Do you believe in `living happily ever after`? If you do, congratulations for staying romantic in a world that surely does a lot to shutter your beliefs! Marital statistics all over the globe has never been so pessimistic: according to the UN’s Demographics and Social Statistics Division the divorce rate in Australia – 43%, Canada – 48, France – 55%, Germany — 49%, UK – 47%, USA — 53%, Russia is 51%, Spain – 61%. As we can see similar trend occurs across various cultural, social, economic and political circumstances; therefore, we can conclude that making marriage last a lifetime has become global challenge.
So why is it so difficult to keep the marriage working nowadays? Instead of seeking external factors maybe we should explore internal personal reasons behind this phenomenon. Some of these reasons can be an idealized self-image, unrealistic expectations, lack of genuine communication, superficial reasons for marrying in a first place etc. Another difficulty lies in modern lifestyle and its ruthless demands for `perfection`: if something is not ideal, why should we even put our effort in it? Unfortunately, we are facing two problems here:
- There is no such a thing as `perfection` in real life: it is just an illusion created to bring enormous profit to social networks, cosmetic industry and real-time TV;
- What we consider as `ideal` is based on our own perceptions and desires, not on some universal set of standards that everyone has to obey.
EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE: A PATH TO MARITAL HAPINESS
Now when we discussed what brakes a marriage, we should also think about what can make the marriage work. And answer is surprisingly simple: emotions. Emotional intelligence (EI) can be used to explain from 30% up to even 50% of our total marital happiness, according to different scientific studies (Batool & Khalid, 2012; Eslami, Hasanzadeh, & Jamshidi, 2014; Nasiri, Marashi, & Raji, 2014).
All negative factors mentioned above have same mechanism – they are pushing us away from who we really are and what we really feel, and making it more difficult to us to understand our partner. Contrary emotional intelligence helps us to understand feelings of others as well as our own and to build solid relationships on this basis (Salovey & Mayer, 1990). Following steps could serve as useful guidelines on your way of (re)gaining your marital bliss.
- FIND OUT WHAT YOU WANT FROM MARRIAGE. Instead of chasing nonexistent perfection or living by somebody else`s rules, try to think about what you find important when it comes to marriage. What is the crucial aspect of marital life for you? How do you imagine your ideal partner? What kind of compromises are you willing to make? Do you crave a big family, or you are still not sure about having kids at all? Some of the answers that you may find could seem frightening; still, it is essential for your future life satisfaction to be honest with yourself. Once you accept your desires and needs, you will know what to ask from your partner as well.
- SELF-CONTROL IS A KEY. Being aware of your needs is one thing; being selfish is something else. Unfortunately, it happens very often that we somehow `forget` that marriage consists of two equal persons and that we should respect our partner as much as we respect ourselves. For example, if your partner is on the peak of his workload, maybe it is not necessary to call him at the office 10 times a day just because you have nothing to do at that moment. Having self-control doesn`t mean you should diminish yourself; you just have to learn how to differentiate your genuine needs from simple caprices and how to not let the later overcome you.
- SHOW INTEREST IN YOUR PARTNER. Just like you carefully listen to your inner instincts, it is also necessary to pay attention to your partner`s feelings, interests, fears and desires. In that way, you will reveal his/her priorities in marriage and what aspects of your relationship make him/her thrive. Try to understand your partner; soon after, you will realize how unnecessary conflicts and arguments are, which will make you both become more supportive and giving. In that way, you will be able to use common grounds (things that you both find equally important) for taking your marriage to the next level and making it more resistant to negative influences.
- INVEST IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP. Just like we invest in our pension funds now in order to have savings when we become old, it is crucial to create an emotional `investment plan` for your marriage as well. Do not take your partner for granted; show him/her how important and valuable he/she is for you, and try to use the amount of time that you have for each other in the best possible way. Remember why you fell in love in the first place, and then use your emotional capacities to build your relationship based on your own rules, not social conventions.
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By Marina Musatova, Psy.D. and Katarina Mijatovic, MSc.
Batool, S., & Khalid, R. (2012). Emotional Intelligence: A Predictor of Marital Quality in Pakistani Couples . Pakistan Journal of Psychological Research, 27, 1, 65-88.
Eslami, A., Hasanzadeh, A., & Jamshidi, F. (2014). The relationship between emotional intelligence health and marital satisfaction: A comparative study. Journal of Education and Health Promotion, 3, p.24.
Goleman, D. (2006). Social Intelligence: The New Science of Social Relationships. NY: Bantam Books.
Nasiri, Z. Z., Marashi, S., & Raji, H. (2014). The Relationship between Emotional Intelligence and Marital Satisfaction: 10-Year Outcome of Partners from Three Different Economic Levels. Iranian Journal of Psychiatry, 188-96.
Salovey, P., & Mayer, J. (1990). Emotional Intelligence. Imagination, Cognition, and Personality, 9, 185-211.
Worldwide Divorce Statistics. (n.d.).