“And they lived happily ever after”…but what happens between now and the “ever after” part? The story books don’t speak of the trials marriages have to endure in real life. They do not show us what happens between the panels of smiles and song.

The truth is, marital communication can sometimes be trying. We don’t always see eye to eye. We don’t always agree. What’s worse, we sometimes do not even communicate our dissatisfaction. Sometimes we just walk away feeling upset. These actions lead to a void in productive communication. One partner may be silent in their anger, wondering why the other is just sitting there like everything is hunky dory. Meanwhile, one partner is wondering why the other is acting so strange. When these situations arise, it is time to read between the lines.

Body language is a big part of communication. It is sometimes easier to convey emotions through body language than to use actual words. For example; if you surprise your spouse with a sentimental gift, they may just look at you, smile, and then cry. You know you have just made that person very, very happy. No words were needed.

If it is so easy during times like these to decipher what the other is “saying”, then why is it so difficult to understand during a disagreement? The truth is, it isn’t. Our minds are not inherently looking for the bad, or may not easily accept that what we have done is unacceptable to our spouse. It is a form of not admitting we are wrong because no one has directly asked us to. It is actually a form of denial. This is not to say that what was done – or not done – was wrong. It only means it has in some way offended your spouse. Maybe it was a lack of sensitivity, or forgetting an anniversary. Sometimes it is saying something during a visit with friends that offended your spouse, or giving an opinion in public that contradicts an opinion given in private. These can all lead to a spouse being silently offended, upset, or downright mad.

Paying attention to your spouse’s body language will help to “hear” what they are telling you. This concept should be employed at all times. If you are suddenly receiving the silent treatment, maybe you should be the one to approach your spouse on the matter. Be understanding of your spouse’s feelings. Respect the fact that they are holding in their emotions. Be patient with him/her. Help your spouse to constructively convey their feelings. They may lash out at first, depending on the situation. This is where the patience comes in. Try to let your partner see that you genuinely want to find out what happened, and are willing to work through it in a positive manner. Sometimes the fact that you even noticed to begin with is enough to quell a majority of the problem right from the start.

If you are the spouse giving the other the silent treatment, remember, your husband or wife loves you or they would not have chosen to spend their life with you. Give him/her the befit of not being a psychic. Depending on the body language, situation, or the time of day, it may not be as obvious to your partner as you may think. Sometimes it’s better to just get it off your chest. Just keep in mind that just because you have been going over it again and again in your mind, that they have any idea you are even upset. You are married, but you each have your own thoughts. No matter how in tune you both are, you do not share the same mind. Things can be overlooked or forgotten sometimes. Try to have patience and understanding with your spouse when bringing what is upsetting you to your spouse. They may be more receptive than you think.

Dan Exner, J.D.

Family Law Attorney

lexis-nexis-image lawyers-image justia-image hg-image findlaw-image avvo-image