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  • Will Chenault

The One Ingredient Every Successful Marriage Needs

Updated: Apr 9, 2019

In 1995 Daniel Goleman coined the term emotional intelligence which spawned a book by the same name. According to Goleman’s work, emotional intelligence people are described in two categories: first emotionally intelligent individuals possess the ability to recognize, understand, and manage their own emotions; secondly, they have the ability to recognize, understand, and influence the emotions of others.

Translated into the realm of marriage, emotionally intelligent marriages have the ability to read and communicate emotions. More importantly, those who demonstrate emotional intelligence in marriage have the aptitude to self-reflect, to hear the grievances of a spouse, to “look in the mirror” as it were, and to own personal failures. Defined in biblical terms looking at the plank in your own eye before you look at the speck in your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:3-5)

Emotionally healthy individuals have ears to hear how their words, behaviors, actions, (or lack of action) impact those around them both positively and negatively.

Emotionally intelligent marriages are not void of conflict however great marriages learn the art of repair. Repair can be defined as a couple moving towards one another rather than away when conflict occurs; repair happens when a spouse validates their impact upon the other. In other words, repair takes place when we own our junk!

For example, in a healthy marriage a wife may strongly say to her husband, “You know it feels like you never listen to me, and when I do say something difficult you respond defensively…” The emotionally intelligent husband can hear these hard words with both self-reflection and invitation. (it’s not easy!) Self-reflection may begin by thinking to yourself, “maybe I do respond defensively… maybe she’s right…others have told me this… this is not the first time I’ve been told that I respond defensively... I've heard this all my life….gosh! I hate when I respond this way...” Invitation means that the husband views his wife’s grievance as an opportunity to change. (again… it’s a process)

Growing in my emotional intelligence means that I am more grieved by my own sin than I am the sin of my spouse.

In the best marriages both husband and wife work to continually cultivate emotional intelligence. It’s the one crucial ingredient that must be present in all successful marriages.

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