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Unspoken communication – a raised eyebrow, a folding of the arms across the chest, a hand on the shoulder, an e-mail — has the potential to be as powerful as words. It can help build your marriage – or chip away at it.
Communicating without talking can be tricky. You may not always realise what you’re “saying”. And your silent messages may contradict your spoken ones, confusing your spouse.
It’s no wonder why some wives begin to question their husband’s behaviour early in their marriages. “Why does my husband say one thing and act totally different?” Some husbands, on the other hand, ask, “If she’s really attracted to me as she used to be, why does she act like a cold potato every time I approach her?”
The unspoken can be very difficult to interpret properly. Nevertheless, non-verbal communication has its positive side. To help you and your spouse make the most of those silent messages, here are some principles to remember:
1. Go low-tech when possible
When it comes to communicating with your spouse, don’t try to send important messages or work out sensitive issues over the phone or via e-mail. When you read an e-mail or listen on the phone, you’re not getting the whole message. You can’t interpret facial expressions, maintain eye contact, or sense warmth or genuineness. If intimate, relationship-building conversation is needed, have it face-to-face.
2. Don’t be “all talk”
Actions do speak louder than words. You can tell a hungry man you care about him and wish him well, but if you don’t demonstrate your compassion, the words are useless. The same is true for your spouse. Ask yourself whether the messages you’ve been sending your spouse lately have been through your actions – or the lack thereof.
3. Don’t rely on silence to send a message
Silence can be one of the loudest forms of communication, but it’s easily misinterpreted. What does it tend to say in your marriage?
“I don’t want to fight”?
“I’d rather not say anything that could stir up trouble”?
“Don’t bother me”?, or
“I don’t care what you think or what you need from me”?
The trouble with silence is that your spouse may “fill in the blanks” with answers that aren’t correct. Learning to communicate what you feel will help your spouse know what’s in your heart – instead of encouraging him or her to take your silence and assume the worst.
More on emotional intelligence in marriage and how to communicate better with your spouse on the next page.