You have the same taste in movies, furniture, and pets (cats, never dogs) and the same hopes for the future: kids, financial security, and disinterested mothers-in-law. So there’s no question that you'll live forever in marital bliss—right? Not so fast, says Dr. Patricia Covalt, a psychotherapist specializing marriage and author of What Smart Couples Know: Using Emotional Intelligence as a Revolutionary Way to Guarantee Greater Success in Relationships. "Success in marriage is likely to be dependent almost entirely on how much you develop and use your emotional intelligence," she warns. And your engagement period is the perfect time to assess your EQ—which is loosely defined as your ability to read and understand your partner’s feelings while clearly expressing your own. Planning a wedding isn’t easy, but to ensure that your marriage will be, Covalt recommends adding this self-test your to-do list before walking down the aisle:
- Do you know and understand yourself and your fiancé at a deep level including:
o Your personal history and how this has contributed to who you are today.
o Your early life experiences and the influence of your family of origin.
o Your parents’ marriage and its inevitable effect on your new marriage.
o Any major losses or traumas and the effects of those on your psyche and emotions.
- How do you identify, express, and manage your emotions? How does your fiancé identify, express and manage his/hers?
- How do you react to each other’s emotions (the good ones as well as the tough and uncomfortable ones)? Do you help each other in the face of very strong feelings or do you get locked into battle?
- How well developed is your ability to genuinely "tune into" your fiancé?
o Do you fully and attentively listen and empathize with him/her?
o Do you think he/she feels truly heard by you?
o Do you show compassion and understanding even in the face of a disagreement?
- Do you have the ability and the power to "hang in there" and turn things around when the going gets really tough?
- Can you clearly identify and express your needs, persisting until they are respected and honored? Are you interested in what your partner's needs are and do you attempt to meet them? What if your needs clash with those of your spouse?