The secret of a happy marriage? The man must be emotionally intelligent


In a couple’s relationship is important that both play their grain of sand and are able to stop those that John Gottman, one of the greatest scholars of married couples in recent times, has called the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: criticism , defensiveness, contempt and stonewalling.

However, a series of studies conducted by Gottman himself at the University of Washington where hundreds of couples were followed for more than a decade, recording some of their conversations and discussions, indicates that one of the keys for having a happy marriage and reduce the chances of a divorce resides in emotional intelligence, especially that of man.

Male defensiveness increases the chances that the couple goes into crisis

Couple's relationships can survive the moments of anger, complaints and criticisms, but there is a tipping point where negativity creates more negativity and is necessary that one of them be able to stop and defuse the conflict.

Interestingly, according to Gottman’s research, 65% of men increases the negativity during a discussion, often responding with a defensive attitude that reveals resistance to partner’s influence. In addition, there is 81% probability that a wedding goes into crisis when the man is not willing to share power with his partner.

The problem is that when the man did not develop sufficiently his emotional intelligence rejects the partner's influence because he’s afraid of losing power. Therefore, all that the partner says or does is perceived as an attack, which in turn generates defensiveness and leads to a new attack causing an escalation of frustration and anger.

On the contrary, an emotionally intelligent man is able to perceive and consider the partner's emotions. This means that it does not stop at words, but goes further to perceive a sense, this allows to connect better and "turn off" the fire caused by the discussion instead of feeding it.

Moreover, when man has developed his emotional intelligence is not afraid to express his feelings, and this helps him to connect with his partner. We must not forget that emotions, such as fear and sadness, generate empathy and encourage each other to make peace.

Obviously, this does not mean that women do not get angry and increase the negativity in the discussions. In fact, in the study it was noted that many women often resort to scolding. But they were also much more receptive to the influence of the partner and kept into consideration his emotions and feelings.

Men are from Mars and women from Venus?

A book says that "men are from Mars and women are from Venus." But it’s not entirely true, there are more things that unite us than those that differentiate us, but sometimes in relationships men and women feel that they are from different planets.

Normally these differences begin to take shape during childhood. When male children play, their goal is usually to beat the opponent and if someone gets hurt, unless it is really serious, the game continues. Children are told that they must not cry or show weak in front of others. Obviously these stereotypes are progressively fixed in their mind. On the contrary, in their games the little girls tend to adopt roles as social workers or nurses, in which emotions are the key.

Over time, these differences tend to reinforce, though this does not mean that all women or men correspond to these models. Some women may become very insensitive and some men are able to develop a high sensitivity. But according to Gottman, only 35% of men can develop a high emotional intelligence.

The key to a long and happy couple relationship: Accept the influence and learn to connect

Other psychologists have analyzed the influence of emotional intelligence on the duration of the relationship and the satisfaction of its members. A meta-analysis conducted by researchers at the University of Punjab revealed that emotional intelligence is a good predictor of the duration of a marriage, especially characteristics such as empathy, emotional assertiveness, self-control and self-knowledge.

Another research conducted by psychologists at Clark University with 92 pairs revealed that the ability to identify and express emotions is key to maintaining a long marriage and because both people feel happy and satisfied with the relationship.

In addition, Gottman also found that when women come forward with complaints more gently and add a touch of humor, men are much more receptive and less bellicose.

All this indicates that men and women should assume that the relationship is not a battlefield or a space in which to measure forces. They both need to acknowledge the other's influence, recognize their own mistakes and learn to reduce tension when it threatens to spin out of control.

To do it both of them have to compromise and, above all, must be able to put themselves in someone else's shoes and learn to express their needs and desires without attacking or criticizing. Although there are several studies that show that emotionally women are more intelligent than men, we must not forget that emotional intelligence is a broad concept that encompasses several areas.

The same Daniel Goleman said that one of the gender differences is that women are more empathetic, while men are more inclined to action. The insula, a key area for empathy, is more active in women but turns itself “off" faster in men, who tend to quickly take action to find a solution. A form is not better than the other, both are valid and can be used to feed the relationship. After all, to find the balance is not necessary that two people be equal, but able to complement each other.

Shahida, S. & Khalid, R. (2009) Role of emotional intelligence in marital relationship. Pakistan Journal of Psychological Research; 24(1-2): 43-62.
Cordova, J. V. et. Al. (2005) Emotional Skillfulness in Marriage: Intimacy As a Mediator of the Relationship Between Emotional Skillfulness and Marital Satisfaction. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology; 24(2): 218-235.
Gottman, J. M. & Levenson, R. W. (2002) A two-factor model for predicting when a couple will divorce: exploratory analyses using 14-year longitudinal data.Fam Process; 41(1): 83-96.
Feldman, B. et. Al. (2000) Sex Differences in Emotional Awareness. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin; 26. 1027-1035.
Carrere, S. & Gottman, J.M. (1999) Predicting Divorce among Newlyweds from the First Three Minutes of a Marital Conflict Discussion, Family Process; 38(3): 293-301.
Gootman, J. M. et. Al. (1997) Battering and the male rejection of influence from women. Aggressive Behavior; 23(5): 375-388.

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