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EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE AND MARITAL STABILITY OF MARRIED SECONDARY SCHOOL TEACHERS IN THE NORTH WEST SENATORIAL DISTRICT OF AKWA IBOM STATE, NIGERIA
1.1 Background of the Study
The family has always been one of the most important units of any society in the history of mankind. It follows that, this very important unit plays a very important role in the stability and progress of the society. In any case, the formation of the family is based on marriage. Ukpong (2014:11) asserts that marriage is a social affair and entails rituals and ceremonies representing social approval. George (2009:3) affirmed that in the Ibibio culture, marriage is not only the union of a man and a woman as husband and wife, but it is also a union of the families of the bride and bridegroom. In essence, therefore, marriage as a union of a man and a woman involves other members of the family who accord the two entities social approval entrusting them with full responsibility with no regrets or doubts whatsoever in the successful management and stability of the institution.
The institution of marriage is full of paradoxes. It is very easy to enter into it; but may be difficult to quit. Many people wish to get married with the expectation that the marriage will succeed. According to George (2009:4), in marriage nobody plans to fail; but sadly most people fail to plan to succeed. It should not be a surprise then that millions of unhappily married people end up puzzling over why their marriages fail. Conversely, Onyekuru and Ugwu(2017) assert that marriage is for mature minds.
One of the hallmarks of a mature mind is the ability to control emotions as reflected in the behavioural patterns exhibited by individuals while dealing with oneself and others as well as the capacity to effectively evaluate emotions of oneself and others. This also involves balancing and adapting the heart and mind flexibly. Therefore it is not an exaggeration to posit that emotional imbalance does no good to anyone. People should strive to be emotionally stable. Emotional instability, without mincing words, has dire consequences to oneself and others.
Notably, in efforts to improve on emotions for a more stable marriage, researchers now point to emotional intelligence as a critical factor that sets star performers apart (Travis and Jeans, 2014). The duo define emotional intelligence as personal competence that endows one with the ability to remain aware of his emotions and manage same creatively while relating with others. In essence, emotional intelligence is a kind of skill that can add value to marriage relationships. It can take married couples to marital stability. In another view, Egbule (2009) asserts that emotional intelligence is the ability to validly reason with emotions to enhance thought. It therefore involves the ability to utilize emotional resources to accurately perceive, understand, generate, access and assist feelings so as to promote emotional growth and marital stability.
Emotional growth could aid marital stability through conscious effort of utilizing competences of emotional intelligence. These competences of emotional intelligence according to Travis and Jeans (2014:6) include self awareness, self regulation, self motivation, empathy and social skills. The duo defines self awareness as a personal competence that endows one with the ability to stay aware of his emotions and tendencies. In other words, it is one’s ability to accurately perceive his or her emotions at the moment and understand its effects. They add that, self awareness includes staying on the top of one’s typical reactions to specific events, challenges and people. This implies that a keen understanding of one’s reactions to emotional tendencies are important to a successful marital relationship and requires the willingness to tolerate the discomfort of focusing on feelings that may be negative. In essence, this willingness or determination to set one’s negative emotions on the right track to positive emotions paves way for self regulation.
Self regulation is dependent on one’s self awareness. Scazzero (2015:33) defines self regulation as one’s ability to use his/her emotions to stay flexible and direct his or her behaviour positively. Shahid and Kazmi (2012) assert that self regulation endows married couples with the capability to deal with or handle their emotions instead of being dealt by them. This implies that self regulation competencies leave with couples the keys to be more intelligent emotionally and responsive to situations rather than being reactive. This can be achieved through immense effort towards improving on inappropriate emotions via self motivation.
Self motivation is the ability to do what needs to be done without influence from other people or situations (Lerner, 2013). It suggests that married couples cannot really see a stable marriage until after they strive to change their parts in every negative situation into positive ones, that positive changes have a way of culminating into more generous expansive ones. Karney (2010) observes that married couples who are motivated to protect their marriages focus on perceptions of specific positive aspects on good days and less positive on bad days. This implies that couples who are able to acknowledge their partner’s faults while making positive views of their marriages overall have more stable marriage outcomes and they are less likely to divorce in the early years of marriage. Again, it is not an exaggeration to say that the drive to maintain a stable marriage incorporates throwing open arms to welcoming empathy which is another factor of emotional intelligence.
Empathy is the ability to accurately pick up on emotions in other people and understand what is really going on with them. Travis and Jeans (2014:31) asserts that empathy helps married couples to notice when the other couple is feeling annoyed, frustrated or overwhelmed by each action/situation. This often means that empathy competence helps people to perceive what others are thinking and feeling even if one does not feel the same way. In essence, it is easy to get caught up in one’s emotions and forget to consider the perspective of the other party and this could adversely threaten the stability of marriage. Schmidt and Gelhert (2016) confirms that empathy is directly related to one’s stability with a romantic partner, and therefore most approaches to most couples’ therapy explicitly address empathy as a means of creating positive rational change to enhance marital stability. It must be noted that, the above four competences of emotional intelligence cannot be developed excluding social skill competence.
Social skill is the ability to use the awareness of one’s own emotions and those of others to manage interactions successfully. According to Travis and Jeans (2014:44), social skill competence is a factor that helps one to be sensitized to others’ opinions, maintain good communication with all parties involve (friends and relatives), and encourage others’ assertiveness. This implies that social skill competence ensures clear communication and effective handling of emotions, anger, and conflict of married couples. Scazzero(2015:35) confirms that married couples who have this competence are able to see the benefits of connecting with many different people, even members of their families they are fond of. The duo continue that the most challenging and stressful situations couples face at home tend to fester when they lack the skills needed to initiate the direct, yet constructive conversation in the faces of anger, frustration and disagreement. This means that, social skill competence gives married couples the skill they need to avoid the above scenarios, and make the most out of every interaction they have for effective marital stability.
In all these, it can be deduced that one area where emotional intelligence is needed is marriage. It is expected that emotional intelligence of couples can affect their happiness. It has been observed that, not all marriages are blissful. Some marriages are besieged with a lot of problems in the areas of financial management, number and sex of children, relationship with family friends, in-laws and relatives, parenting styles and issues on house chores. Sometimes, these problems may become so enormous that marriage is threatened. In a situation the, marriage may witness instability (Ukpong, 2014:185).
Marital instability as defined by Usoroh, Ekot and Inyang (2010) as a marriage with the high propensity to divorce.This is determined by the presence of thoughts or actions capable of precipitating separation. It is a situation in which disagreements and quarrels are common occurrences and one spouse or both spouses are dissatisfied with the marriage. However, some marriages are blessed with peace, unity of purpose, oneness and mutualism. Such marriages witness happiness of spouses and their children and are described as stable marriages. So marital stability is a relationship between husband and wife such that the chances of separation or divorce are slim. Spouses witnessing marital stability have reduced state of friction, disagreement and quarrel. Findings by Maciver and Dunka (2012)show that social, behavioural, sexual, religious and financial factors are some of the factors that influence marital stability. Spanier and Glick (2011) report that women who marry between the ages of 14 and 17 are twice as likely to divorce as those who marry between the ages of 18 and 19. The divorce rate was 3 times higher when the 14 to 19 year old category was compared to the 20 – 24 year old category. These rates were similar for males of corresponding ages in the same study. The level of education is also seen as a factor that influences marital stability.
It is observed that, married couples with less than a high school education had especially high levels of marital stability. However, women with graduate school training had much more marital stability than women who did not go beyond bachelor degree level (Spanier and Glick, 2011). Conversely, George (2009:103) found that highly educated couples tend to be happier, though they also tend to have more feelings of inadequacy and more problems than the less educated. With more education, marriage apparently becomes more central in one’s life, a factor which also gives it a greater potential of being stable. He further maintains that factors like good job, stable income, children, love and care are some of the strong determinants of marital stability.
Family income and number of children can also contribute to marital stability (Onyekuru and Ugwu, 2017). The authors maintain that the lower the income, the greater the instability of marriage. Families with large financial resources to live on and with a desirable number of children are comfortable and more likely to remain stable than those with slim financial resources and lack of children. Furthermore, Ukpong (2014:4) asserts that the essence of marriage is procreation. Therefore, marriage not blessed with children for a considerable length of time is more likely not to enjoy marital stability. In other words, marriages with one or no child shows the most marital disruption, hence the absence of children tend to increase the chances of separation or divorce. Adversely, a good number of children and sex of the children also tend to influence stability of marriage.
On the whole, one is not sure if the anomaly in marriage is caused by which significant factor, but evidence shows that competences of emotional intelligence which include self awareness, self regulation, self motivation, empathy and social skill can enhance marital stability (Travis and Jeans 2014:7). Spouses’ self awareness helps them to understand their emotions and tendencies to specific events and a keen understanding of these inappropriate emotions require willingness to regulate the emotions accurately. It is noted that, self regulation is a determinant of self motivation and a drive to transform spouse weaknesses or shadows. In essence, it is true that spouse shadows can be tamed with the incorporation of empathy by being able to notice when the other spouse is annoyed or frustrated by actions or situations. It is therefore, not an exaggeration to say that the right avenue to confront annoyance or misunderstanding is by the use of social skills competence (good communication); the ability to listen, observe and dialogue.
Secondary school teachers play a very important role in the learning progress and development of the society (Alam and Farid, 2011). Elom and Egba (2015) posit that in secondary schools, teachers are incharge in the transmission of knowledge. This institution of learning has a threefold mission: the acquisition of knowledge or research; the transmission of knowledge or teaching and application of knowledge which is commonly service. Therefore, the roles of secondary school teachers involved multiple tasks, responsibilities and expectations as in any other profession, a need for proper planning and scheduling. These can only be obtained when teachers have a stable mind