Emotional Intelligence Strengthens Marriages

Updated: Apr 14

by Dawn L. Billings, founder of RelationshipHelp.com


According to Ogden Nash, a renown relationship researcher,

the secret to a long and happy marriage is relatively simple:

know when to say sorry, and don’t "rub it in" when your partner is in the wrong.


Like so many clever aphorisms, Ogen Nash's secret's simplicity is deceptive. In fact, the art of knowing when, why, and how to say sorry in marriage, and the ability to practice tolerance, patience and self-restraint under even the most trying circumstances, require a number of sophisticated emotional skills, called emotional intelligence. These skills include empathy, self-control, and a highly developed understanding of human needs and feelings.


"Emotional intelligence" was defined by Mayer and Salovey (1997) as "the ability to perceive emotions, to access and generate emotions so as to assist thought, to understand emotions and emotion knowledge, and to reflectively regulate emotions so as to promote emotional and intellectual growth". A somewhat complex way of saying you must be able to recognize your emotions, name them and claim them as feelings and take responsibility for them. Then you must do all you can to recognize and understand another's feelings as you attempt to put yourself in their shoes, or their mental state and attempt to relate to them, even when their feelings are difficult for you to understand or tolerate.


The research findings suggest that if ever there were a context in which emotional intelligence might be expected to matter, it is marriage. The concept of emotional intelligence has been enthusiastically received throughout the professional world, with many espousing it as the recipe for success in every emotional and life context. Although theorists have emphasized the importance of emotional intelligence in intimate relationships, and speculated that more emotionally intelligent people should have longer and happier marriages, there has been little scientific research examining emotional intelligence in the marital context. Nonetheless, psychologists have investigated other emotional phenomena in the context of marital happiness and stability, many of which would be considered to involve aspects of emotional intelligence: for example, emotional perception and expression, empathy, and emotion knowledge and understanding of different perspectives. There is a striking consistency between the kinds of abilities and skills that make up emotional intelligence, and the kinds of abilities required to successfully negotiate marital conflicts.

Marital researchers have demonstrated that the better spouses are at perceiving, accurately identifying, regulating, and expressing emotions, the more successfully they communicate which dramatically impacts the happiness they feel in their relationships. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis, derived from the emotional intelligence literature, that people differ in their abilities to accurately perceive, identify, and express emotions, understand and reason about emotions, and effectively regulate and manage emotions. Thus it may be argued that the marital literature supports the suggestion that some individuals are indeed more "emotionally intelligent" than others. Moreover, these differences in emotion-related abilities are reliably associated with what may be considered an adaptive and desirable life outcome: marital happiness and stability.

Emotions like anger, guilt, jealousy, and love, are profoundly interpersonal phenomena that are played out over time between individuals. So it could even be argued that people’s emotion accuracy, expressiveness, understanding, and regulation come to life within interpersonal and relational settings. But in what ways is emotional intelligence important to marriage? And what kinds of emotional skills do spouses need to help them weather the inevitable storms of married life?


  1. Better Understanding of Who YOU are in different life and emotional contexts in life. Human beings are contextual. People use different skills and ways of perceiving in different contexts of their lives. It is important that each of us has an understanding of the lenses through which we view life and how our colored lenses might be different than the colored lenses of those we love.

  2. Better Understanding of Who your Partner is. What makes your partner tick? Do you really understand how the view their world? What are their expectations? What are their strengths and talents, but more importantly, what are their weaknesses and fragile areas. All conflict arises out of our broken, fragile and defended places within us. When we move to those emotional, fragile places we can feel anger, frustration, confusion, sadness, all the feelings that intensify conflict between two people.

  3. With better understanding grows empathy. Empathy is the ability to imagine how another person is thinking, walking down the hallway in their shoes, so to speak. A large part of enhancing emotional intelligence is developing our ability to experience empathy as we attempt to relate to other people.

  4. With understanding comes responsibility. Once we develop a better understanding of what our core personality tendencies are, both good and bad, we now have a responsibility to manage them well. Emotional intelligence is not just about better understanding ourselves and others, it then requires us to use that understanding to manage our ourselves and our relationships in ways that are respectful, kind, compassionate and loving.

Okay, so the steps are laid out above, but now how does one actually develop, enhance and strengthen their emotional intelligence? Is it something we are born with, or can we learn and strengthen it? The good news is YES, you can develop, enhance and strengthen your emotional intelligence.


Personality and relationship expert Dawn Billings is the author and architect of a relationship personality insight tool that has proven to enhance and strengthen emotional intelligence. It is called Primary Colors Relationship Personality Tests and Insight Tools. This easy to take series of relationship personality tests help you gain insight into who YOU are in different contexts of your life, as well as, helping you understand who your partner is in the different contexts of their lives.


The entire set of tests can be taken on your computer, tablet or phone and are actually a great deal of fun. If you want to build, enhance and strengthen your emotional intelligence to help you become a better partner in your personal and professional relationships, this is a great way to do it. And it is so inexpensive! All six tests and your extensive results only cost $99 to take. Go ahead and build your emotional intelligence today.

Relationship and personality expert Dawn Billings is the author and architect of the Primary Colors Relationship Personality Tests and Insight Tools, licensed and used throughout churches, organizations and even in the military. Dawn is the author of over 15 books and hundreds of articles.