So, what does an emotionally intelligent husband look like?
Simply put, an emotionally intelligent husband is a man who lets himself be influenced by his wife; he is willing to give up some of his power in order to prioritize the relationship. He is a man who lets the stubborn, defensive nature go, and listens to what the woman is really trying to say.
This is not to say that women don’t need to share the power as well — generally speaking, they are already doing this. In fact, the difference between how men and women respond to relationships starts in childhood.
While this skill is not limited to heterosexual relationships, in the 12-Year Study, it is demonstrated that couples in homosexual relationships are already notably better at understanding each other.
As described in The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by Dr. Gottman, girls tend to prioritize feelings even in their make-believe games, which often revolve around marriage and family life. If a girl playing the game gets hurt and the friendship is at stake, the game will stop and the hurt feelings will be tended to. The game will only continue once the girls make up.
Boys, on the other hand, play games much differently. The focus is not on feelings, but on winning. If a boy gets his feelings hurt, he often gets ignored, and is out of the game. The game must go on. The winner must be revealed.
But relationships are not a game. There is no winner, unless both members are winning together. Take this all-too-common scenario, for example:
Husband: “The guys and I are going fishing this weekend. We’re leaving later tonight.” (Notice how he leaves no room for input from his wife).
Wife: “But my parents are staying with us this weekend, and I need you to be here. We talked about this already. Can’t you reschedule?” (She is expressing her need to have him around, but he is interpreting it as an attack on him).
Husband: “How did you forget about my fishing trip? I can’t reschedule. We’re planning to leave in a few hours.” (Notice how he does not acknowledge her concern about having her parents visit. He becomes defensive, and turns the blame onto her for forgetting his plans).
Moments of anger and negativity are bound to happen within a relationship. The issue is not whether or not these moments occur, but rather, how we respond to them. Often, the response it so match negativity with negativity instead of trying to minimize the conflict. According to Dr. Gottman, 65 percent of men increase negativity during an argument rather than trying to make it subside.
This is what is referred to as the Four Horsemen: criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling. These are the classic telltale signs that the individual is focused more on winning the argument than solving the problem.
An emotionally unintelligent man is unwilling to accept his wife’s influence because he fears losing his own influence and power.
An emotionally intelligent man prioritizes his wife’s emotions over his power in the relationship. He may not change the way he expresses his own emotions, but he does make an effort to better connect with her.
He will pick “we” over “me;” he will begin to understand the real reasons she is upset, rather than countering her words. An emotionally intelligent man will make a better father because he is not afraid of feelings—he will teach his children to respect their own feelings as well as the feelings of others.
His connection to his wife will cause her to go to him first, whether she is upset or happy. His relationship, sex life and overall happiness will be significantly better than that of the emotionally unintelligent man.
Find the original studies and articles by Dr. John Gottman on The Gottman Institute.