Why Speak When Signs Will Do?

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My husband may never admit it, but a subtle kick to his shin was just the thing he needed. Instead of taking the hint to change the subject with our friends, however, he spun around toward me and yelped, “Ouch! What?” So much for nonverbal communication. Our miscommunication had turned distinctly verbal.


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Like anything else in marriage, it takes time to establish a connection outside of conversation. From the day we met, my husband and I practiced nonverbal communication, but with little accuracy. The following thoughts exemplify our early years together when we didn’t use words but should have.


Me (looking into his eyes, smiling): This is the perfect movie for Valentine’s Day.

Him (looking into my eyes, smiling): This is fantastic popcorn.

Me (looking sideways at him, head cocked, biting lip): Why isn’t he holding my hand?

Him (looking ahead, smiling): I wonder if this is real butter.

Me (looking ahead, not smiling): He can’t still be mad about what I said earlier.

Him (looking ahead, smiling): I’m almost positive this is real butter.

Me (shifting to the side and facing away): I cannot believe how he can hold a grudge.

Him (noticing the back of my head): Is she wearing my baseball cap?


Thankfully, we’ve learned from our misunderstandings. Now an expert at his body language, I can determine in less than three seconds whether he’s winning an epic pingpong match. And after years of practice, he can spot a silent treatment from 50 yards away. I recognize the crossed arms/imperceptible sigh/forced smile combination as the unmistakable cue to let him finish what he’s doing. And he appreciates my uncontrollable laughter as the ultimate clue that we are on the same page.


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These days my husband boasts that he can read me like a comic book, which is true, because the other day when I kicked him under the table yet again, he knew exactly what I meant. And the threatening look he returned was obvious to me as well. Keeping it nonverbal, I smiled and couldn’t help but think, Isn’t intimacy sweet?


Kim Washburn practices the subtle art of silent communication with her husband in Colorado Springs, Colo.



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