24/7 Marriage: The Dance: Behavior is a Language 

by JAVIER & SHANNAN LABRADOR, The Marriage Flippers, 24/7 Marriage

As I lay there on my back just barely able to open my eyes, the soundtrack from Dirty Dancing was playing…  “Now I had the time of my life…” I had no idea where I was or why people were calling out my name.

As my eyes fully opened I could not see at first, then slowly my vision returned yet everything was spinning, and I knew what happened was not “the time of my life!”

 A few minutes earlier, I was dancing at a wedding while enjoying a beautiful evening, and the last thing I remember was leaping into the arms of the groom, who in his not so sober state, dropped me straight onto the concrete knocking me unconscious. Yes, I can hear you asking the question, “Why did you jump into the groom’s arms?” I have a great answer… I have no idea! It was an emotional moment of joy and excitement as the last song played, and he was about to begin his new life. My behavior was a language, telling him I love you and can’t wait to see all God has for you in the future. In hindsight, my fifty-year-old self should not have been leaping into the arms of a young man, who had no idea he was supposed to raise me into the air as we reenacted the iconic Dirty Dancing lift! 

Whether we are aware of it or not, our actions, reactions, and interactions are a language that set the direction, tone, and rhythm of our marriage. Behavior is a language. Welcome to the not-so-always beautiful dance of behavior in our marriages.

We tend to think that how we communicate and respond is through our words, yet I would argue that our behavior in marriage is a language that can speak louder than words. Picture this: you come home after a long day at work, and your spouse greets you with a warm smile and a hug. Instantly, your mood lifts, and you feel appreciated and loved. On another day, your spouse barely acknowledges your arrival, and you find yourself feeling neglected and unimportant. These scenarios demonstrate the immense power of behavior in influencing our emotional well-being and marital satisfaction.

In a marriage, every action and reaction, both big and small, send messages to your spouse. I can turn my back on my spouse and, what she “hears” and feels is you’re not important enough for me to stand here and listen. If you spend days ignoring your spouse after an argument and physically removing yourself from their presence, then you are telling them through your behavior, that I will not fight for you, you’re on your own. Silence will kill a marriage. Our behavior communicates love, respect, understanding, and empathy—or, conversely, neglect, frustration, anger, and indifference. So it’s crucial to be mindful of how our behavior impacts our spouse and our marriage as a whole.

In a marriage, behavior being a language is not uncommon.  We can easily fall into negative behavior patterns, where your spouse’s actions trigger negative reactions from you and vice versa.To build a healthier and more fulfilling relationship, we must break free from these destructive behaviors. Here are some ways to do just that: 

  1. Communication is Key: Use your words! 90% of the couples I work with have not talked about the issue they are facing. One of the predictors of a marriage in trouble is a lack of or non-existent communication. If you become silent, then you allow bitterness and resentment to take hold and strangle the life of your marriage.
  2. Practice Empathy: When words are non-existent, look past the problem and see the person.Try to understand their feelings and actions, then move towards them and invite them to open up. You can react to them being closed off or seek to understand and find an open door of connection. 
  3. Celebrate the Good:  If you see your spouse expressing positive behavior and communicating well, celebrate them! Thank your spouse for communicating with you and acknowledge their efforts. 

As I bring this horse into the barn, allow me to address our individual behavior. It’s essential to recognize that individual behavior not only influences marriage but is also shaped by it. Our personal experiences and family of origin have a profound impact on how we interact with our spouses. For instance, if one partner grew up in a household where conflict was avoided at all costs, they may struggle to address issues directly in their marriage.

If you take time to understand the role of individual behavior, it can foster empathy and patience in a marriage. Instead of criticizing our spouse’s actions, we can take a step back and recognize that their behavior is a product of their life experiences. When you do this it will build emotional intimacy, trust, and vulnerability. Or, you can stonewall, criticize, fold your arms, and walk away. What will you choose? 

Remember, that every day presents an opportunity to strengthen your marriage. Just like when dancing, your actions can be in step with your spouse, or your behaviors can leave you laying on your back wondering what happened. Behavior is a language, and I hope you enter into a beautiful dance of healthy behaviors that leave you saying “I had the time of my life!” Happy dancing!


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