Cultivating Your Emotional IQ I

Cultivating Your Emotional IQ I

How can I become more sensitive to what my spouse is feeling? 

A good start in cultivating emotional sensitivity is by listening to what your spouse is saying. If he claims to be feeling overwhelmed, nervous, excited or upset, you can safely trust him to be expressing true emotions. If your spouse doesn't easily share feelings then check his behavior to see if he might be sending nonverbal messages. Has he suddenly been coldly withdrawn? Does he look for reasons to call home during the day? All these behaviors signal feelings.

When words don’t tell the entire story, watch for such nonverbal cues. If you can’t figure out what your husband is feeling, ask. Say, “You seem very quiet lately. Is something wrong?” With genuine caring, and gentle persistence, you will usually succeed in getting through to your spouse, thereby strengthening the relationship.

What can I do to create an atmosphere of happiness both in my marriage and in our home?

Contrary to popular belief, happiness is not a natural state of being. If it were, Hashem wouldn’t have had to keep reminding us to be happy!  “Vesamachta bechal hatov asher nasan lecha Hashem Elokecha. Rejoice in all the good Hashem has given you” (Devarim 26:11)” “Ivdu es Hashem besimcha. Serve Hashem joyously” (Tehillim 100:2) “Vesamachta bechagecha. Be happy on your holiday” (Devarim: 16:14)

Most people are actually aware of what is wrong, when they feel uncomfortable, why they feel upset. Seeing the bright side of things, searching for the “silver lining” behind the cloud, rejoicing in our wondrous position as children of Hashem that should lead us to sing out: “Ashrainu ma tov chelkainu, fortunate are we and how good is our lot” (Tanna Debei Eliyahu Rabba 21), doesn’t come naturally. It is up to us to work on being happy day by day, experience by experience.

Begin cultivating this skill by acting happy, smiling more often, humming a lively tune. You will be pleasantly surprised to see how acting happy effects your feelings. Keep a “happiness notebook” in which you jot down the good things that happened to you each day, the good news you heard, or an uplifting thought that made you smile.

In fact, if you are already blessed with a family, encourage every member of your family to keep a happiness notebook that can be shared at mealtimes, or at least every Shabbos. Volunteer in the closest hospital or nursing home and feel the joy that engulfs you when you leave. After visiting such an institution it is impossible not to feel happy while you revel in your good health.

In general, if your goal is to be doing for others, to be making others happy (although not at too great a personal price), you will find that you were so busy doing meaningful things that you didn’t notice that you were actually…happy! Remember that passively sitting at home waiting for happiness to strike is not a recipe for success. Become active, join the ranks of ovdei Hashem, of Hashem’s servants, and before long you will feel happy and it will spill over into your home and into your marriage.

Conclusion

Emotional intelligence can be inborn, intrinsic. However, most often it is acquired by being worked on, by being honed to greatness through determination and foresight. It is the essence of harmony in your marriage, it is the essence of the Torah.When Hillel was asked to teach the Torah “while standing on one foot,” he succinctly stated, “Ma dlach sani, lchavercha lo sa’avid. What is abhorrent to you, do not do to your friend” (Shabbos:31a). What is that statement if not the cornerstone, the foundation, of emotional intelligence? Be aware of what bothers you, but also be empathetic to what bothers others. At first glance, this might appear to be deceptively simple, a too-basic formula for happiness in marriage. In reality, acquiring this vital key to marital happiness is our life’s work. Every hour of every day during marriage challenges us anew by presenting various difficult situations that will test our emotional intelligence.Will you lose control and reply sarcastically? Will you give in to temptation and, convincing yourself that it will do no damage, repeat a confidence? Sometimes we don’t realize the amount of pain our thoughtlessness can cause. Being aware of the importance of sensitivity in the marriage relationship is one of the cornerstones of happiness.Will you once again fall into your habit of denigrating your spouse instead of offering encouragement and respect? These are the dilemmas we deal with constantly. They are also constant opportunities to work on our midos and to model behavior that will inspire those around us. Use the knowledge and skills you have internalized to make each experience and each day one of closeness and growth. The choice is ours, but it is made much easier now that we more fully understand emotional intelligence – another pivotal key to a happier marriage.


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