Each day, in celebration of the release of my latest book, When Divorce Is Not An Option: How to Heal Your Marriage and Nurture Lasting Love, I’ll look at one of the 8 habits that separates “marriage masters” from “marriage disasters.” Last week, I summarized all 8 habits and we’ve looked at the first two habits in greater detail already. Today, I’ll describe the third habit, Emotional Regulation. After a brief explanation, you’ll have a chance to take a quiz that can help you evaluate how healthy this habit is in your marriage.
HealthyMarriage Habit #3 Good Self-Regulation: Why is this important?
Self-Regulation refers to a person’s capacity to stay calm, recognize that they are losing their cool before it’s too late, and regain their composure even under pressure. Your ability to negotiate conflict and tension in a marriage is directly dependent up on your ability to stay in the Solution-Friendly Brain State and avoid the Misery Making Mindset. As you saw earlier, when stress causes our emotional temperature to rise, we’re unable to problem-solve and we tend to react rather than respond. Psychologists refer to this process as “flooding” and it causes a person to be rigid and reactive under pressure (Seigel, 2013; Manes, 2013). But, if you can learn keep your Solution-Friendly Brain turned on, even in conflict, you can stay in control of the discussion even if your partner loses control of him or herself.
When I was still engaged to my wife, an elderly couple gave us a bit of advice that was as true then as it remains today, “Don’t ever go crazy at the same time!” If you have the ability to self-regulate, then you can keep discussions on track even if your spouse loses his or her cool. Developing this skill takes work, but its well worth it because it is what enables you to not have to feel afraid or overwhelmed no matter what problem you are facing or how emotional your spouse becomes.
Of course, beyond the psychological benefits we receive from practicing those habits that lead to self-regulation, Galatians 5:22-24 identifies self-control as one of the Fruits that gives evidence that the Holy Spirit is dwelling in your heart. Proverbs 25:28 reminds us that the person who lack the ability to regulate his or her emotions is like the city that is left defenseless and powerless in the presence of an invader.
Take the Quiz
T F 1. We are respectful in our disagreements.
T F 2. Our arguments result in solutions and concrete plans for improving things.
T F 3. Even when we’re disagreeing with each other, we are careful to avoid saying certain, particularly hurtful things.
T F 4. If we offend each other in an argument we are quick to apologize and forgive.
T F 5. If we offend each other in an argument we bounce back and get the conversation back on track quickly.
T F 6. We look for ways to encourage and support each other when we’re having tense discussions.
T F 7. Generally speaking, I wouldn’t agree with my spouse just to get him/her to shut up.
T F 8. Generally, when I get angry, I do not lash out or say things that I think may hurt my partner even when I feel they might deserve it.
T F 9. Generally, when I get angry, I do not shut down, refuse to speak, or walk away from the argument.
T F 10. When conversations heat up, I am able to facilitate respectful breaks that give us time to cool down and start the conversation in a better place at a later time.
Give yourself 1 point for each “T”
You scored ______ out of a possible 10 points.
A score of 8 or higher means that maintaining Good Self Regulation is a real strength in your relationship.
A score of 4-7 means that your marriage would significantly improve by giving greater attention to increasing your ability to exhibit Good Self-Regulation in the presence of disagreements and offenses.
A score of 3 or lower indicates that this is a critical area for improvement in your relationship.
How’d you do? Even if you feel like your marriage is, in general, in good shape, if you’d like to strengthen your ability to cultivate greater Self-Regulation in your marriage, check out When Divorce is Not An Option: How to Heal Your Marriage and Nurture Lasting Love. Or, for more personalized assistance, contact the Pastoral Solutions Institute (740-266-6461) to learn more about our Catholic-integrated tele-counseling practice for couples, families, and individuals. Let us help you experience all the love God has in store for you!