Emotional maturity is an essential ingredient in creating a stable, loving, and long-lasting relationship. It does not come naturally with age. Couples who have been married 30 plus years and are still locked in a power struggle have not yet achieved emotional maturity as they are often stuck in the blame game and the cycle of reactivity. Emotionally mature couples have developed healthy habits that have enabled them to take the higher road and have led them to create fulfilling relationships. Here are three things emotionally mature couples do:
1) View Conflict in Context- It's quite easy to get reactive and stuck in the storyline of your relationship. Some couples become so fixated on the issues that they don't see the forest for the trees. Emotionally mature couples don't get caught in this trap. They work hard on controlling their own reactivity and do their best to listen to their spouse's story, knowing that their spouse's upset is usually something more than meets the eye. They know that if they listen long enough their spouse will make perfect sense and that they may have elicited a reaction by touching a raw nerve in their spouse. By viewing conflict in the context of their spouse's life story, emotionally mature couples don't get quickly offended. They also become aware that when they get upset with each other, there is a reason they are getting upset that may be bigger than what their spouse did to trigger them.
2) Take Responsibility- Emotionally mature couples refrain from blaming each other for their unhappiness. They first look to themselves to see what they can be doing differently in the relationship. They replace the word "you" with "I" and articulate their feelings and needs, sharing what they want as opposed to what their spouse is doing wrong. They know that it takes two to tango and there is never one spouse solely to blame for relationship discontent. They both take ownership. They live by the Talmudic dictum (Bava Metzia 107b) kshot atzmecha v'achar kach kshot acheirim, fix yourself before you fix others.
3) Stay Calm and Present- It's normal for couples to have rough patches along the way. It's how they deal with them that determines whether these rough spots become pot holes that seriously derail their relationship or whether they are mere blips in the journey. Couples that stay calm and in the present aren't preoccupied about what today's meltdown says about the future of their marriage. They don't catastrophize and get locked in the fear of "what if's". They deal with the situation, knowing full well that in an hour from now they may be in a completely different emotional state. This is the power of yishuv ha da'as, peace of mind. As the Chasidic master R Mordechai of Lechovich homiletically interprets the verse (Psalms 91:1), yoshev b'seser elyon, (lit. whoever sits in the refuge of the Most High) that one who is YoSHeV, who has YiSHuV ha da'as, (peace of mind) is b'seser elyon, is in G-d's refuge.
Relationships can be challenging, especially if you don't have the tools. Like any real growth, emotional maturity is a process that takes time, yet when invested the necessary effort, yields tremendous results.
Shlomo Slatkin is the founder of The Marriage Restoration Project, a global initiative to keep couples from all over the world, together and happy, restoring sanctity, safety, and stability into their homes. For more information about how The Marriage Restoration Project can help your relationship, visit http://www.TheMarriageRestorationProject.com