.
In relationships, emotional intelligence is used as a tool to manage our emotions and the way we communicate. It involves bringing our best selves to the relationship as far as possible, while also acknowledging that we’re going to make mistakes. Emotional intelligence also equips us to navigate those mistakes and enable conflict resolution.
Emotional intelligence makes us more empathetic and mindful in our relationships. This means we make an effort to understand where our partner is coming from and we also take active steps to make our relationship better, more loving, and with better boundaries.
Emotional intelligence in marriage is all-important. Marriage, as an institution, comes with its own set of strictures and expectations that can often be a burden on the relationship at its heart. Emotional intelligence helps us to focus on our own relationship and marital goals, and have realistic expectations.