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4 Vital Ways Your Friends Make You a Better Spouse

4 Vital Ways Your Friends Make You a Better Spouse

You’ve seen them. The couple who, in the midst of a busy restaurant, are oblivious to life around them. Staring at each other, gooey-eyed and grossing people out at surrounding tables. It can be endearing. They’re in the ‘getting to know all about you’ phase. Right now, they don’t need anyone else in the world, but it won’t stay that way. Or, at least, it shouldn’t, if they want their relationship to thrive.

Don’t tell them, but they actually need other people for the long term health of their couplehood. They need their friends. Here’s why.

1. You Have Different Points of View

Men and women don’t communicate alike. Or for the same purpose. The early, gooey-eyed phase is a case in point. At the start of a relationship, the man is on a recon mission. He’s gathering info about a woman in order to know how to ‘do life’ with her. Once he has enough info, the mission is done. No further deep and focused talk is required. That phase is over. He is now ready to move on to the next phase: Doing life.

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The woman experiences the gooey-eyed phase entirely differently. What the woman is thinking: “I’ve finally found a man who will talk with me. It must be love!” And, trouble can begin just as fast. The trouble is, he is finished with that intense level and type of communication just when she is starting to think she can count on it.

Ladies, I know you want him to, but he probably doesn’t need to talk through life events the way you do. He’s Mr. Fix It, not Mr. Discuss It. Men, she doesn’t want you to fix it. She just wants you to listen to her and, where appropriate, discuss it with her.

If we are going to celebrate our differences – and accept them – this truth needs to be heeded: You each need people of your same gender to talk to. Ladies, you need girlfriends to unload the bulk of your talk on. Your man, likely, has a threshold much lower than your needs. Gentlemen, you need other men to bond with. And, likely, the bond won’t be formed around the words you share. (But you knew that without me having to say it, didn’t you?)

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2. You Need a Second Opinion

Life isn’t Leave It to Beaver. No one grows up perfectly. Our ideas of how life works and why our spouses do what they do could be based on bad examples. This means we need another perspective on, well, everything. You will not always be able to see how you’ve contributed to a conflict. But a good friend will.

Maturing means learning to see for yourself where you’re off the straight and narrow, but the learning process can be slow. Often, our straight lines look more like Celtic knots when we start in a relationship. We need trusted friends (who are unlikely to be perceived as a threat to our marriage, by the way) who know where our line is crooked. And, they need to be bold enough to let us know when we’re messing it up.

3. You Can’t Vent To Your Spouse About Them

This one is for everybody. If you’ve ever been in a relationship with a person who doesn’t have anyone to talk to but you, then you’ve heard it. Venting is healthy, to some degree. Unloading emotions in words instead of action can be a far better choice. For example, “I’ll scoop his heart out with a spoon!”, is better said than done.

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But if you’re the only person your spouse confides in then, eventually, they will vent about you. To you. And you won’t like it. Neither do they I’ll bet you can’t listen to how much you’ve put them through for long without buying into it on some level. Or resenting it deeply. Even if you know they’re only venting.

Personally, I have some awesome girlfriends and one incredibly wise mentor who can hear me vent just about anything without passing judgement on me. I’m grateful to have people who understand that arguments are rarely one sided. If your friends are quick to condemn your spouse when you vent, they’re not being friendly. They’re being destructive.

Your relationship is a part of the structure of your life. You want friends who will help shore it up, not be a part of the demolition crew. (Please don’t take this too far. There is such a thing as an unsafe relationship that needs to end or undergo massive change. That’s not what I’m talking about here.).

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4. Everything Does Come to an End Eventually

No one likes thinking about death (of a person or relationship), especially in the middle of life. But the reality is, the two of you are unlikely to pass away on the same day. Plus, we live in a climate of divorce and a culture that practically promotes it. If your partner has been your only true friend in a long life, how would you feel if they passed away before you? You would have two major things to mourn at once. Obviously, you’d mourn your lost partner. But you’d also be in mourning for intimacy and human connection.

Being known by others is a legitimate need. Not only would a true friend or two help you deal with the pain of loss, they would also be able to share the memories that made your partner worth mourning. Divorce would be even worse. The tearing apart that happens to people who divorce can be incredibly painful. Good friends will help you talk through your struggles. Incredible friends will keep you so busy that you can’t even think about them.

These are all compelling reasons to cultivate deep friendships outside your relationship. But will you do it? You’re busy with work. You’re focused on your kids. You want to spend your limited free time on your marriage. And, yes, making new friendships or improving old ones takes effort. But it’s nothing compared to the effort of going through any kind of crisis with only your spouse in your corner.

He or she is only one person and an imperfect one, at that. Sorting through the wrong lessons both of you learned growing up, having only each other to vent to and facing life’s challenges with only one person to help carry the burden is a recipe for disaster. Doing life is simply too big a burden for a couple to carry on their own. If comfort is what you’re going for, you need friends to carry some of the load.

Fill your life with, not only your spouse, but with good friends who will build your relationship up to a level that your grand kids will tell their kids about.

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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