Tune into body language
Is your spouse making direct eye contact or avoiding your gaze? In general, a person who looks you directly in the eye is assumed to be forthright and truthful. On the other hand, a person who averts his eyes may not want you to know what he's thinking.
You can glean similar information by observing the way your partner's body reacts when you ask him a question. Is his body position relaxed and open, or tense and withdrawn?
In general, a person who maintains a relaxed, open bearing when you ask a direct question tends to be forthright and truthful. On the other hand, a person whose body suddenly becomes rigid may be concealing something.
Look for signs of nervousness or tension
If you notice that your spouse is anxious in the course of conversation, note this as a possible clue that some thought or feeling is not being verbally expressed. Uncharacteristic silence or talkativeness may be another sign.
The rules of interpreting body language and other non-verbal clues are well-known to salespeople and others who are skilled in the art of persuasion. A good sales agent, for example, may be able to look you directly in the eye while telling a baldfaced lie. He or she may also be practiced in maintaining a calm demeanor and conjuring up sincere-sounding laughter at will.
On the other hand, the non-verbal communications of some scrupulously honest people may give the mistaken impression that they're trying to deceive you. That's why it's wise not to draw any firm conclusion from any single clue. Instead, incorporate each non-verbal clue into the total picture of what your partner is communicating.
Double-check the meaning of gestures
Every gesture is a communication of some kind. But when each spouse assigns different meanings to the same gesture, it can cause friction in the relationship.
For example, a wife may call her husband at work twice a day because she wants to feel connected. However, the husband can interpret this gesture in a very different way. He may feel that his partner is checking up on him or trying to smother him.
You can easily misinterpret the meaning of a particular signal. Avoid such mistakes by taking the following steps:
- If you're at all unsure, ask your partner to explain her nonverbal communication.
- After you identify the emotion that provoked the gesture, work at addressing it.
Excerpted from Making Marriage Work For Dummies™, published by Wiley Publishing Inc.
For more information on "Making Marriage Work For Dummies®", or other books, visit Dummies.com.