Partnering for life takes dedication. Almost everyone would agree that trust and commitment are needed for every healthy relationship to flourish. But what are some of the other essential characteristics for a mutually fulfilling and loving partnership?
People who are in relationships or who desire to find lasting love might wonder, what is it that makes love last? How do some marriages or partnerships survive and thrive while others plunge and dive? Emotionally intelligent couples seem to be on to something. But what specifically are they doing to strengthen and develop their relationships?
What Is Love?
The word “love” may bring to mind a variety of thoughts and feelings. These ideas may differ from person to person. So what does love actually mean?
When it comes to the study of love, the English language can be somewhat limiting in its definition. Ancient Greek provides a much richer understanding of the many dimensions of love. In Ancient Greek, there are many different words for love. For the purposes of this article, I’ll focus on three words: éros, philia, and storgē.
- Eros describes intimate, passionate, or sexual type of love. This type of love is the most similar to our current idea of romantic love.
- Philia is an affectionate regard, like that of a deep friendship. Associated with companionship, trust, and dependability, it refers to shared good will toward another person.
- Storgē refers to familial love. It often refers to the love demonstrated between parents and their children, but it can also describe the love between romantic partners. It is a natural feeling a person holds for someone (or something) close to them that they feel good about.
It is generally the case that couples with thriving, strong relationships have well-developed emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence describes a person’s ability to be aware of, control, and express emotions in a healthy manner. In other words, it is the capacity to handle relationships appropriately and empathetically. In a partnership, emotional intelligence translates into the ability to be in touch with your own emotions as well as those of your partner.
A person’s capacity for empathy and ability to talk about emotions in a healthy and loving way are both components of emotional intelligence. In a partnership or marriage, emotional intelligence may be seen in many areas. It is sustained over the course of a lifetime and is vital for making love last.
The following are eight key areas where emotionally intelligent couples practice loving well.
At the core of a good relationship is friendship. Emotionally intelligent couples stand the test of time because they are friends who support and care for each other. They share a bond of mutual affection. They know each other’s internal world and understand each other’s likes and dislikes. They are companions and confidants.
2. Deep respect
Emotionally intelligent couples respect each other and have feelings of deep admiration toward each other. They are able to honor their partner and their needs and wishes and hold them in high regard or esteem. Partners generally think very well of each other and can each appreciate the unique qualities, achievements, or abilities of the other. They demonstrate on a regular basis that they appreciate one another, both verbally and nonverbally.
In a partnership or marriage, emotional intelligence may be exhibited in many areas. It is sustained over the course of a lifetime and is vital for making love last.
Couples who are able to communicate their thoughts, needs, and feelings in a healthy way are more likely to have a thriving relationship than couples who have difficulty with communication. Their conversations don’t regularly display signs of criticism or contempt, and they typically do not start off abruptly.
Dr. John Gottman found, while conducting research on couples, that conversations generally end poorly when they start out harshly. In fact, the first three minutes of a conversation often determine its outcome. Emotionally intelligent couples generally speak to one another in a respectful manner, conveying this respect through tone, intonation, and intent.
4. Conflict management
Couples who have thriving, lasting relationships generally know how to navigate conflict. They have learned how to effectively manage their disagreements and differences in life. It is not necessarily the case that they have less conflict than other couples. Rather, they have figured out how to listen and understand the perspective or position of the other. They have also likely learned how to exercise compromise in their relationship.
5. Encouraging the relationship
Emotionally intelligent couples encourage the relationship, through understanding of their identity as a couple in addition to their separate identities as individuals. They feel confident in their respective roles and in the partnership itself. They are for the relationship. They don’t threaten it by saying things like, “I want a divorce,” or “I am going to leave you.” Instead, they talk about problems that arise, as they arise. If the problems are too difficult to solve on their own, they seek help from a professional.
6. Exercising healthy boundaries
Couples who thrive exercise clear boundaries, especially when dealing with other relationships. They recognize the slippery slope of infidelity and don’t create space for emotional or physical affairs to happen. They utilize what the late Dr. Shirley Glass illustrates on in her research on infidelity. Whether they recognize it or not, they view the world outside through a glass window of openness and honesty. Together, they construct a wall that shields them from forces that have the power to separate them or otherwise challenged the relationship. In order to keep their relationship a priority, they exercise a united front.
7. Being aware of meaning, value, and purpose
Emotionally intelligent couples are aware of what is meaningful to each other. This might translate into understanding what motivates the other in life and what they are passionate about, such as their dreams, goals, or values. Couples who thrive support each other’s endeavors to have a meaningful and purposeful life—both individually and together.
8. Sharing life
Couples who thrive share their lives. They find ways of connecting on a regular basis. Whether they acknowledge it or not, they are mindful of staying connected and turning toward their partner. They have at least a few common interests or shared activities, and they take time to recreate together. In the words of Henry David Thoreau, “There is no remedy for love but to love more.”
Making love last takes dedication and commitment, but it is certainly possible to do so. Being mindful of the ways to practice éros, philia and storgē love can help you make love last in all areas of your life.
If you are experiencing difficulties in your relationship, or want help developing emotional intelligence with your partner, consider reaching out to a trained couples counselor today.
- Lewis, C. S. (1960). The four loves. New York, NY: Harcourt Bruce Jovanovich, Publishers.
- Glass, S. P. (2004). Not “just friends:” Rebuilding trust and recovering your sanity after infidelity. New York, NY: Free Press.
- Gottman, J. & Silver, N. (2015). The seven principles for making marriage work: A practical guide from the country’s foremost relationship expert. New York, NY: Harmony Books.
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