Even when we’re not speaking, we’re communicating, and our spouses are trying to read the messages sent, but it can be difficult.
Nonverbal communication can make up as much as 93% of message meaning, and sometimes this kind of communication can seem to contradict.
For example, returning to John and Mary, what if John one night says he’s open to sex, but is then unresponsive in bed? Without direct verbal communication, Mary might think that John isn’t really into it.
When there’s a conflict between verbal and nonverbal communication, we are more likely to believe the nonverbal cues rather than the words of the other person.
We might be tempted to stop talking altogether, and communicate strictly by body language, but there is some risk in this. While we don’t always want to speak what’s on our minds, depending on body language alone to express what we want or need sexually means we might be misunderstood.
Without Mary checking in verbally by saying, “John, I’m confused. Do you really want to have sex tonight? You don’t seem to want to’, John might assume that he is letting Mary know what he wants.
So, we should keep talking, especially when talking is hard to do.
The following are again some excerpts (edited for an LDS audience) from Exploring the Dimensions of Human Sexuality that seemed helpful in this regard. [i]
“There are many forms of nonverbal communication. Segal (2008) listed eye contact, facial expression, tone of voice, posture, touch, intensity, timing and pace, and sounds that convey understanding (such as “ahhh,” “ummm,” and “ohhh”) as the most important nonverbal clues.
Probably, three of the most important forms of nonverbal communication are proximity, eye contact, and touching.
…proximity is nearness…leaning in the direction of the speaker if…interested. Most often…proximity refers to face to face distances between people…moving closer indicates increased interest or intimacy and moving farther away indicates the opposite.
Making eye contact…shows interest. This can be true when one is simply listening with another person; however, making eye contact with another person for a little longer than usual can also be a signal of interest…
Touching can be very important in a relationship, and it can show interest, intimacy, and emotional closeness. It can range from a slight touch to show concern or connection to the intimacy touching associated with sexual relationships…
Van Wagner (2009) provides some nonverbal communication tips…
1 Pay attention to nonverbal signals.
2. Look for incongruent behaviors. When words don’t match up with nonverbal signals…people tend to ignore what is said and focus instead on nonverbal expressions of moods, thoughts and emotions.
3. Use good eye contact.
4. Ask questions about nonverbal signals.
5. Be aware that signals can be misread.
“Marriage requires adjustment, as do all relationships. Skills and attitudes that can aid adjustment include a loving relationship, communication, common goals, sacrifice, repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation, and confidentiality.”[ii]
Join us next time as we discuss techniques to improve sexual communication