How Journaling Can Supercharge Your Love Life
Written By: Matt Mignona
Writing helps us clarify our opinions, feelings, and goals. It can help us make sense of complicated situations and keep us accountable to our to-do lists and long-term vision.
Career goals and situations aren't the only ones worth clarifying—emotive journaling can actually have a positive impact on your relationship.
What is Emotive Journaling?
Basically, it's writing about your feelings; specifically, in this case, it's writing your feelings about your relationship.
However, it's not like sixth grade, where emotive journaling meant writing, "I (heart) _____" over and over again. You can go much deeper than that, exploring what it means to be a good partner, how certain behaviors (yours or theirs) make you feel, what attracted you to your partner, and so much more.
What Gets in the Way of a Healthy Relationship?
If you're alive, you're in more than one relationship, and relationships can get complicated whether they're between spouses, siblings, friends, parents and children, co-workers, or anyone else. No matter how long you've known someone or how much you love that person, you'll make mistakes from time to time. We all have moments within our relationships that we're not proud of—and we all have moments when we feel hurt.
This Psychology Today article discusses anxiety as the biggest problem in relationships and points to one partner's need for space while another partner has a need for closeness. They each get anxious when the other strives to fill his or her individual need. Healing that anxiety starts with communication: clarity about what each partner needs, alternatives for those needs if they can't be provided as desired as a reassurance of their mutual love and affection, and a plan for how to move forward.
This article lists several factors that can cause problems in a relationship, including:
- Affairs, cheating, and jealousy
- Sexual incompatibility
- Differences in religious beliefs or core values
- One-sidedness in regard to responsibilities (chores, finances, children, etc)
- Manipulation and abuse
- Unrealistic expectations
- Growing apart
Of course, some relationships aren't worth strengthening. If it's an abusive or manipulative situation, or if a partner is jealous and controlling, it's best to get out. However, many relationship issues start small and grow over time because they get overlooked in those early stages. Issues of expectations, responsibility, communication, and even differences in core values and how you can honor each other's beliefs while honoring your own may be overcome when addressed early, honestly, and with the intention of building a stronger union.
Naturally, both partners have to be willing to communicate and work on the relationship, but all you can do is your part. That may start with journaling to get a better sense of what's truly important to you, when and why you feel bothered by your partner's behavior (and whether that may in part because of how you're interpreting his or her action and inaction), and your own behavior and role within the relationship.
How Can Emotive Journaling Improve Your Love Life?
This study demonstrated the power of writing about your relationship on a daily basis. Dating couples who took time to write their feelings about the relationship were more likely to be dating three months later than couples who wrote about their daily activities. The feelings-writing couples also were more likely to use feeling words in their communications with each other.
This is promising for all of us, no matter what type of relationship we find ourselves in. Something as simple as writing about it may improve your connection with the people you love most.
Where to begin? Your journal is your own: there's nothing it has to look like. You might write a couple of sentences or a couple of pages. The important thing is simply to get those feelings down on paper. Take a look at this list of relationship journaling prompts, or try some of these:
- What was the highlight of your relationship today?
- What loving thing did your partner do for you today, and how did it make you feel?
- What did you do for your partner today?
- What are you most grateful for in your relationship?
- What could you have done differently in your last argument?
- When do you feel most loved?
- Do you want to have children, and why?
- What's your approach to parenting?
- How do you like to show your affection?
- What are your happiest memories with your partner?
- What do you most look forward to with your partner?
- What do you love doing together?
- How does your partner best support you, and how can you best support him/her?
Although "relationship goals" are more often seen as a hashtag rather than a legitimate focus in your life, you can absolutely set goals for your relationship without turning it into some kind of science experiment. However, those goals shouldn't be so much about the outcome—after all, the relationship requires input and commitment from both of you, and you can only control your own actions—but about your role in it and how you want to contribute. Your partner's reactions to that don't need to be classified as good or bad; instead, you have the space to consider whether his or her reactions and behaviors are what you truly want in a partner.
In your daily journaling, you might include your responses to some of the above prompts as well as something you'd like to do that day in love or support of your partner. It could be as simple as doing a chore for your partner, leaving a note, or making a point to say, "I love you." You might set a goal to read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman to better understand how you communicate love and how that might be different from the way your partner communicates it.
It might be a commitment to set a time to discuss household responsibilities and how to divide them so that you both feel like you're contributing without feeling overwhelmed. It might be an appointment with a therapist to help you work through any issues you might be experiencing.
We're in relationships because we care about the people, so it makes sense to try journaling as a tool to help you promote the health and longevity of your relationships. If it can help you move past challenges, know your worth as an individual and within the relationship, and understand each other, it's a worthwhile endeavor—and it only takes a few minutes of your day.
Download our Quick Start Guide to help you get started with your journaling, and set the intention of developing a daily journaling habit to improve your relationship as well as other areas of your life.