Yay! We made it to the “touchy, feely” part of relationships—the emotional aspect!
Unfortunately, emotional expressions are usually stereotyped by gender. Girls are conditioned to cry when hurt; boys are conditioned to play through the pain. Men are expected to be stoic and tough; women are expected to be nurturing and emotional. It is acceptable for women to talk nonstop, hug at every possible moment, and make group trips to the restroom for more talking. For men, it is acceptable to grunt one or two words, fist-bump or high-five, and make solo trips to the restroom – where talking is strictly forbidden. Add to these differences the hormonal effects of estrogen and testosterone, and we encounter the complex world of emotional interaction.
The Significance of Your Soul
The emotional aspect involves your soul; it encompasses your feelings, intuition and interactive experience with people.
It is the intangible component that reveals and enables your inner desire for connection. Without emotions, you would simply perform the obligatory actions of your daily schedule and personal interactions, but you wouldn’t truly experience or express anything.
Jesus said a good man, out of the good treasure of his heart, reflects good fruit. An evil man, out of the evil treasure of his heart, exhibits evil fruit. For “out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). What is on the inside comes out.
If a person claims to love someone, yet expresses no genuine emotional response, that love may not be genuine. Or not even love at all! Your emotional response generally reveals your true inner feelings.
Emotional Interaction with the Other Three Aspects
Emotions provide the feeling and sensory experience for the other three aspects. Spiritually, we protect our hearts with all diligence (Proverbs 4:23). Intellectually, we control our thoughts and our minds (2 Corinthians 10:5). Emotionally, we exercise the same self-discipline. If we do not control our feelings, they will control us.
Without emotions, there is no meaningful worship of God. There is no genuine compassion for others. There is no true remorse and repentance when we sin.
The emotional aspect provides the channel through which the evidence of the Holy Spirit may flow (Galatians 5:22-23). Can you show true love without emotion? Can you demonstrate real joy without emotion? Without emotional expression, it is difficult to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit.
A mature and balanced emotional aspect provides the freedom for genuine emotional expression. Align your feelings and emotional expressions with the moral framework of your spiritual aspect.
There is nothing like the feeling of being in love! But how would you respond if someone asked you, Why do you feel the way you do about your dating partner? Could you readily identify practical reasons?
Step back and analyze your feelings. Ask yourself, Are my feelings reasonable, genuine, and mutual? Or are they the result of my spiritual weakness, surface-level attraction, and/or my emotional neediness? Then have the courage to answer honestly. Remember, your heart will sometimes mislead you (Jeremiah 17:9). Since God examines both your heart and your mind (Jeremiah 17:10), make sure both are in agreement and aligned with His Word.
Romantic feelings can be so intense that they overpower your spirit and overwhelm your mind. When you are attracted to another person, your emotions affect your physical aspect. If uncontrolled, passionate feelings may lead you into actions you later regret.
An emotionally mature person will balance strong feelings with spiritual morality and intellectual reason. Am I going to obey God and stay true to my moral convictions? Will the decision I make honor God or result in guilt and regret?
Paul advised young Timothy to live as a positive example for others. This included his words, his lifestyle and his purity of conduct (1 Timothy 4:12). You control your sexual impulses by not toying with them. Don’t see how physically involved you can get before stopping. God created you to experience passionate, loving feelings, but He intends for you to act on them fully only within marriage.
How the Emotional Aspect Affects Relationships
The dating phase is the perfect time to discover whether emotional compatibility exists. Prior to committing to a serious level in the relationship, both people should determine if their emotional differences are tolerable or deal-breakers.
When dating someone, observe that person’s emotional level and intensity. Then compare it to your own. An ideal mate should be a compatible match to your level of emotional maturity, intensity, freedom of expression and needs.
Without a true connection in the emotional aspect, you risk having a frustrated, incomplete and unfulfilled relationship. A much better choice would be to find fulfillment through emotional compatibility. When you accurately identify and achieve emotional compatibility with another person, you truly “connect” with that person.
Emotional Development and Maturity
Emotional maturity takes place as you gain experience from your interactions with people. Here are some ways of demonstrating growth and personal maturity in the emotional aspect:
- Know who you are. Take a personality test, a spiritual gifts test or any other reputable questionnaire to help understand who you are.
- Observe the emotional interactions of others. During group social functions, observe the behaviors, interactions and intensity levels of others. A person may be nice on the surface, but not truly compassionate. Polite, but not respectful. Likeable, but not loveable.
- Control your emotions. Learn when and how to express your feelings as well as when and how to restrain yourself.
- Be comfortable experiencing and sharing heartfelt emotions. Be strong enough to cry. Tough enough to be tender. Confident enough to be humble. Secure enough to be vulnerable. Honest enough to be real.
- Move past dependence and independence into interdependence. Guard against any harmful and premature attachments as well as any self-centered arrogance. Develop the emotional strength to be patient and wait for someone who meets all your expectations and who is compatible in all aspects.
Next time, we’ll pull it all together and look at how the physical aspect enables the other three aspects.
Read the rest of the series to find the wisdom you need for a lasting relationship.
Used with permission and excerpted from Nate’s book, Matched 4 Marriage—Meant 4 Life.