What Couples Need to Know about Keeping Emotions in Check

Relating is, under the best of circumstances, challenging. Relating is a dance we do with another person, choreographed by the rhythm of life and the joys and sorrows of each day. 

Think about it. At any given time we must be aware of what is happening within us, between us, and, to a certain extent, what is happening within our mate. This takes a great deal of awareness, taxing to the best of communicators. 

Case in point. 

On a recent flight on vacation (with the hassles of check in, security, and finding our gate) my wife and I talked about meeting friends and family later that day. I became aware of her stress, my stress, and the expectations we both had for the week. 

Now, bear in mind that I had feelings about our conversation, she had feelings and we had an emotional dance to be mindful of as we planned out the day and week. This took a lot of awareness, sensitivity, empathy and compassion. 

Any married person knows about this emotional dance---being mindful of me, she, and we---and is ready to make adjustments to meet the circumstances. We know we have a responsibility to take good care of our mate, ourselves, and our relationship—simultaneously.  

In my situation, I was aware that my wife needed my support for entertaining our friends and family. I needed to tune into her and ask what I could do to mitigate her stress. In like manner, I needed to tune into myself to discern what I needed so that I could ask for what I needed from her. Finally, we both needed to be aware of the dance between us because we value our wonderful emotional connection. 

Can you imagine the intricacies of this emotional dance? Perhaps yours is a bit different. You may be facing routine daily stresses or extreme pressures of illness, financial challenge, job frustrations or family difficulties. Whatever your pressures, you must manage the “he/she/we” dance. 

Not only do we want to manage these challenges, but we want to enjoy life in the midst of these pressures. We want to be happy and emotionally hold one another as we face the ups and downs of our lives. 

What else can we do to be aware of what is happening within us, between us, and within our mate? Here are a few suggestions to enhance your dance: 

First, practice the art of awareness. Awareness is cultivated. Awareness is an art that can be developed and refined. We do this by simply paying attention. We watch, look, and listen to what is happening within us, between us, and within our mate. We rid ourselves of distractions so we can tune into ourselves and our special other. 

Second, check in with your mate. We gain a lot of information by asking good questions. Ask your mate how he/ she is doing. Invite feedback. Be curious about how your mate is doing. Risk asking good questions, being genuinely curious about their welfare. Listen fully and completely. 

Third, make appropriate adjustments. Learning is of little value without application. Take what you learn and make appropriate adjustments. Just as in dancing, try not to step on your mate’s toes. Listen to them and dance well. If they are lonely for your time, give them more time. If hungry for emotional intimacy, share more deeply. If striving for greater stability, offer this to them. Listen carefully and respond appropriately. 

Fourth, monitor the dance. Dancing involves constant adjustments, and so does emotional dancing. Make listening and adjusting a practice you incorporate into your marriage. Watch, look, and listen carefully. Invite criticism, knowing this will make you a better dancer. Know that you must have information to perfect your dance.  

Finally, enjoy the dance. Every dance is to be enjoyed, and an emotional dance is no exception. A relationship is a wonderful thing—an opportunity to be celebrated for who you are and to celebrate your mate. God created marriage so that husband and wife could enjoy one another’s companionship. 

How is your dancing going? Are you dancing close or have you stepped on each other’s toes a bit too often? If you would like further help, we are here for you. Please send responses to me at [email protected] and read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on our website and learn about our Personal and Marriage Intensives as well as our newly formed Subscription Group, Thrive, for women struggling from emotional abuse. 

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/PeopleImages

Dr. David Hawkins, MBA, MSW, MA, PhD, is a clinical psychologist who has helped bring healing to thousands of marriages and individuals since he began his work in 1976. Dr. Hawkins is passionate about working with couples in crisis and offering them ways of healing their wounds and finding their way back to being passionately in love with each other.

Over the past ten years, Dr. Hawkins has become a leader in the field of treatment for narcissism and emotional abuse within relationships. He has developed several programs for treatment of men dealing with these issues and the women who love them. Dr. Hawkins is also a speaker & trainer for the American Association of Christian Counselors and writes for Crosswalk.com, CBN.org, and iBelieve.com. He is a weekly guest on Moody Radio and Faith Radio and is a best-selling author of over thirty books.



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