I don’t know about you, but I find the whole idea of “til death do us part” nerve racking. How am I supposed to stay with the one person for the rest of my life?
Yet the reality is that a large percentage of us stay with the same human for over half their lives.
Amazing. Way to go guys.
So what skills do these people have that I don’t? I thought maybe I just have a fear of commitment, but then I came across what a couples therapist says is the number one most important factor to a long and lasting relationship.
Brian Gleason has been married for almost four decades and as a couples therapist knows that he’s talking about when it comes to relationships that last. He says the key factor is having a skill called “emotional fluency”.
The skill is learnable, but you probably never got taught it at school (unless you went to one of those fancy progressive schools that are ahead of their time).
“We’re just not trained to pseak in emotional language,” Gleason says. But when you’re in an intimate relationship, you’re constantly feeling a wide range of emotions from longing to anxiety to joy.
It’s intense, and makes it all more important to be able to put your emotions int words. You need to be able to communicate your emotions.
As Gleason says:
“The more we’re able to put into some sort of language and convey it to our partner, that these are my inner experiences right now, the more empathy there is in the relationship. The obverse of that is that the less I can say this is my inner experience, the more my partner is going to be reacting to my outer behavior, oftentimes with udgement and frustration, rather than where they would relate to your experience with empathy.”
The key reason that communicating your emotions is important is because they will constantly change. This is the nature of being human.
The one thing that shouldn’t change is your ability to communicate your emotions, whatever you’re going through.
Let’s say for example that you’re having breakfast with your partner and you’re really worried about a meeting you have that day – with your boss, maybe. Instead of putting your anxieties into words, you keep it in. In this case, your partner has no idea why you’re so silent during breakfast. They can only react to your external behavior.
Your partner reacts: “This is what you always do. You’re always distant and unavailable and not wanting to spend quality time with me.”
Gleason says the key to “emotional fluency” is to provide a way into your inner world to your partner. Your partner needs some way in to be able to understand what’s happening.
All you nneed to do in this example is say something like the following: “I’m really worried about the meeting today, I’m worried that my job is in danger, that my boss is upset with me. I’m not sure how to handle this situation – what’s your advice?”
Inevitably, you’ll be met with compassion.
The relationships that last are the ones where partners have the skill to provide bridges itno their inner worlds. Retionships are much more difficult when your partner has no idea what you’re thinking about.
This is when the tension starts to build up.
When you can learn the skill of “emotional fluency”, Gleason says that “all of a sudden there’s an alliance”. A deeper connection is formed.
This is the key to a long and lasting relationship.