It was a bright, sunny Sunday morning and church service had just let out. A visiting pastor was showing off his new motorcycle to a large group from the congregation in the church’s parking lot. 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, wrapped her arms around his waist while grabbing firmly. She rested her head against the upper of his back, while it was evident by the look on her face that she was trying her best to maintain her physical composure. The pastor took the young lady around the church’s block, and wasn’t gone more than three minutes. He returned to the large group, and 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. One of the first questions asked was when did he realize the interaction with the young lady was inappropriate. The pastor said that the moment she touched him; that is, the moment the young lady sat down on the motorcycle and wrapped her arms tightly around his waist, he knew he would pursue an affair with her.
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, however, if not stewarded well, touch can send unintentional and undesired messages to the opposite sex.
Not all communication is verbal.
Many would argue that they can individually control the messages they are sending to the opposite sex.
Unfortunately, they are wrong.
Though we can take every effort to be intentional with how we create our messages, we cannot control how someone is going to interpret those messages. 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 that if not stewarded well, have the potential to lead to marital infidelity.
Here are most important nonverbal communication channels and red flags you should be aware of.
We’ve all flirted with the opposite sex at some point or another.
Catching their eyes is sometimes a game. When one looks up at the suspecting gazer, often times they then immediately look down, only to look up again intentionally to let you know they notice you noticing them. Whether sitting across the room or directly in front of them, maintaining consistent eye contact can arouse our emotions, both relational and sexual.
This can be devastating to marriage 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 innocent topics lead to discussing topics that typically are reserved for spouses, such as feelings and desires.
This type of conversation is exponentially increased when conversation is taken to social media and private chat conversations that provide a false-sense of security.
So what can you do? Monitor your eye gaze. This is something I have had to work on simply with my observation tendencies.
I’m a people watcher. Many of you may be as well. Be careful that your people-watching tendencies aren’t misinterpreted. As a married person, you have a responsibility to mind your eyes.
Job made a covenant with his eyes not to look at a woman lustfully. Similarly, 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, but monitor your gaze.
Simply put, avoid giving the opposite sex the kind of looks you only give to your spouse on date night.
Research has long supported the advantages of touch. Physically, touch can help decrease blood pressure, heart rate and mental stress. Emotionally, touch provides support and encouragement in times of grief, as well as in times of joy. When touch is used improperly or in vain, the individual receiving the touch may interpret it in a manner unintended by the giver.
Leaving your hand on the arm of a colleague or co-worker of the opposite sex for a long period of time during a conversation in your office may communicate emotional or sexual messages that you would never dream of communicating to them intentionally or even verbally.
This may cause you or the person you’re touching to have feelings or desires that are meant exclusively for your spouse. If you’re not the one connecting with the opposite sex through your touch, that certainly does not mean they aren’t connecting with you.
Monitor your touch when talking with the opposite sex. Make mental notes of how often touch accompanies your words. Then, avoid getting into these situations again by all means possible.
Time Spent in Private Text Communication
Text communication provides a false sense of security; a blanket almost, falsely protecting you from damages to your real-world marriage. Time communicates; it can communicate desire, both through emotions and sexual topics.
Consistent text communication with the opposite sex says, “I really enjoy talking with you.” This then is either innocently interpreted or dangerously misinterpreted. It may not take long to begin discussing topics that should only be discussed with your spouse.
You may be able to avoid connecting with someone through text when talking about feelings and desires, but the individual on the other end of that conversation, whether single or married, may not be able to control whether they do or not.
Avoid private text conversations with the opposite sex at all costs. Don’t even go there. Communication like this is a slippery slope. It is very hard to monitor your subtle emotional messages when sending and receiving private texts. It is equally hard to avoid temptation when in the middle of these consistent conversations. When you spend time talking with someone through text privately, it is easy to send mixed signals, whether emotional or sexual.
Finally, check the status of your heart. Yes, that’s right. I’ve heard the argument too often that, “My spouse and I do what’s best for us.” No, with the nature of the human heart, you are evidently doing what’s best for you. Selfishness is why marriages fail, and why divorces often follow that failure.
Consider it a red flag if you are or want to be married, but don’t find it necessary to monitor some or all of your interactions with the opposite sex.
Have an honest conversation with yourself. Check your heart. Whether you are knowingly not monitoring your nonverbal communication with the opposite sex or whether you’re naïve, you are responsible for the words and messages you are sending.
The nonverbal behaviors we receive and send also have the ability to snare the heart and soul of another.
We’ve been wired by our Creator for both verbal and nonverbal communication with others, including the opposite sex. However, as we live in a fallen world, that communication with others cannot be done effectively or appropriately without strategy and intentionality.
To respect your spouse fully, means to respect them with your words, with your actions, face to face and online, until death do you part.
is an assistant professor of communication at Taylor University. His teaching and research efforts are conducted through the lens of social psychology. He focuses primarily on marriage fidelity, relationship development/management, the self, nonverbal communication, persuasion, social influence and social media. He lives in Indiana with his beautiful wife, Stacey.