Why understanding your partner’s ‘primary emotions’ might be the key to healthy relationships
16th April 2022

Written by Meg Walters

When the honeymoon phase ends, emotions can become complicated. Here’s why self-care might hold the key to making communication with your partner a little more simple.

We’ve all heard of the honeymoon phase. When a relationship begins, everything seems too good to be true. We see our new partner through rose-tinted glasses. But after a while, things begin to settle. We get to see our partner’s little flaws and annoying habits. Arguments become more and more frequent. The rose tinted glasses come off and the honeymoon phase comes to an end.

But what if the end of the honeymoon phase isn’t actually a bad thing? What if it’s an opportunity to grow?

As John Amedeo Ph.D., MFT writes for Psychology Today, many of the problems that can arise in long-term relationships stem from our lack of understanding of our partner’s emotions. According to him, the best way to truly understand our partner is to first tune into our own ‘primary feelings’ through self-care. 

How self-care gives us space for our partner’s emotions 

Self-care, Amedeo claims, helps us tap into “inner resources to calm ourselves”.

“When things don’t go as expected, we may feel angry, hurt, or sad,” he writes. Without the “inner resources” to accept our own emotions, we often begin to fight them.

When we are constantly fighting against our emotions, we don’t always have space to be receptive to our partner’s emotions, too.

“The self-care practice of being with our feelings in a gentle way allows them to settle,” he explains, “leaving us feeling calmer and thus more available for connection.”

In other words, allowing our own emotions to settle doesn’t only help us — it helps our partner, too. We become more open to honest, effective communication when things get tough.

“The skills of self-soothing and emotion regulation enable us to do a double-take on what we’re trying to communicate,” he writes. “As we pause to soothe ourselves, we may find that our tone of voice and body language are softer, less contentious, and more likely to garner a positive response.”

How self-care brings us a step closer to accepting our partner’s primary feelings as well as our own   

Not only does self-care help us find space for positive communication, it also gives us the tools to accept our partner’s emotional turbulence, just as we accept our own.

Self-care helps us become non-judgemental when we come face to face with confusing emotions. We learn to accept that our own emotions are sometimes illogical. By allowing turbulent emotions to settle, we come closer to understanding that sometimes, our erratic emotions are actually concealing what Amedeo calls our ‘primary feelings’ — our deepest and purest fears, passions and desires.

By learning to accept our deeper ‘primary feelings’ through self-care, we begin to understand that everyone struggles with the same complex emotional dance — that everyone has their own deep seated ‘primary feelings’ that underlie their more turbulent, inexplicable emotional outbursts.

In turn, we begin to take a non-judgmental view of our partner’s secondary and primary emotions — just as we do with ourselves. It means we stop fighting and start accepting. And eventually, we start to really communicate, too.

The end of the honeymoon phase is something that happens in every  long-term relationship. But with self-care, we might just be better equipped to face these emotional challenges with patience, understanding and acceptance. 

Images: Getty

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