- If a partner gradually becomes less attentive and caring, there may be a mismatch in emotional intelligence.
- Emotional intelligence involves three components: self-awareness, social awareness, and empathy.
- Healthy relationships require ongoing empathy and understanding for long-term success.
Initially a partner seems attentive, sensitive, and adoring. Yet these traits diminish as the relationship unfolds. One person feels the emotional chasm deeply and is desperate to recover the bond. The other seems cold and indifferent. As one party attempts to dig in and address deeper issues, the other claims everything is fine and avoids any discussion about what he or she is feeling.
In this situation, the person who is left in the dark often feels as if he or she is to blame. Questions like, “Was I too needy, too demanding, or too insecure?” might consume the person. These thoughts are understandable when a partner, without explanation, withdraws love.
Yet the person missing their partner may not have done anything wrong. The rift may be the result of a mismatch in emotional intelligence. Three hallmarks of emotional intelligence include self-awareness, emotional attunement to others (social awareness), and empathy.
At the outset of a relationship, both people are on their best behavior to woo the other. Supportive, complimentary, and kind, a partner may seem as if he or she embodies the characteristics of an emotionally intelligent person. Yet if several key characteristics do not endure, it may indicate he or she lacks the essential ingredients necessary to maintain a healthy and hearty relationship. Three signs may indicate a partner has a low EQ and, therefore, difficulties sustaining closeness in a romantic relationship.
First, the partner lacks self-awareness. He or she is unaware of the impact that his or her words and actions have on a partner. After saying something insensitive, he or she is often shocked and angry to hear the statement affected the partner negatively.
For example, Shannon and Rick are eating lunch with friends. Shannon brags to the group that she is the breadwinner and that she and Rick wouldn’t be taking their trip to the Caribbean if it were not for her.
In the car on the way home, Rick explains that he was embarrassed and hurt by her comments. Shannon fails to see how her words impacted Rick and she defends herself: “I was just telling the truth. I’m not going to lie. If you don’t like it, you need to get a better job.”
In this scenario, Shannon refuses to see how her behavior affects Rick and instead deflects responsibility and projects blame onto Rick. Her inability to look at herself and glean insight exemplifies a deficit in self-awareness.
Alternatively, if Shannon is self-aware, she reflects and attempts to see the situation from Rick’s perspective. Realizing she devalued Rick with her statement, she immediately feels remorse and says, “It was selfish of me to say that. I was wrong. I was trying to impress them and it wasn’t okay to throw you under the bus. I am so sorry.” Due to Shannon’s self-awareness, she is able to quickly resolve a conflict in the relationship.
Detachment from uncomfortable emotions may also indicate a deficiency in self-awareness. Frequently a partner will deflect and project in an effort to avoid uncomfortable emotional states such as accountability and remorse in addition to withdrawing from a discussion to escape feeling discomfort. Both responses may lead to an inability to own one’s part in a conflict and identify the feelings that compel behaviors that hurt a person. The lack of insight may cause this partner to continue repeating the mistake in the relationship.
Second, a partner who is not emotionally attuned to his or her partner may be missing an essential ability necessary for remaining close. Recognizing a person’s emotional state usually leads to a conscientious response. A failure to do so may breach the connection.
For example, Jane arrives at Taylor’s house after work. Taylor is cleaning her oven and does not notice Jane’s sad expression. Taylor chats about her day and tells Jane to “speed things up” because Jane needs to pick up dinner. Taylor is not sensitive to Jane’s demeanor. Jane quietly confides that she lost her position as lead manager on a project she is passionate about. Taylor, indifferent to Jane’s disappointment, glibly says, “That’s too bad. We’ll talk more tonight about it. You need to go pick up the food.” Later that night, Jane goes home devastated because Taylor forgot to re-visit the issue.
The following day, Jane waits for Taylor to remember she needs support, but instead Taylor texts her and shares the news that her new Yoga matt arrived in the mail. Jane explains to Taylor that she is hurt that Taylor has not offered support. Taylor turns on Jane and tells Jane that she is not a “mind reader” and Jane is “too sensitive.”
On the other hand, let’s say Taylor is in tune with Jane. She notices Jane’s sad expression and quiet demeanor immediately when she enters the kitchen. Taylor drops what she is doing and goes to Jane. She asks if something is wrong. Jane explains her situation and Taylor empathizes, “You are so disappointed. I get it. I would be too. She hugs Jane and says, “Let’s pick up dinner together. We can talk more in the car.”
In this example, Taylor is emotionally attuned to Jane instead of consumed with her own immediate feelings and needs. This allows Taylor the opportunity to be there for Jane. She is conscientious, supportive, and empathic which sustains the closeness in the relationship.
Third, a partner’s lack of empathy may sabotage the closeness in the relationship. Empathy is the ability to put oneself in someone else’s shoes in order to attempt to truly understand their experience. Resonating with a person’s feeling state allows the partner to feel understood, less alone, and connected to the person who “gets it.” Empathy does not require a partner to fix a person’s problem or provide advice. It simply equates to resonating and communicating an understanding of what the person feels.
For example, Ron is getting out of the shower and he slips and falls. He lands on his hip. Shelly is in the next room and doesn’t get up to check on him. While staring at the TV she snickers at his clumsiness and yells, “Be careful!” Ron hobbles to his room and gets dressed. The pain subsides but he is stunned that Shelly appears unconcerned. When he enters the living room, Shelly says, “You need to get a better shower door. That one leaks. No wonder you fell.”
Conversely, Shelly hears a thud. She runs to the bathroom door and asks if Ron is okay. When Ron opens the door, she says, “That must have hurt. It sounded like you went down hard. I bet you’re sore.” She sits with him for a minute to make sure he is okay.
Getting close is easy but staying close requires that two people possess certain emotional capabilities. A discrepancy in emotional intelligence may cause a division. An emotionally intelligent partner may face the issue head on and work hard to mend the relationship while a partner with low emotional intelligence wishes to avoid the discomfort necessary to resolve conflict. His or her response may be to abandon the relationship. Two people with low emotional intelligence may be a match, but often the union is superficial and based on a mutual fueling of egos. Nonetheless, if a person feels emotionally abandoned by a partner, it may not be his or her fault. It may be the result of a mismatch in emotional intelligence.