How understanding emotions helps men become successful in relationships

Feelings colour and confuse our relationships. However, ‘emotion’ is not clearly defined in English dictionaries. Originating from the French word for ‘moving out’, emotion has come to mean having a general sense of pleasure or pain (Shorter Oxford English Dictionary).

American psychologist Dr Joan Rosenberg summed up the neuro-scientific description of emotion as a biochemical release, which floods through the body for about 90 seconds and then disperses. It is prompted by some past experience (probably forgotten). We want to “flee from or be distracted from these nasty sensations”, she adds, advising people to “surf the waves for 90 seconds, and let them ride their course”… with awareness and constant practice you can “unhook” your emotions from your life stories which are holding you back.

So our feelings get in the way of achieving and sustaining a good relationship. Here are five mantras to consider, practise and improve. If we are not aware, and don’t take care, our emotions may block us from the following competences:

1. Good two-way communication

2. Strong listening skills

3. Openness and honesty

4. Empathy, or the ability to understand the feelings of your partner

5. Finding ways to have fun


This means dialogue, and that in turn involves people in a relationship talking to each other about the big and little things in their lives. The more you share what is going on in your head and in your heart, the better your chances of achieving and maintaining successful relationships In every part of your life.

One of the factors which separates human beings from other animals is their ability to express themselves in sophisticated language. But we don’t always do that. The ability to communicate does not always mean that we hear and understand each other.

Many of us have been poor and unreliable at communication. That includes me, as evidenced in two divorces. Sometimes we may disconnect, keep quiet and stay dumb.

Communication is a process which involves dialogue: talking and listening. Some people, including me, have disconnected and closed down in difficult situations and stopped talking and listening. There lies isolation and silence, often interpreted as ‘passive aggression’. The traditional ‘strong, silent man’ can be blind to reality and to his true worth.

One way out is to admit to your partner that you are having difficulty with communication, but you want to try again in a short while. Invite them to ask a question to get the flow going again at some future time; or be brave and climb once more into the communication breech.

Brian Tracy, the Canadian-American motivational speaker and author of 70 books (many on self-development) said: “Communication is a skill you can learn. It’s like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it you can improve the quality of every part of your life.” 

Strong listening skills

Listening is the vital part of communication. We think at more than 1,000 words per minute (wpm) but we listen at only 125 wpm; we are distracted 75% of the time; we remember long-term only 20% of what we hear; and the average attention span is 22 seconds. So, whenever, you are talking / listening, feed back to the other person what you think you have heard.


Being open often involves being honest. This takes courage, and leads to wholeheartedness, according to leading American social researcher Brené Brown whose TED Talk on vulnerability has been watched by more than 33 million people.


Not to be confused with sympathy, which means feeling sorry for someone, in my experience empathy, the true understanding of others, takes time and effort but it is worth it.

Good news

Finally, some good news. The number and rate of divorces are coming down. In 2017 there were more than 101,000 divorces of opposite sex couples in England and Wales, according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS). While that was a lot of divorces, it represented a 4.9% decrease on 2015, with the rate of 8.4 per 1,000 the lowest since 1973.

Maybe couples are now making use of the mantras which I have come to believe form the basis of good relationships and lasting marriages. But that is another story. When we have mastered those mantras the fun will surely follow.

Nick Keith is the author of ‘Feel it as a Man: a fool’s guide to relationships’ (£14.99), published by Panoma Press and available in all good bookstores and online. Fine out more:

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