Why noticing nonverbal communication is vital for relationship health

We all know that the words we use are powerful in how they affect others. Even if we sometimes do this poorly, in the heat of the moment, often we at least have an awareness that it wasn't ideal (even if we feel justified in using hurtful words!). However, we often miss completely the powerful affect that our nonverbal communication has on those we love the most - for good and bad. Picture this - your partner gets home and tries to give you a kiss and a cuddle. You pull away because you've spent the day with your little ones, and you're suffering from 'touch fatigue' after small children have used your body as a jungle gym all day! Your partner says nothing; you notice later that he's very quiet. When you ask him what's wrong, it's hard for him to tell you that even though he understands you're 'touched out', he is still feeling the pain of that moment where you pulled away. It's important not to under-estimate how important these moments are. Without a word being spoken, a partner may start to doubt that their mate loves them any more, or cares about their needs. Even if an apology is given later, it will always be important to repair these moments not just with words, but in the way we connect nonverbally - a touch, a smile, a cuddle. It will also be important to negotiate how you do the situation differently in future. For example, next time your partner arrives home you may say "I'm just so over being touched right now - our kids just really needed lots of hugs today!" Think about how different it may be to say these words with a smile on your face, and with a gentle tone of voice, compared with saying them while avoiding eye contact, or in an annoyed tone. Understanding and responding to each other's nonverbal expressions of needs for connection is NOT the same as having to do something you don't want to do. The way we move, the tone of our voice, our facial expression and more can provide our loved ones with a sense we care about them, even when we are unable to do more due to the other demands on our time and energy.

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