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In marriage, effective communication is often referred to as the key to successful relationships. Without effective communication, marriage challenges feel impossible to work through and what I wish I had learned earlier on was that emotions and feelings are not the same thing. Knowing the difference between the two can play a pivotal role in reshaping the way we approach and address communication breakdowns with our partners.
The terms "emotions" and "feelings" are frequently used interchangeably in society. However, understanding that they are not the same is a game changer. Emotions are the immediate physical responses we experience in reaction to what's going on around us. We experience them as bodily sensations, such as a racing heart, clenched fist, or a flushed face, serving as our body's response to a given situation. Feelings, on the other hand, come from our mind's interpretation of these emotions. They are shaped by our past experiences, upbringing, and personal narratives, often leading to biased and subjective perceptions of a particular circumstance.
Our upbringing can significantly mold our emotional responses and subsequent feelings. For example, an individual who was consistently criticized or deemed incompetent in their childhood is likely to become hypersensitive to instances where they perceive their competence or intelligence is being questioned. Compared to someone who was raised in a supportive environment may approach similar situations with a more open and confident mindset. They might perceive someone asking questions as a sign of them wanting more information rather than taking it personally. Understanding this difference explains why individuals can react vastly different to the same situation, revealing just how impactful our past experiences are in shaping our responses in life and marriage.
Recognizing the difference between emotions and feelings helps us effectively managing disagreements with our spouse. You can trust your emotions, but your feelings should be investigated. When we see our feelings as the truth, that's when we are more reactive and create more conflict. When we can learn to get curious with our feelings to understand the situation better, conflict can become opportunities for curiosity and understanding, rather than breeding grounds for invalidated assumptions and escalations.
When bringing this newfound understanding between emotions and feelings, we can start to more easily notice that while conflict is inevitable, arguing in a marriage is an intentional choice. Couples can empower themselves to make more conscious decisions regarding their responses to conflict. Rather than defaulting to argumentative stances, you can proactively engage in open and honest dialogue, rooted in mutual growth and understanding.
Try adopting a curious mindset during conflict. If you're wanting support with improving communication in your marriage, invest in a communication course or work directly with a marriage professional. There are lots of resources out there available to you to help you make your experience of marriage better.
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