When you begin to look for evidence to counter this information or become curious about a thought, you give yourself and your relationship a chance to grow. This is why the Gottman Method has couples recognize that there are two subjective views and is also why Terry Real has partners say to each “What I made up about this was…”
2. Choose Courage Over Comfort:
One of the major differences between happy and unhappy couples is how they navigate the difficult emotions in their relationship. Happy couples understand that they can transform the difficult emotions of conflict into material for constructing a stronger relationship.
These happy couples choose to tolerate the difficult emotions and share them in a vulnerable, non-attacking way because they value their relationship more than the difficult feelings.
This is not much different from a person who chooses to go to the gym five days a week at 5:30 am. It’s not that they don’t feel tired and would prefer to stay in bed; it’s that they choose to go even though they do feeling tired.
When you are feeling upset or having a difficult time, learn how to courageously and vulnerably express your emotions to your partner (and even yourself) rather than sweeping them under the rug. This includes not calling your three times divorced Aunt Sally to tell her how terrible your partner is.
The reality is feelings are never going away. This leaves you with a choice to use them to your benefit or to continue to let them shape your interactions in unhealthy ways.
3. Live By Your Values, Not Your Thoughts, and Emotions:
Our emotions, especially our difficult ones, are signals of what we value. The problem is that many of us have not intentionally explored what it is we value in life. If you choose to value the quality and connection in your relationship, then you will have an easier time facing your fears of staying engaged in conflict, even when it feels difficult.
When your difficult feelings arise, you now have what Susan David calls a “choice point”—a fork in the road where you can either move towards or away from the type of person you want to be.
“Everything worthwhile in life is won through surmounting the associated negative experience.” – Mark Manson
If you ever talk to really strong couples who have been together for decades, you’ll hear them glorify the struggles they went through. They managed to get through the hardships of life and come out closer, not farther apart. This is because they choose to live by their values, not by what they felt or thought-moment to moment.
4. Enhance Your Emotional Intelligence:
“Emotional Intelligence is the ability to make emotions work for you, instead of against you.” – Justin Bariso
If you stuff your feelings, you will significantly benefit from enhancing your ability to be self-aware and socially aware of how your lack of emotional expression impacts your romantic relationship. On the other hand, if you stew in your feelings, your life will improve if you learn how to healthily regulate your emotions and enhance your relationship management skills so you can use your emotions to enhance your relationship.
Books: EQ Applied: The Real-World Guide to Emotional Intelligence, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, and Emotional Agility
5. Get an Emotion Coach:
One of the smartest things I did was push myself to go to therapy. This gave me the space to spend 50 minutes a week to explore my thoughts and feelings without reacting to them. I became more mindful of how I thought and how my reactions impacted the important relationships in my life. I was coached on how to experience and express my emotions, even the difficult ones, in a healthy way.
If you tend to struggle to regulate your emotions, then I would highly recommend seeking out a form of individual or couples therapy that can support you in experiencing and expressing your difficult feelings.