Emotional IQ Alone Is Not Enough For Marriage Success

Emotional smarts indicate relationship talents. Marriage though needs more.

Posted Nov 18, 2011

Long-lasting love takes strong marriage communication skills.
Long-lasting love takes strong marriage communication skills.

Emotional IQ is to marriage what athletic talent is to sports. Emotional IQ indicates talent in the realm of relationships. Talent helps. But talent alone does not lead to great performance as a husband or wife when it comes to marriage communication.

In addition to natural talent, and even more essential, there's lots of technique that goes into high level performance in any high-skills arena, and marriage communication is a high-skills project. Technical skills, based on learning from good coaches and lots of practice, are what ultimately bring success or failure.

Here are some examples.

A great athlete will swat the ball either into the net or out of the tennis court unless he has learned skills like bringing the racket back so his stroke starts low, standing sideways to the ball, and ending his stroke high as he sweeps up the back of the ball.

Similarly, a baseball player with a great throwing arm is only going to become a great pitcher with intense coaching and hours of practice on the specific skills involved in throwing fastballs, curves, and more.

So how do athletic talent in sports and high EQ in relationships help?

Talent often determines how long it takes to learn a new skill.  More talented kids are soon doing tricks on their boards, while the balance-impaired are happy to enjoy the success of having learned the basics of rolling forward without falling.

In marriage too, a high EQ makes learning how to do marriage partnership come more easily. Folks who are naturally attuned to others and who have naturally easy-going temperaments do start out with a definite advantage.

Those whose biological tendency is to be more narcissistic or Aspergers, that is, more "all about me," start off on the marriage project like less athletic kids on skateboards. The same for spouses who by temperament tend to be quick to anger, or slow to express loving feelings. They will need more coaching and practice to stay in the calm zone and to emanate positive vibes toward their loved ones.

What about doing what comes naturally?

Doing what comes naturally in marriage partnership generally means following what you observed growing up in your parents' interactions. If you were one of the fortunate kids who grew up in a household headed by a cooperative and loving parental team, odds are your own language of partnering will be positive.

If, by contrast, you grew up in with parents who spoke with each other the languages of argument, anger, or avoiding each other, that's the way you are likely to respond when differences arise in your own marriage.

If you grew up in a single parent family, you may have had insufficient modeling of the skills for sustaining loving marriage partnership. Observing couples who do have strong partnering skills, seeking skill-training from books and courses or counseling, and devoting yourself to practice will have especially high payoff.

Marriages don't fail. People do.

Why set yourself up for marriage struggles and failure when by applying yourself to learning the skills for marriage communication you can set yourself up for marriage success?

A good starting point is to diagnose just what marriage basics you already know and which you still need to acquire. Click this link for a free and fun diagnostic assessment.

If your assessment says there's additional marriage skills that you could benefit from learning, go for it. If as a kid you succeeded in learning to ride a skateboard, hit a tennis ball, or throw a baseball, why not learn one of life's most high-payoff set of skills, the skills for enjoying a strong and loving marriage!


Denver clinical psychologist Susan Heitler, PhD is a graduate of Harvard and NYU.  Her multiple publications include, for therapists, From Conflict to Resolution and for couples, The Power of Two.   Check out Dr. Heitler's fun interactive website, to learn the skills for marriage success.