While happy couples are often fluent in the language of love, those in a committed, long-term relationship should also be fluent in the language of emotion, according to Brian Gleason, a couples therapist and co-founder of Exceptional Marriage. Gleason claims that "emotional fluency," or the somewhat unnatural ability to be emotionally transparent, is at the crux of successful relationships. Those who haven't cultivated this are more likely to hit roadblocks while dating or in their marriages, says Gleason, who regularly advises couples in his practice.
"We're just not trained to speak in emotional language … [but] the more that we're able to put [our experiences] into some sort of language and convey it to our partner … the more empathy there is in the relationship," said Gleason in a recent interview with New York Magazine. "The obverse of that is that the less I can say, 'this is my inner experience,' the more my partner is going to be reacting to my outer behavior, oftentimes with judgment and frustration, rather than where they would relate to your experience with empathy."
Think of it this way: Instead of bottling up your emotions, only to later express yourself through a passive-aggressive, often reactionary emotional explosion, try to be transparent with your partner about the good and the bad. If you dare to try, Gleason says you're more likely to get allegiance instead of conflict. "Almost inevitably, there's support: a hug, a compliment, an assurance." Sounds well worth the effort.
Looking to cultivate emotional fluency in your relationship? Pick up Gleason's book, Exceptional Relationships, which he co-authored with his wife of almost 40 years.