Wednesday, 19 September 2012

How our emotions affect our relationships

Our emotional state at any particular moment affects our actions, not only in the present but also in the immediate future. An external stimulus that makes us feel angry, disappointed, irritable or extremely frustrated, can give rise to a mood or state of mind that lasts for several hours, days, or even more.

What’s worse is that emotional stress may escalate in intensity, without warning and so quickly that we may feel we are closing control – and sometimes so rapidly we may not even be aware of it. We sometimes refer to this as "the spiral effect". Perhaps an even more appropriate term would be the "one-thing-leads-to-another syndrome."

Before we know it, innocent people are caught in the cross fire. Paradoxically, those who suffer most are often those that are nearest and dearest to us!

Let's lift the veil on an hour in the life of Chaim and Esther, two young people married for all of six months who love each other very much.

One afternoon, Chaim calls Esther to tell her that he will be arriving home earlier than usual. Of course, Esther is pleased, and asks him if she could save her a trip by stopping off at the neighborhood supermarket on the way to pick up a few things. Although she might not be at home when he arrives, she’ll be back soon.

Chaim arrives home with the goods. Esther isn’t back yet. He was pleased to help because he figures Esther must be exhausted after an especially busy day. Then he has a brainwave: why not help even more by cooking some supper? So he takes some noodles and eggs and a few other small items from the bag he’s just brought and begins to cook up a dish he knows Esther is fond of.

The pot on the stove is almost ready when Esther walks through the front door. She ambles over to the stove, opens the pot nervously, and lets out a scream.

"Chaim! Have you gone out of your mind? I needed those noodles for the meal I promised to take to my sick friend tomorrow! And by the way, you know I always buy brown eggs, not white ones! Can't you think for once in your life, you bonehead!"

Chaim, who just two minutes ago was expecting to be showered with praise for his thoughtfulness, is overtaken with a numb feeling. The numbness quickly turns to bewilderment, which in turn converts to anger.

Unfortunately, anger breeds more anger.

Now, let's press the "pause button" for a minute. What would you say I asked you what you think happens next? Most likely, you'd respond that Chaim storms out of the kitchen, leaving a badly burned culinary creation to go up in smoke. And we would have a lovely young couple hardly speaking to each other for several days.

Well, with most couples, you would undoubtedly be right! But Chaim and Esther are very special people.

While his emotions are still reasonably under control, Chaim keeps reminding himself of what he sets out to achieve in the first place. If making things easier for his wife was his first priority, then by definition, that took preference over a wounded pride and a temporary feeling of disquiet! "Look, Esther," he says. "I'm sorry. Let's see what we can do.

What will we achieve by loosing our cool? I'll pop back to the store to get some more noodles, or we can borrow from a neighbor. Perhaps we could..."

And our Esther is a pretty quick thinker. "Chaim, I know you only wanted to help. I'm overtired, I guess. You know what -if we put you concoction in the freezer, I won't have to worry about tomorrow night's supper! And you know, there are some dishes that taster better with white eggs."

Remember: strong negative emotions, if left unchecked, generate still stronger negative emotions. Take a step back! Some folk insist on always being right. But isn't it better to be loved?

Azriel Winnett is the author of How to Build Relationships That Stick – a small book with a big impact!

For more information and to order visit, or contact Azriel at

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