They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But when it comes to assessing a relationship—whether it’s yours or someone else’s—you can do that very thing with surprising accuracy.
While words may convey some of what you mean, body language can paint a much clearer picture of what’s actually going on in a relationship. From the way you stand to the way you kiss to your posture around your partner, your body language tells a story about those feelings you’re not necessarily expressing with words—including how you really feel about your significant other.
Curious whether your relationship is heading towards the point of no return? We’ve rounded up some surefire body language cues courtesy of top experts that signal that your significant other wants out.
Their feet point away from you when you talk.
If you’re worried about the status of your relationship, then look at how your partner sits when the two of you talk. As Jon Rhodes, a clinical hypnotherapist, explains: “If your partner consistently turns their feet and torso away from you when speaking, then they are probably losing interest in you. They may still turn their head towards you to be polite, but their feet and body are saying they want to get away from you.”
They’re biting their lip a lot.
Try as your partner might to cover up their lies, their body language is bound to give them away in the end. And though everyone exhibits nervousness in different ways, body language expert Janine Driver notes that without a doubt, the biting of the lip “says that [your partner] is holding something back.”
They’re crossing their legs.
When you and your partner are having a heated conversation, the last thing you want to see is their legs crossed. Why? According to psychologist Travis Bradberry, this can “signal that a person is mentally, emotionally, and physically closed off”—and those aren’t exactly ideal circumstances when it comes to settling a spousal argument.
They never give you their undivided attention.
Naturally, your significant other is going to look at their phone every now and again—but if you notice that your partner only ever seems to check their notifications when you are talking to them, then you may want to have a serious conversation about where the relationship is going.
“If your partner is always on their cell phone—looking at YouTube, Facebook, or Instagram—they may be more focused on what’s going on there than in the relationship,” explains Katie Ziskind, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist and owner of Wisdom Within Counseling.
Your walking is no longer in sync.
One of the signs of a strong and healthy relationship is synchronized walking. As Patti Wood, a body language expert and author of SNAP: Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language, and Charisma explained to Good Housekeeping: “The goal is for couples to walk with their feet side by side on an invisible line. When this walking pattern is disrupted, it indicates that there is disconnect between the couple.”
Their embraces are less enthusiastic.
Pay attention to the way your partner kisses you and whether those embraces feel any different. “Kissing is an emotional, biological, and physiological boost,” body language expert Tonya Reiman explained to INSIDER, “[and so] if your partner kisses you with less enthusiasm, it’s a red flag.”
And they don’t last very long.
“When a relationship is troubled or there is not that much emotional commitment, we tend to touch only with our fingertips or touch ever so briefly,” writes Joe Navarro, M.A., a body language expert and author of Dating: Body Language Basics. “This is called ‘distal touching’ and is our subconscious way of touching those we dislike or can barely tolerate. When you or your partner begins to touch less or merely with the fingertips, loving sentiments have probably been withdrawn.”
They don’t make eye contact.
“If your partner never makes eye contact with you, there may be an issue there,” explains Ziskind. “When people avoid eye contact, it can mean that they’re lying or are disconnected emotionally.”
They roll their eyes at you.
According to Dr. John Gottman, a leading expert in marital stability, the number one predictor of divorce is contempt, expressed via things like eye rolls, mimicry, and sneering. As soon as you notice contemptuous body language cues seeping into your relationship, make an effort to talk to your partner about what’s bothering them and (hopefully) you can patch up problem areas before it’s too late.
They give you pats on the back.
Though pats on the back are comforting in times of distress, they’re the last thing anyone ever wants from the person who’s supposed to be their romantic partner—and they’re never a good sign, body-language-wise. “If your partner begins to pat you on the back during a hug, it immediately desexualizes it,” Wood told Good Housekeeping. “Let’s face it: You and your partner aren’t just teammates.”
They fake their smiles.
People in happy relationships don’t have to fake their enthusiasm, so seeing your partner with “a smile that doesn’t go all the way up to their eyes” is usually a pretty good indication that something in the partnership is amiss, according to psychotherapist and relationship coach Toni Coleman, LCSW, CMC.
They cross their arms.
“Naturally, when people enter a relationship, they start exposing themselves to the other individual, and opening their stomach area to someone is a growing sign of trust,” explains David Barbour, co-founder of wellness company Vivio Life Sciences. “If someone starts avoiding such intimacy or starts a process of ‘shelling up’ and guarding themselves, it may just be an unconscious reaction to losing feelings—they no longer desire that relationship or intimacy.”
They furrow their eyebrows at you.
Every part of the human body is capable of giving away a person’s innermost irritations, including your eyebrows. As trial lawyer Maria Katrina Karos explained to CNN, the furrowing of the eyebrows “almost always means something negative,” so pay attention to your partner’s brow movements if you’re worried about your future together.
They’re unenthusiastic in the bedroom.
“When your partner becomes unresponsive to sex or avoids sex totally, then this is an obvious sign that your partner is unhappy,” writes Arrey John Arrey, author of The Secret of a Successful Relationship & Marriage. “When there is no sexual connection, it could be as a result of your partner being secretly unhappy.”
They jab their finger in your direction.
“If your husband is bearing his teeth or jabbing his finger at your chest, he may be unconsciously trying to threaten you into submission—even if he doesn’t actually touch you,” Stella Resnick, Ph.D., a psychotherapist and author of The Pleasure Zone: Why We Resist Good Feelings & How to Let Go and Be Happy, explained to Redbook. In these instances, it’s possible that your argument is more than meets the eye, and the fate of your relationship depends on you getting to the bottom of the real issue.
They lean away from you when you’re together.
Emotional closeness is often mirrored by physical closeness, so pay attention to how much space your partner puts between the two of you when you go out to dinner or just relax on the couch. “One posture sign that says the relationship is not going to last is subtle leaning back away from their partner when sitting or standing together,” says Coleman.
They make a lot of gestures with their left hand.
If and when your partner uses their hands to gesture something, pay attention to which hand they use—left or right. Why? As body language expert Jan Hargrave explained to ABC 13: “Too many left-handed gestures are associated with someone being uncomfortable with what they’re saying to you.” Basically, if you notice your spouse start to utilize their left hand more, it’s probably time to start questioning those “late nights at the office.”
Their pupils don’t dilate when they see you.
When you come across someone whom you feel sexually attracted to, your eyes—and more specifically, your dilated pupils—give you away almost instantly. Conversely, it’s easy to tell when a lover is losing interest—just look into their eyes when you kiss, and their pupils will tell you exactly what you want to know.
They touch their neck during conversation.
“Oftentimes, touching the neck or throat indicates that someone is keeping something from another person,” Wood explained to Good Housekeeping. “The throat is the gateway for words, and therefore it’s one of the most vulnerable parts of the body.”
They’re sighing all the time.
Believe it or not, body language cues can also be found in your partner’s voice and intonations. And according to Coleman, one vocal indication that something in the relationship is off is when your partner is adding “non-audible noises like sighs, pauses, and silences that didn’t used to be an issue” into every conversation.
They’re short with you.
When your partner responds to your questions and prompts with short, one-worded answers like “yes,” “no,” and “OK,” this is likely a verbal sign that your relationship is doomed. Of course, it’s possible that your significant other could just be stressed or busy, but if their tone is agitated and aggressive, then it’s safe to assume that you’re the source of their anger—even if you didn’t do anything to deserve it.
They’re pursing their lips a lot.
When you confront your significant other about their alleged whereabouts, pay attention not just to what they say, but what their mouth does while they say it. “[Pursed lips] can indicate extreme anxiety, withholding information, and withholding aggression,” wrote Wood on her blog. “When you are nervous, your mouth becomes dry, and you lick your lips and swallow as you struggle to find the right words to say.”
They’re making an uncomfortable amount of eye contact.
Though a lack of eye contact can signal that a relationship is heading in the wrong direction, so too can too much eye contact. “Since we know looking away will be interpreted as rude, people overcompensate by making too much eye contact, to ensure they aren’t perceived as inhospitable,” body language expert Steven Keyl explained to INSIDER.
Their hands are always in their pockets.
If your partner is using his or her pockets to hide their hands while you converse, then it’s possible (and likely even) that they are hiding something from you. “Liars tend to keep their hands hidden and still,” Wood noted on her blog. “When people are trying to hide their true feeling or the truth they may stick their hands in their pockets, clench them together, or hold them behind their backs.”
Their facial expressions are inappropriate.
Though it’s important for partners to be independent and think for themselves, there are certain instances in which being on the same page is vital to the success of a relationship. “It’s troubling when one person in the relationship doesn’t show the correct emotional response given the situation,” Susan Constantine, human behavioral expert and author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Reading Body Language, told Good Housekeeping. “If your partner is stressed, your face should reflect that. The same goes for any emotion that your partner feels.”
They shy away when you try to touch them.
Most people prefer to express their fondness for their partners via physical contact. Should you start to notice that your partner shies away from your embraces and advances, this might be an unconscious body language cue that the honeymoon phase is long over.
They move their hand away when you try to hold it.
Naturally, not all people enjoy public displays of affection—but if you find that your partner is shying away from holding your hand, even inside the comfort of your own home, then there might be some growing feelings of disdain and resentment there that are worth addressing.
They’re constantly checking the time.
Your significant other should be cherishing every moment they get to spend with you, not glancing at their watch while you talk in the hopes that they’ll soon be able to return to their Netflix binge. It’s when your relationship becomes a nuisance to your partner rather than an enjoyment that you know that there are larger issues at play.
They keep their elbows locked when you embrace.
Where do your partner’s elbows go when the two of you hug? If they tend to stay locked during embraces, then it’s more than likely that your significant other is purposely keeping their arms close to their body so as to make as little contact with you as possible.
They’re physically far away from you.
“The distance an individual keeps between you and them says a lot,” Ali Craig, an international consultant and bestselling author, explained to INSIDER. “People who like each other generally don’t have problems being in close physical proximity to each other. If you dislike someone, however, you are less likely to position yourself very close to them.”
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