To begin with a quote from Daniel Goleman “If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far”.
Marriage, as it stands, is a formal relationship which is a legally recognized union of two people as partners in a personal relationship more specifically between a man and a woman in many jurisdictions. It is a commitment of partners to one another and to each other’s family, bonded by holy matrimony. The totality and teaching of any religion (more importantly Islam and Christianity) recognizes marriage as a very important spiritual duty upon all the believers who satisfied the conditions outlined by the scriptures guiding his/her spiritual belief. As an institution marriage is a lifelong and spiritually rewarding partnership. The Messenger of Allah (SAW) has said, “There is no foundation that has been built in Islam more loved by Allah, (The Greatest and Noblest) than marriage.” This hadith shows us the great importance that Allah (SWT) and His messenger have placed on marriage, such that it is the most loved foundation or establishment upon which the Muslim man and woman can build their life upon.
Similarly, according to many Christian denominations, marriage is the union between a man and a woman, instituted and ordained by God as the lifelong relationship between one man as a husband, and one woman as a wife. The Apostle Paul gave a similar directive when he wrote, “Let marriage be held in honour among all”. The social aspects of marriage are that it leads to the establishment of stronger communities and society, reduce significantly a number of social vices including prostitution, abortions, rapes and protects human life from all other social vices related to singlehood. As part of the emotional benefits, marriage is expected to help the couple develop less psychological stress and distress, feel more love with intimacy, less ambivalence and should equally experience less conflict with their partners than cohabiting and single men or women do with their partners. In terms of mental health, marriage can help the couple to develop lower levels of cortisol a stress hormone that, when produced in excess, can contribute to inflammation and chronic disease. Inflammation has been linked to many health conditions, including heart problems, lower immunity, diabetes, and cancer.
Marriage from all angles is an established institution meant to develop excellent healthy and personal living. In our daily living, whenever the word marriage is mentioned, the first thing coming to mind of many is that, it is an affair having a lasting relationship. Thus, having a long and lasting relationship defines any successful marriage. However, few cases of marriage disharmony surface the media recently. Obviously, these are few among several uncountable sad stories that force themselves to the public, but much of concern should be the thousands sad and unfortunate marriage fracas that are yet to be known even by the closest associates of some couples. The stories of wife killing their husbands, stabbing and hurting them by cutting some sensitive parts of their body as well as poisoning them as a result of what can be termed as “manageable disappointments or distressing emotions”. It is almost a general problem worldwide but Northern Nigeria is becoming volatile with the daily increase in cases of broken homes, abuse of mutual trust and respect, leading to most disturbing experiences including killings and hurting partners with various degrees of injuries.
Arising from these disturbing happenings and rising concerns, I felt it is appropriate for a married couple to have an understanding of ‘emotional intelligence’ and what emotional intelligence can do in fostering an excellent marital relationship most importantly in Northern Nigeria today. Emotion is a feeling originating from a person’s situations, disposition or relationships with others. Emotional intelligence is a behavioural model which defines the ability, capacity or self-perceived ability to identify, evaluate and manage the emotions of one’s self, of others and of groups. Interestingly, people who possess a high level of emotional intelligence know themselves very well and are also able to sense the emotions of others and assist them in managing it. Emotionally intelligent persons are affable, resilient and optimistic. In the most generic structure, five domains of emotional intelligence cover together personal (self-awareness, self-regulation and self-motivation) and social (social awareness and social skills) competences.
As personal competencies (self-awareness, self-regulation and self-motivation), a person been self-aware is to recognize his/her emotions and their effects, know their personal strengths and limits, and be sure about their self-worth and capabilities. In terms of self-regulation, a person should be able to manage his/her disruptive emotions and impulses, maintain standards of honesty, integrity and be able to take responsibility for personal performance. To actualize self-motivation a person should always strive to improve or meet a standard of excellence, align with the goals of his/her society/faith and be persistence in pursuing goals despite obstacles and setbacks. In relation to the emotional intelligence element of social competencies (social awareness and social skills) a person should be able to sense others’ feelings and takes an active interest in their concerns. Similarly, an emotionally stable person should always recognize and meet the needs of others. The social skills in person should be for wielding effective tactics for persuasion, sending clear and convincing messages, negotiating and resolving disagreements, nurturing instrumental relationships as well as creating group synergy in pursuing collective goals.
As different individuals with diverse personalities want and needs, the couple should always be expected to have different ways of expressing their emotions. Navigating through this requires tact and smartness especially if partners hope to succeed in their marital life. This is exactly where the emotional intelligence model helps the married couple. The violence happening between a couple should please be understood by all that it is a ‘personality disorder’.
It is clear by studying and developing sound emotional intelligence, married men and women can become more dynamic and successful in their marital relationship, by helping each other to maintain their diverse personalities interest and values. A stable emotionally intelligent couple can help others to be successful too (benefit to the entire society). The other significant benefits drive from an emotional intelligence element of been socially aware to the couple are helping them to moderate their conflict tendencies, promote understanding, fostering stability, harmony as well as love and spirituality.
As I was busy putting down this piece an important point come to my mind that, indeed a reader of this article may be forced to ask one common question that may be irritating into his mind as to whether emotional intelligence can be learned or is genetically fixed? The answer to this question is simple because emotional intelligence is largely learned, though the truth is that, some people are naturally gifted and genetically endowed more than others but one good thing with emotional intelligence is that, it is learned as various pieces of evidence has shown that it increases with age and experiences. Nevertheless, for emotional intelligence to be learnt men and women must be personally motivated, practice extensively what he/she learns, be patient in receiving feedback from their partners and re-enforce the new experiences in their marital journey.
Inviting married couple to understand the emotional intelligence does not mean to merely “being nice,” but rather be blunt to always confront each other with an uncomfortable but consequential truth that may always be avoided by either side. Secondly, it doesn’t mean giving free rein to feelings rather managing feelings so that, one’s life partner can expressed appropriately which would enable them to work together smoothly toward their common goal. It is equally important to note that, comfort in expressing one’s emotions can allow him/her to share the best of themselves with others. But the inability of people to control their emotions will surely reveal the worst in them. Marital success should not be judged only on how smart partners are, but also on how well they handle each other’s feelings. Thus, as a husband or wife knowing your emotions as relates to emotional intelligence is been able to manage your emotions; motivating yourself; recognizing and understanding your wife or husband’s emotions and managing relationships or his/her emotions.
One important pre-marital aspect with the potentials to trigger successful marital relationships and which must be connected with person emotional intelligence is the selection process of a life partner. Though in some opinions it is more inclined to (would be) husband, it is equally important for both the husband and the (would be) wife. At this stage, they need to understand their purposes which are completely a product of self-awareness and be able to at the time of making a choice of life partner regulate their impulsive feelings very well while staying positive and composed. As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once opined that, “…the greater part of all mischief in the world arises from the fact that men do not sufficiently understand their own aims. They have undertaken to build a tower, and spend no more labour on the foundation than would be necessary to erect a hut”. Therefore, choosing life partner based on one’s defined aim is a foundation for a successful life.
Finally, emotional intelligence may be the long-sought missing link that bonds conventional “can do” ability factors of a married couple with “will do” dispositional elements. Authorities now in modern societies offer learning and development that is explicitly labelled as “emotional intelligence” or “emotional competence” training in all spheres of human endeavours. Accordingly, it is highly recommended for the northern institutions to support a prospective couple in understanding and expanding their emotional intelligence either formally or informally, before and even after the constitution of marital engagements. With these kinds of support, a married couple can learn to manage their affairs with a high sense of responsibility, clarity, commitment and flexibility required in marital life.
Mr Bichi, a teacher, psychometrician & applied measurements consultant based in Kano-Nigeria, could be reached via: [email protected]