Ever been in a fight with your partner and suddenly realized that you didn’t really know what the heck you were fighting about?
That’s because few people are truly aware of why they have such strong feelings about certain things. We think that the argument is about stuff like …
- She spends too much money!
- He doesn’t listen to me!
- She never picks up after herself!
- He never wants to go out and have fun!
There are all sorts of stories about people getting divorced for seemingly unimportant reasons. Here are two examples from a Reader’s Digest article entitled “12 Crazy-But-True Reasons People Filed for Divorce”
Rashida Lucas divorced her husband, T.P., because, as she said on national television, he was just "too nice." Chief among Lucas's grievances were that T.P. said "I love you" too much and that he was such a good cook that it had caused her to gain weight.
For one Japanese couple who had been married for six years, the movie Frozen was the deal-breaker. After watching it, he made the mistake of asking her, "Did you really think it was that good?" Well, apparently, she did, and the fact that he could even ask that question made her question what sort of person he was. And she couldn't seem to "let it go," moving out of their marital residence soon after.
So why the overreaction? Why do we get so crazy over things that are not “craze-worthy”?
It’s primarily because we are not in tune with our own emotions and instead look outside of ourselves for solutions that only internal examination can heal. The term for this inward examination is emotional intelligence.
Emotional Intelligence is the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one's emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.
It means that when we experience an emotion we are able to do three things:
- We are able to accurately define what we are feeling
- We are able to determine the true source of that feeling
- We are able to express the feeling in a healthy way
This isn’t easy folks, especially when we avoid self-examination. But the truth is …
Some of us have been working a lifetime trying to master defining what we are feeling, understanding why we are feeling it and learning how to express those feelings in a way that doesn’t do harm to ourself and others. But until we do, resolving conflicts will always be a mystery because all we can do is make a vain attempt to control our environment and reduce whatever is triggering our emotional wounds. This means we either retreat from anything or anyone who causes us problems or we rigidly force our will upon them. Both strategies do not promote healthy relationships.
And to a great extent, this is why we fail to resolve our arguments and why we keep having the same battle over and over again. We are really battling ourselves and until we discover that fact we are doomed to repeat it over and over again.
Now, I’m not saying that we are the enemy – that attitude would be incredibly counterproductive. But what I am saying neither is your partner the enemy. The real enemy (if you must have one) is the unrecognized and unexamined emotional trigger that is empowering your arguments and making it so difficult to connect with your partner.
And that means we all need to take responsibility for our own emotional reactions and begin to develop the Emotional Intelligence to choose a different way of resolving our conflicts.