emotions in relationships

Four Worlds Part 2: Exploring the Emotional Landscape

This post is the second in a four-part series. The first installment looked at the life and health of a relationship through the lens of the Physical Realm, focusing on the concrete, practical, and specific aspects of our body, home, car, work, money, etc. Today, we’re approaching relationships through the lens of emotion.

After facilitating our Growing in Love couples retreat this weekend in Denver, CO, I realized that many couples are asking for guidance with the Emotional Realm. We all have a great capacity for feeling and understanding emotions, and learning to honor and work with our own and our partner’s emotional process is a very rewarding aspect of being in relationship. Throughout my years of coaching, I’ve found that there are a few practical skills and concepts that can be tremendously helpful when it comes to navigating the sometimes mysterious-seeming territory of the Emotional Realm.

Here are a simple recipe for developing more emotional intelligence, which I call HeartSmarts™. You may want to print this out and hang it in a spot where you’ll see it often!


Meet Your Emotions

  1. Be aware of your body. Emotions express themselves in the physical body, so scan your body regularly to get to know yourself in the emotional realm. “Body scanning” simply means bringing your attention to what’s going on in your body. Start by noticing your breathing. As you slow down, you can become aware of any discomfort or compelling/intense energy that you feel. Accept what you notice, not as a problem, but as a gift in self-awareness.

  2. Name the feeling. Measure the intensity on a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is most intense. Experience the feeling—let yourself feel it; explore it; interact with what is going on inside; learn to listen to your inner voice, concerns, and knowing.

  3. Ask yourself: What do I need to gain closure to what is being experienced? Take action to resolve the issue that is bothering you in ways that build your relationship (with yourself or others). Ask for support if you desire, from your partner or another skilled person.

  4. Learn to clean out your lifelong storehouse of unresolved emotions. Often, this is best done with the help of a counselor, coach or mentor. Schedule a consultation with Jim or Ruth Sharon to find out how coaching can help with you with this process.

  5. Keep your inner world clean, clear, sacred and whole, with daily practices (ask Ruth or Jim Sharon for practices specifically tailored for your situation and needs).

Basic Emotions in Relationships

As a relationship coach, I often see couples who are seeking help with working together to  process the emotions that arise in day to day life. The good news is, with practice, anyone can develop their understanding and skill in the Emotional Realm.

Think of a crayon box or paint palette with the primary colors alongside the rainbow of hues that come from different combinations of a few basics. Emotions are much like that. Each main, primary feeling can have many variations and combinations, which can make decoding quite challenging. Start with the Primary Feelings to gain access to your secret inner world.

Primary Feelings are observable through our body language, tension and health patterns, words, tone, and behaviors. Did you know you have a storehouse of old feelings and unresolved situations? All your history is stored in your body and brain. So when something similar happens, your old feelings are usually triggered.

Getting to know yourself and your partner in the Emotional Realm helps you feel so connected, close, and motivated to build trust and safety. Listen to the feeling tone of yourself and your partner. Pay attention to the breathing, posture, tone and words. Practice accessing your inner wisdom and sensing system so you can detect your and your partner’s feelings.


Primary colors of feelings can be measured on a 1 to 10 scale. Let’s learn about MAD, SAD, SCARED, and GLAD.

MAD is the most obvious and most threatening of all the feelings, because it can be loud, scary, out of control, like a fire. You know that you can use fire to simmer food, build a campfire, or burn down the house or village. Anger can also be helpful, because it shows you what is bothering you. You can make efforts to correct the problem or injustice when you harness the fire of anger and use it for positive change and effective communication.

A little MAD (1-3) may pop up when you are annoyed, frustrated, dismissed. You may have more MAD (4-7) when you have a repeated situation that is unresolved and keeps appearing. You may get aggravated by others’ poor behavior, by injustices, etc. When you can’t take it anymore and you are at maximum saturation of MAD, you explode (8-10). This can relieve you temporarily (until you load up again and blow). The problem is, you may have left a trail of messes behind you to clean up or put in the pile of other unresolved old or current stuff. MAD can be cumulative and reflects as annoyance, irritation, sharp comments, physical energy that can help or harm, resentment, resignation, and depression.

SAD is a watery emotion, as you notice in tears and feeling welled up (a lump in your throat or fullness in your heart like the dam may burst). It can be heavy, as in feeling weighed down. SAD shows you what is missing, what hurts, what needs aren’t getting met, as well as grieving a real or perceived loss. You can feel sad about specific events or very general sweeps of your life. When you have an ideal of what you want and you see what is actually happening, your sadness may be triggered. The gap between ideal and real can be heartbreaking. Many of you have experienced difficult or traumatic situations and have much deep sadness stored in your nervous system. Give expression to what is going on. Speak, write, draw, dance, walk, sing, pray so the energy of sadness can be healed and transformed into healing compassion for others.

FEAR is a shaky feeling, where you feel insecure, scared, worried, anxious. Your gut may be tight, your jaw clenched or your brow furrowed. The fear may be hidden deep inside or can be experienced as unshakeable worry, guilt, or shame.

Panic attacks, phobias, and obsessive-compulsive behaviors can be so debilitating. But fear also show you your cutting edge. When you take on something new (in your relationship, work, life circumstances), resistance often will show up. What obstacles are in your way of manifesting what you want? Engage with your fear to find out what is going on. Be curious. Ask open ended questions of yourself and your partner.

Be the CUP to support yourself or partner. When you are scared, give extra compassion and comfort. Create as much safety as you can so your nervous system can calm down. Stress reactions of FIght-Flight-Freeze-Faint can block thinking clearly and planning for what is calling you to take action. Fear and excitement are related, so try to harvest the titillation of something new happening to spur you into expressing your fears, building safety under you, then taking action with support.

GLAD is the feeling of relief, release, resolve. It can experienced as delight, calm, peace, freedom, celebration, gratitude, accomplishment and humility. Going on vacation, getting a raise, starting a new business, buying a new home, having a baby, having a party, giving or receiving a gift, making love, enjoying a delicious meal, having a touching moment with someone dear or a stranger can all evoke the feeling of happiness and joy.

What is on your list?

I have noticed that when you connect with yourself and with your partner, the opening to Love is palpable. When the Love Field is established and growing, much joy can erupt!

Notice what happens when you focus on the Emotional realm daily. Journal your observations and findings, talk to your partner, your friends, or your family members about your learnings.

We’d also love to hear what you discover! Please leave us your comments here or on our Facebook page.

Stay tuned for #3 in this four-part series, which will address the MENTAL REALM. Then, #4 will be on the SPIRITUAL REALM as it connects to the relationship journey

All the best,

Your Relationship Coach,
Ruth Sharon, M.S.
Coach for Soulful Couples


Ruth Sharon is a relationship coach, Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT). Her passion is facilitating couples to enhance the vitality of their relationship and make healthy lifestyle choices. Ruth shares her wisdom, compassion and humor with individuals, couples, families, and groups. Ruth and her husband, who have been married since 1970, co-authored Secrets of a Soulful Marriage: Creating and Sustaining a Loving, Sacred Relationship, SkyLight Paths Publishing, 2014. They are delighted to offer coaching for couples and singles, in person and virtually, as well as transformative couples’ retreats, seminars and online courses.