Enhancing Relationships Through Emotional Regulation

Enhancing Relationships Through Emotional Regulation: A Guide to Healing and Connection

March 1, 2024

The post is developed in partnership with BetterHelp

We’ve heard it said before: relationships are complicated. A better word might be ‘complex.’ In the intimate dance between two people building a life together, three can be a crowd. That tricky third wheel isn’t necessarily another person. Emotional baggage, more professionally referred to as trauma, can heavily affect the dynamic. 

Trauma and deep emotional wounds are probably also affecting the individuals in the relationships as well. Therefore, while a relationship might bring these lingering issues to the surface, there’s more to gain than a healthy relationship.

So how can we address our emotional challenges in order to be a happier person and a better partner? What are some ways we can foster and practice emotional regulation?

The Role of Emotional Regulation

The National Rehabilitation Information Center defines emotional regulation as ‘the process of recognizing and controlling [one’s] feelings or their reactions to feelings.’’ We can think of this as emotional management. It relates to the perception of and behavior associated with emotion.

Because relationships are often emotional endeavors, those who experience difficulty with emotional regulation may experience relationship challenges. This is not only true for romantic relationships. Some studies suggest a link between healthy emotional regulation and better interpersonal relationships in professional and academic settings as well.

Trauma, personality disorders, depression, and a number of other mental health challenges may contribute to emotional dysregulation. However, according to online therapy provider, BetterHelp, treatments like CBT and DBT can help some people build skills to improve their emotional wellbeing.

It may be comforting to know that even if you or your partner are experiencing difficulty with emotional regulation, there is hope.

Enhancing Relationships Through Emotional Regulation

Practical Techniques for Emotional Regulation

Both CBT and DBT involve some practical techniques and strategies for enhancing emotional regulation in everyday life. This may include mindfulness practices, deep breathing exercises, journaling, and progressive muscle relaxation.

Mindfulness is a practice that helps people tune into the moment and quiet racing or reactive thoughts

Deep breathing techniques can help calm us and reduce stress. According to experts, such techniques affect both body and mind.

Journaling about stressful events is also effective in cognitive processing and emotional regulation. According to a study by the University of Iowa, journaling about cognitions or emotions relating to stress or trauma proved the most effective way to use the technique. 

A study in Medicine also supports progressive muscle relaxation as a path to improved emotional health. The referenced study found that the training ‘’significantly improved’’ negative emotions like as anxiety and depression. A positive correlation with improved sleep quality was also suggested.

The Connection Between Emotional Regulation and Relationships

The link between emotional regulation and relationship dynamics is well-studied. A 2021 paper published in Frontiers in Psychology states, ‘’Studies have found that how we deal with conflict in a relationship and how we regulate the emotions resulting from those conflicts affect not only the quality and longevity of the relationship (Zaki and Williams, 2013; Marroquín and Nolen-Hoeksema, 2015) but also our mental health (Duvila et al., 2003; Fingerman et al., 2008).’’

The introduction of the paper goes on to put forth that partners perceived negatively in an intimate relationship can become increasingly dissatisfied in that partnership. Qualities like emotional intelligence, cognitive reappraisal, and emotional repression had notable effects on overall relationship dynamics.

It feels like common sense. Partners who can manage their own emotions thoughtfully become assets to their counterparts. Potentially damaging factors like blame, grudge-holding, emotional withdrawal, and affection withholding could be minimized by emotionally stable partners.

When we’re able to adequately control our feelings, we’re better equipped to communicate more effectively, resolve conflicts constructively, and maintain healthier boundaries. This kind of clear-mindedness and empathy can foster stronger connections with others by creating a deeper sense of intimacy and trust.

Enhancing Relationships Through Emotional Regulation

Seeking Support for Emotional Healing

If you sometimes feel emotionally overwhelmed or find it difficult to look at situations and feelings objectively or if you sense these challenges in your partner, professional support may help. Emotional dysregulation can even be caused by underlying or past trauma. In these cases, a professional therapist may be able to guide you through a healing process to release the source of the instability.

Professional therapy can occur in many forms, in person and online. While the process may take some trial and error to find the best fit, choosing a therapist familiar with DBT may set you up for success.

A qualified therapist may provide individual therapy as well as suggest couples sessions with you and your partner.

Regulation Can Be Transformative 

Whatever path you choose, thinking about the emotional regulation dynamics in your life and relationships can spark a transformative journey. The right strategies can transform not only our interactions with others but our internal landscape as well.

By learning to manage, release, and effectively deal with our emotions, we can cultivate greater harmony, understanding, and intimacy in our interactions with loved ones. 

Remember, healing is a journey, and with the right support and tools, we can pave the way towards stronger, more fulfilling relationships.

Image Credit: depositphotos.com

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