You say to your spouse, “I want to fix things between us, save our marriage and make it work.”
But your communication skills may be falling short in an unexpected area: what you don’t say, but what your actions may be shouting.
In this blog, you will learn how you could be derailing your own efforts to survive the affair and rebuild your marriage, and how to get your marriage back on track by following 4 guidelines.
Forgotten Avenues for Marriage Communication
Communicating effectively as a couple goes beyond the words that you and your verbalize to each other. Verbal communication is what most people think about when they see or hear the word “communication.”
But a vast range of information is given to others you come into contact with—including your spouse—by an often overlooked piece of the whole communication picture: nonverbal cues. You can express yourself in a myriad of ways without ever uttering a word—and may not realize what message you are expressing.
What does nonverbal communication look like? It’s more than just how you hold your body, or whether or not you choose to cross your arms while speaking. Examples include:
- Eye contact/meaningful looks
- Meaningful actions/help
- Sharing space
- Showing value of others’ needs through deeds
Let’s take a look at the last one listed and apply it to your marriage. How do you and your spouse show value for each other’s needs?
One scenario would be when you’re running late, either coming home from work or meeting your spouse out somewhere. There are two ways you can communicate with your spouse:
1) A phone call
2) No phone call
The first is obviously verbal communication. And the second is nonverbal. You may not realize it, but not calling your spouse is sending a message: I don’t care to share information with you so that you won’t wonder and worry about where I am.
That said a lot, didn’t it? And that’s just one interpretation. Even if you don’t intend that to be your message to your spouse, you can see how it may be interpreted unfavorably, as your being uncaring or out-of-tune with their needs.
Let’s help your marriage with 4 guidelines that can be applied to both verbal and nonverbal communication, but think of them especially in terms of nonverbal.
1) Open: To better understand how to be open in your relationship with your spouse, think of the opposite of openness as being secretive.
For example, when either of you gets a call on your cell phones, do you automatically step outside of the room or house to take the call? This action has the effect of closing out the other spouse. So, the next time you receive a phone call when you’re with your spouse, try sitting still and taking the call in front of your spouse.
2) Honest: Practicing honesty in nonverbal communication can include backing up your words with actions. If your spouse has expressed that he or she wants to spend more time together, and you say you will work harder at this, then a way to express the honesty behind your words is by actually following through and doing what you say.
Plan for time during the week in which you just spend time with your spouse, lingering at the dinner table or watching a television program together.
3) Respectful: In your daily actions with your spouse, being respectful means you value your spouse and his or her needs. Examples of nonverbal communication that does not communicate respect include: rolling of the eyes when your spouse speaks, groaning or making other sounds that are demeaning, and turning your back to your spouse when he or she is speaking to you.
The next time your spouse is speaking to you, police what your body is doing: do you notice any of your own patterns in terms of how you show respect—or disrespect—for your spouse?
4) Consistent: You can maintain strong nonverbal communication ties with your spouse simply by setting the standard—and then doing those actions over and over again.
For example, you can place your hand over your spouse’s and giving full eye contact when she wants to have a meaningful conversation with you, and this gesture shows that you are in-tune and listening. By practicing this nonverbal cue, your spouse will begin to see a pattern that shows you are fully engaged—and you never had to say, “But I’m listening—do you want me to repeat back everything you said?”
These guidelines should be followed by both the cheater and the victim. Share these with your spouse as you work to survive the affair, and give some feedback as to how these guidelines are working for you once you’ve had the opportunity to apply them.
I would like to hear from you about your experiences with non-verbal communication …
Has a cheating spouse’s non-verbal cues been consistent with his or her words?
What non-verbal communication habits would you appreciate seeing from your spouse?
Have you worked on your marriage communication skills, but didn’t realize you may have been derailing your own efforts to help your marriage?
Please share your experiences and thoughts on this topic by leaving a comment below.
Wishing you hope and healing for your marriage,