Marriage and Emotional Intelligence

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How are you doing with emotional intelligence in your marriage? If you want to find out, keep reading to see if you can identify with the following examples.

Example 1

Emotional Intelligence Fail!

Andy is upset because his life is a roller coaster of workplace politics. When he comes home at the end of the day, he likes to debrief with his wife, Melissa, who is also arriving home from work. Here is how the conversation typically goes:

Andy: You wouldn’t believe what happened today! Jeremy went behind my back and thwarted a change that I had put in place to increase our department’s efficiency. It drives me crazy the way he does this. It feels disrespectful. He reports to me.

Melissa: Well, Andy, you should know by now that he is going to do that. Can’t you just confront him? I mean, it is really that simple. I think you should send an email to him saying that you need to talk to him. Don’t put it off. I know you are tired, but you have to nip this kind of behavior in the bud. Let him know who is in charge. If you don’t do it now, it will just get worse…(blah...blah...blah).

Andy: (Dead silence…..)

Emotional Intelligence Pass with Flying Colors!

Andy: You wouldn’t believe what happened today! Jeremy went behind my back and thwarted a change that I had put in place to increase our department’s efficiency. It drives me crazy the way he does this. It feels disrespectful. He reports to me.

Melissa: Oh no, this happened again? I am so sorry you had to experience that. Jeremy is a real thorn in your side, isn’t he? You must really be upset…..

Andy: Thank you so much for understanding. Sometimes I just need to share my frustrations, and it helps me to know that you are there for me. I may want to talk with you later tonight once we get the kids to bed. I could use your insight.

Example 2

Emotional Intelligence Fail!

Sara has been home all day taking care of her 5 year old son and 2 year old daughter. When her husband, Dan, comes home, she shares some of her struggles that she has encountered throughout the day.

Sara: Dan, you wouldn’t believe what kind of day it has been. First, Johnny vomited about 3 times from a stomach virus that came out of nowhere. And Jessica has been at it again with her strong-willed nature, pushing all of my buttons. I am exhausted!

Dan: Sara, it is so hard to come in the front door everyday after I have been at work and listen to you complain about the kids. You need to have a firmer handle on caring for our kids. I have a job, too, but I don’t come home complaining about everything that is on my plate…..(blah, blah, blah).

Sara: (Silence…….crying)

Emotional Intelligence Pass with Flying Colors!

Sara: Dan you wouldn’t believe what kind of day it has been. First, Johnny vomited about 3 times from a stomach virus that came out of nowhere. And Jessica has been at it again with her strong-willed nature, pushing all of my buttons. I am exhausted!

Dan: Wow! What a day it has been for you! What a bummer about Johnny. Is he okay? And I’m sorry you had to have Jessica pushing your buttons all day while that was going on. How can I help?

Sara: I am so glad you are home. I really could use some help. Thanks!

What’s the Difference?

Three simple words: Listening, Understanding and Empathy. This is very different from trying to fix the problem or change your spouse’s emotions. The bottom line is being able to stay connected and identify with them in the moment, especially when they are expressing so called "negative emotions".

What Does the Research Say?

Emotional intelligence (self-awareness and other-awareness) is not only important for the workplace, it is highly important for marriage and family. While both husbands and wives need to grow in emotional intelligence, it seems that men are often in more need than their wives. Statistics say that about 35% of men are emotionally intelligent, and that has risen some over the past several decades. The research is not certain as to why there is a difference. Is it nature or nurture? Probably some of both. In his classic work, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, John Gottman says this about emotional intelligence and men:

I believe the emotionally intelligent husband is the next step in social evolution. This doesn’t mean that he is superior to other men in personality, upbringing or moral fiber. He has simply figured out something very important about being married that the others haven’t---yet. And that is how to honor his wife and convey his respect for her. It is really that elementary…..The other kind of husband and father is a very sad story. He responds to the loss of male entitlement with righteous indignation or a sense of victimization. He may become more authoritarian or withdraw into a lonely shell, protecting what little he has left. He does not give others very much honor and respect because he is engaged in a search for the honor and respect he thinks is his due (pages 124-125).

What Does Scripture Say?

Maybe the Apostle Peter understood something that modern research has confirmed when he says this to husbands in I Peter 3:7:

Husbands, live considerately with your wives, and treat them with respect…

While Peter didn’t have the vocabulary of emotional intelligence, he certainly captured the meaning in his encouragement to husbands. What he says is particularly amazing when you think about how patriarchal the cultural and religious milieu was in his day. Here is how one commentator puts it:

Live considerately with your wives is literally, ‘living together according to knowledge’. The ‘knowledge’ Peter intends here may include any knowledge that would be beneficial to the husband-wife relationship: knowledge of God’s purposes and principles for marriage; knowledge of the wife’s desires, goals, and frustrations; knowledge of her strengths and weaknesses in the physical, emotional and spiritual realms. A husband who lives according to such knowledge will greatly enrich his marriage relationship…(Wayne Grudem, I Peter, Tyndale, p. 142-143).

While this sounds simple and easy, it’s not. Believe me, I need a daily reminder myself. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Copyright © 2017 Timothy S. Lane
1 Comment

Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at a counseling organization  in Philadelphia, PA. Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches. For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.

Two Things You Need When You Disagree With Your Spouse

Do you and your spouse seem to argue about the same issues that never get resolved? You are not alone. Even good marriages have these kinds of disagreements. In reality, all marriages have challenges. You can’t live in close proximity with another human being and not struggle to love them; and it’s the same with them as they relate to you.

John Gottman has spent a lifetime helping couples grow in their ability to love one another. In his most popular book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, he focuses on very practical ways we can love our spouses and enjoy our marriages through what he calls Positive Sentiment Override, or PSO. The first three aspects of PSO are:

  • Enhance Your Love Maps: never stop learning who your spouse is.
  • Nurture Your Fondness and Admiration: make sure you focus on the positive more than the negative.
  • Turn Toward Each Other Instead of Away: always try to tune into your spouse.

These first three enable a couple to build a solid friendship. Gottman has found that couples who have more positive than negative interactions and thoughts about their spouses are better able to deal with conflicts when they emerge.

Our research confirms the central role that bids play in a relationship. In our six-year follow-up of newlyweds, we found that couples who remained married had turned toward their partner’s bids an average of 86 percent of the time in the Love Lab, while those who ended up divorced had averaged only 33 percent (p.88)

With that foundation, Gottman says that you will more likely be able to navigate the challenges of marriage. He then proposes four things that are necessary for doing just that. Here are the first two:

Let Your Partner Influence You

In every relationship, there are power issues that must be acknowledged. In Genesis, immediately after the Fall, Adam and Eve entered into what some have described as the battle of the sexes. Genesis 3:16 says, “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” This is describing sinful power plays between husband and wife as a result of the fall.

Gottman has observed and sees the importance of each partner sharing strengths and allowing each to influence the other:

In our long-term study of 130 newlywed couples, whom we followed for nine years, we found that, even in the first few months of marriage, men who allowed their wives to influence them had happier relationships and were less likely to eventually divorce than men who resisted their wives’ influence. Statistically speaking, when a man is not willing to share power with his partner there is an 81 percent chance that his marriage will self-destruct (p. 116).

Gottman goes on to say that no matter what your religious views are, mutual respect and learning from each other are necessary for a strong marriage. This is consistent with the appropriately understood meaning of Ephesians 5:22-33, which emphasizes serving one another within the context of marriage. The bottom line is mutual respect and a willingness to learn from one another is critical for a couple to enjoy their relationship.

Tim and Kathy Keller put it this way in their book, The Meaning of Marriage,

Whether we are husband or wife, we are not to live for ourselves but for the other. And that is the hardest yet single most important function of being a husband or a wife in marriage (p.50).

Solve Your Solvable Problems

At this point, he begins to address conflict. This comes on the heels of the first four principles. He isn’t avoiding the issue, he is saying that a couple’s ability to navigate conflict is equal to their friendship. But once he gets here, he spends four chapters providing some of the most practical advice and counsel I have read.

He first distinguishes between two types of conflict in a marriage,

Although you may feel your situation is unique, we have found that all marital conflicts, ranging from mundane annoyances to all-out wars, really fall into one of two categories: either they can be resolved, or they are perpetual, which means they will be a part of your lives forever in some form or another. Once you are able to identify and define your various disagreements, you’ll be able to customize your coping strategies, depending on which of these two types of conflict you’re having (p. 137).

Perpetual problems: make up about 69% of happy couples’ conflict (having kids, sex, money, housework, raising and disciplining kids to name a few). What happy couples are able to do is live with these differences and approach it with a sense of humor. In unstable marriages, these same problems eventually kill the relationship. Gottman calls this “gridlock.”

Solvable problems: make up the remaining 31% of conflict in a marriage. If not addressed in helpful ways, they can have a negative impact on the relationship, creating space for the four horsemen of the apocalypse (criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling). Here are the basic skills all couples need to deal with their solvable problems:

  • Distinguishing between perpetual and solvable problems
  • Soften your start-up
  • Learn to make and receive repair attempts
  • Soothe yourself and each other
  • Compromise
  • Process any grievances so that they don’t linger

In each of these items, you will find some practical skills that are easy to learn. He covers typical problems such as relations with in-laws, money, chores around the house, sex and becoming new parents.

I can’t stress enough how helpful these three chapters are!

Gottman and the Gospel

John Gottman’s research will serve you and your spouse well. If you are a helper/counselor, his material will serve well those you seek to help. I continue to find that true in my own marriage and those I minister to. Scripture confirms Gottman’s research and his astute observations. But the Christian has an additional perspective that is truly humbling, comforting and liberating. We have deeper themes of grace, mercy and forgiveness that are available to us in Christ. While skills are important, building skillful living on the foundation of the Gospel is transformational. While happy marriages are good, happy marriages where each spouse is being conformed into the likeness of Christ is much better.

Copyright © 2016 Timothy S. Lane

Comment

Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at a counseling organization  in Philadelphia, PA. Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches. For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.

Steps to Rebuild a Marriage

 Every marriage is flawed and susceptible to temptations. Every marriage has strengths and weaknesses. Every marriage needs to improve. While this series has focused on infidelity, all couples can benefit from these areas of growth in grace.

Each Spouse Can Work to Make the Marriage Better

Even though an affair is a devastating trial, it can be used by God to redeem a marriage and move it to a place that is far better than either partner imagined. An affair can reveal the small fissures that were there but were never addressed. Issues of communication, conflict resolution, intimacy, finances, children, common interests, and expectations are now on the table in ways that they were not prior to the affair.

The problems in the marriage did not cause the affair and this in no way justifies the adultery. Yet it can still be a place where both people grow. Both can admit their own failures, sins and weaknesses and make new commitments to the marriage. This happens more effectively when the spouse who has committed adultery is honest and open about what they have done and clearly states their spouse was not the cause of the affair.

It is Imperative to Get Beneath the Surface

For the person who has committed adultery, he or she must begin to gain clarity on why they did what they did. In Luke 6:43-45, Jesus says that all behavior grows out of our hearts. James 1:13 says the same thing. We sin, not primarily because of our circumstances but because we are dragged away by our own desires. What Jesus and James mean is that all sin begins inside of us - not outside of us. It is important to begin to understand the motivations that drove the person to commit adultery. If they don’t tackle sin at this level, they will not deal with the real problem nor will they go deep enough with their repentance. They may also be more susceptible to another affair.

Trust Must be Re-built Over Time

It is hard to conceive of anything more devastating to a marriage than an affair. An affair does not end the marriage because a marriage can only be dissolved through divorce. However, something very personal and substantial has been treated carelessly. It is a breach in the relationship and the fallout for both people is devastating. For the spouse who was unfaithful, trust must be re-built over time through a consistent lifestyle of transparency and humility. While confession is an important first step, that does not immediately reinstate trust. Trust takes time.

Forgiveness Must be Practiced as a Lifestyle

For the person who has been betrayed, this will be where the war is waged. While they may grant initial forgiveness, practicing forgiveness on a daily, moment-by-moment basis will be critical. It will be tempting for the spouse who has been sinned against to become bitter and resentful if they are not guided to continually practice forgiveness. Since the unfaithful spouse must build trust; the spouse who was betrayed must practice forgiveness. Both of these can only be done by the empowering work of the Spirit.

Finally, remember every couple is unique. Take the time to get to know them and make a commitment to be there for the long haul. You will be glad you did.

 

1 Comment

Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at a counseling organization  in Philadelphia, PA. Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches. For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.

Adultery: Alive and Well in Your Church?

Welcome to the real world that I was not prepared for upon graduating from seminary! Early on in my pastoral career, I was faced with a host of marriage situations including marital infidelity. Consider the following potential scenarios:

  • Robert and Susan entered my office.  Robert looked sheepish. Susan’s mouth was tight and angry. After they sat down, Robert said, “I had an affair with a woman at work that ended a year ago. Susan and I both want to save our marriage, but we’re stuck. Susan doesn’t trust me, and I am tired of always having to talk about it.  I want to make things right with her, but I don’t know how.” 

  • Greg sat silently as Rachel struggled to tell the story. She had become emotionally involved with her best friend’s husband. They weren’t sexually intimate, but he had replaced Greg emotionally in Rachel’s life. Rachel was relieved because everything was out in the open and Greg still wanted to work on the marriage. Greg, though, was reeling from the initial shock and struggling with hurt, anger, self-doubt, and fear.

  • Joe called and asked if he and his wife, Melissa, could meet with me.  He told me that when he was on the road for work he had a series of one night stands. A few months ago Melissa caught him, and he promised to stop. They wanted to keep their marriage going because of their children, but they were fighting all the time—was there hope for their marriage?

It is encouraging that each of these couples is trying to put their marriage back together after it was ruptured by some degree of infidelity. After the initial shock, they are attempting to rebuild their marriage, but it is harder than they expected.

 According to Peggy Vaughan, in her book The Monogamy Myth, 60% of men and 40% of women will engage in some form of an affair. She says that these numbers are conservative. What pastor, friend or counselor has not faced the challenge of walking with a couple through the difficult season of unfaithfulness? Typically, what is true in the broader culture is reflected in the church. We should assume that people who are in our congregations are facing these temptations and be prepared to offer help.

Are you and your spouse struggling to rebuild your marriage after adultery? Don't give up. Are you a pastor, friend or counselor trying to find your way as you seek to help a couple in the midst of unfaithfulness? Whatever you do, don't be shocked and see this as yet one of many opportunities for Christ-centered ministry.

Over the next several days I will highlight some things that have been helpful for couples who have experienced the hard reality of adultery.

1 Comment

Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at a counseling organization  in Philadelphia, PA. Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches. For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.