Did you know that couples with high levels of emotional intelligence (EQ) are statistically more likely to be satisfied in their relationships than those without? More than that, further research shows that people with low EQs are less likely to find long-lasting love.
Clearly, there’s a lot to be gained from developing EQ, both for the quality of our relationships and their longevity.
Not sure where to get started? We’ve got you covered. Read on to discover what EQ is, how high-EQ partners show up in their relationships, and exercises you and your significant other can do to boost your EQs together.
EQ: the lowdown
When we talk about EQ, it's not just a single score. It comprises five different competencies that assess various aspects of our emotional abilities. These competencies include how well we can handle our own emotions, understand the feelings of others, and much more.
Here’s a quick overview of each competency. If you're curious about your EQ score, you can take Truity's fast and free EQ test.
- Self-awareness: This is all about knowing ourselves better: understanding our emotions, strengths, weaknesses, values, and motivations. When we have good self-awareness, we can navigate our inner world with clarity.
- Other awareness: This skill involves being perceptive of others' feelings and thoughts, even when they aren't explicitly expressing them, via reading non-verbal cues like body language, tone of voice and facial expressions.
- Emotional control: This is about being able to handle distressing feelings and bounce back to a more positive frame of mind.
- Empathy: Empathy is the skill of understanding how another person feels, without judging their emotional experiences.
- Wellbeing: This is about our overall psychological health and happiness. A strong sense of wellbeing means having a positive outlook on life, practicing self-care, and living in accordance with our values.
Importantly, EQ isn’t a static measure. It’s a skill that can be learnt and improved over time. So, if you or your partner struggles in any of these EQ areas, don’t fret! By becoming more self-aware and using the exercises later in this article, you can boost your EQs and, in turn, the quality of your relationship.
How a high EQ improves relationships
So far, we’ve looked at EQ somewhat abstractly. Now, we’ll explore how a high EQ actually improves romantic relationships.
Healthy boundaries: Building a healthy relationship where both partners feel fulfilled takes effort. Emotional intelligence comes into play here, involving self-awareness, self-management, and social awareness. When a partner understands their own feelings and can express them, it strengthens connection.
Conflict resolution: Emotionally intelligent couples healthily handle conflicts. They don't let their emotions take over or overreact. Instead, they balance rational thought with their feelings, ensuring conflicts are rooted in love, respect and understanding.
Communication and connection: Partners with emotional intelligence easily recognize and respond to each other's bids for attention, affection or acceptance. They make a genuine effort to connect, which makes the relationship feel more fulfilling and safe.
Celebrating each other: Emotionally intelligent people are interested in personal development. They know where they want to improve in their lives and will learn the skills to make it happen. Because of this, they are their significant other’s biggest supporters. They won't feel threatened by the positive changes they’re striving for. Instead, they'll champion their partner’s growth.
EQ exercises for couples
There are hundreds of exercises out there to help couples improve their EQs together. Here are a few of our favorites.
#1: Create a love map
It might sound cheesy, but creating a love map is a great way to understand yourself and your partner, become closer and have some fun together. Despite the name, a love map isn’t a physical diagram; it’s a series of questions that help you better understand the “map” of your partner’s life.
There’s no need to stick to a fixed list of questions. You can get creative and develop your own, or find inspiration from resources like the New York Times 36 questions to fall in love.
Once you have your questions, you and your partner will answer them for yourselves and each other. Afterwards, you’ll both create a list of follow-up questions for things you don’t know about your partner but would like to.
You’ll then compare answers. Importantly, refrain from judging your partner or yourself for getting something wrong or not knowing something. This exercise is all about discovery and reestablishing connection, not a blame game.
#2: Use a science-backed formula for disagreements
Disagreeing is an inevitable part of being in a relationship. But just because you and your partner don’t see eye-to-eye, that doesn’t mean your dialogue needs to turn vindictive or nasty. Here’s a framework you can use to keep arguments productive:
- To begin, start with an agreement–find some shared ground to establish a positive starting point.
- Gently ask the other person to share their point of view. Resist the urge to jump in right away and become defensive. Instead, take the time to really listen and understand where they're coming from.
- Once you've given them a chance to express themselves, it's your turn to explain your side. Share your thoughts, feelings, and the reasons behind your perspective, being open, honest and calm.
- Next, find a reasonable compromise based on what you've both learned about each other's views.
- After the conversation, check in with your partner about how they feel about the decision you’ve both chosen.
Using this approach, you'll discover that having difficult conversations can make you closer rather than push you apart. By genuinely trying to understand each other's perspectives and committing to repair, you and your partner will learn more about one another and deepen your romantic bond.
#3: Try a personality test reflection
Another great way to boost both self-awareness and other awareness is through diving into the world of personality tests. Tests like the 16 types personality test, the emotional intelligence test, and the 7 love styles test can help you understand yourself and your partner.
The exercise starts with you and your partner completing your chosen tests. Once you have your answers, talk through them with your partner, sharing what you agree and disagree with. Then, ask your partner to share their thoughts on your results, and vice versa.
In learning more about each other’s preferences, strengths and weaknesses, you’ll become better at making your partner feel seen, heard and understood – while also honoring your own needs. And that’s the recipe for a happy relationship.