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Nonverbal Behavior That May Damage Your Marriage

It was a bright, sunny Sunday morning and church service had just let out, and a married east-coast pastor was showing off his brand-spanking new motorcycle to a large group from his congregation. He rode around in circles, demonstrating its wide range of motion, and revved the engine to show off its power. A young lady in the crowd requested a ride. Without hesitation, the young pastor agreed. She hopped on the passenger seat directly behind him, wrapping her arms tightly around his waist. She rested her head against his upper back. The pastor took the young lady around the church’s block, not gone more than two minutes. When he returned, the young lady hopped off. A few months later it was revealed they had had an affair together.

The pastor opened up about the affair shortly after, disclosing much of it to his closest friends and colleagues. They were interested in knowing many things, including when he thought their interaction became risky. The pastor indicated that the moment she hopped on his motorcycle that one afternoon in the church’s parking lot, wrapping her arms tightly around his waist, laying her head on his back, he immediately felt a relational connection.

A moment of touch ended in devastation for this pastor’s marriage and this young lady’s reputation. Touch is not in and of itself evil, for as we know, babies need touch to grow and many men and women receive love and affirmation through physical touch. Though touching someone, or being touched, obviously does not guarantee an extramarital affair will occur, touch can send unintentional and often times undesired messages to the opposite sex.

Not all communication is verbal. In fact, a whopping 93 percent of our communication is sent and received nonverbally. Only 7 percent of communication is verbal. Many who are married would argue that they individually can fully control the communication messages they are sending to the opposite sex. Unfortunately, they’re wrong.

Though we can take every effort to be intentional with how we create our messages, we cannot control how someone is going to fully interpret those messages. The nuances in our nonverbals are often ambiguous, including micro-expressions in our faces (e.g. lips, cheeks, eyebrows), and kinesics (body movement, hand/head gestures) that often are exhibited without our control.

Just as touch bridged the gap for infidelity to poke its nasty head in the case of the pastor and young lady, there are countless other nonverbal factors, more than we can cover in this article, that if not stewarded well, have the potential to lead to marital infidelity (quick note for eventual comment critics: not monitoring these nonverbals certainly does not guarantee infidelity, yet it opens the door of possibility). In this article, we’ll cover three of the most important nonverbal behaviors you should be aware of.

Eye-contact

Our physical bodies are wired to communicate. Take our eyes for example. Unlike most animals that lack explicit white sclera (some with none at all), encouraging them to blend in with their surroundings to avoid being spotted by predators or prey, humans have a large amount of sclera around the pupil. It communicates: open for business! When it’s not visible to others, our communication is obviously closed, but when it’s open, business is booming.

Many of you caught the attention of your present spouse with eye contact. Catching their eye felt almost like a game of sorts. When they looked up at you, making eye contact, they may have immediately looked down in apparent embarrassment, only to look up again intentionally to let you know they noticed you noticing them. Whether sitting across the room or directly in front of them, maintaining consistent eye contact with them may have aroused your curiosity. However, this same curiosity you once used to attract your spouse with your eyes, often can be used, whether consciously or unconsciously, in contrast to your marital relationship; often times to the appeal of emotional and/or sexual attraction with someone other than your spouse.

 

Research shows this can be devastating to marriages when eye contact is used to achieve these ends. When manipulated, consistent eye contact with someone of the opposite sex other than a spouse may encourage an invite to chat. Once the two are together in a conversation, topics may begin innocently, which once again, in and of itself is not immoral, but often times topics that may seem innocent in nature may lead to more intimate conversations about feelings and desires. Research suggests that these intimacies in conversations are more likely to occur when individuals take their emotional and/or sexual attraction to social media; private text chatting capabilities provide a false sense that their digital interaction is not subject to real-world marital consequences, which encourages self-disclosure that may lead to extramarital activity.

So what can you do? Monitor your eye-gaze. This is something I have had to work on simply with my observational tendencies. I’m a people watcher. Many of you may be as well. Be careful though that your people-watching tendencies aren’t misinterpreted. As a married man or woman, though it takes time, you can train your eyes to avoid unnecessary eye contact with the opposite sex that may be on the prowl. Eye contact is important when carrying on everyday conversations, and this article is not suggesting you go out and purchase horse-blinders, but monitor your eye-gaze to avoid giving to the opposite sex the kind of eye gaze you only give to your spouse on date night.

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