How Body Language Can Sabotage Your Relationship

Being able to read and understand body language is a skill many would love to have (it’s like reading someone’s mind in a sense — so cool). However, sometimes what body language says is more negative than positive. For example, there are ways your body language is sabotaging your relationship that you might not even be aware of. The little things you do what your body may be subtly pushing you and your partner away from each other. Here, let’s talk about some of the things we do with our bodies that might be detrimental to our relationships.

Let’s say your partner has been getting on your nerves big time lately because they’re dodging meeting your parents, for example. Rather than telling him or her why you’re really annoyed, you decide to bottle it in. Now, suddenly every little thing they do is bugging you — from them forgetting to call you before bed one night to them leaving toothpaste in the sink at your place. Suddenly you notice everything they say leaves you rolling your eyes, too. When they’re in your presence, you’re now always standing with your arms crossed. Your body is speaking to them through these actions, letting off that you’re displeased without you even intending on saying it out loud. These body language cues can be slowly sabotaging your relationship, as we’ll see in this article, and could be avoided completely by addressing the actual issue at hand, rather than letting it build up. Here are 11 ways your body language is sabotaging your relationship, according to experts.

1. You Tend To Roll Your Eyes At Your Partner

Some of us roll our eyes without even realizing we’re doing it (ahem — me). However, it could be sending the wrong message when we do it often, especially to our partner. CNN spoke to executive coach Steve Watts who said, “Eye rolling is one of the nonverbal signs that is pretty much always aggressive.” According to the outlet, by rolling your eyes you can possibly be showing the person you’re speaking to — in this case your partner — that you don’t like that much or don’t respect them.

2. You’re Smirking A Little Too Much

Vanessa Van Edwards, behavioral investigator, founder of, and instructor, provided me with some background on body language via email, and cites smirking as something that could play against our relationships. “One of the most dangerous body language expressions is the smirk—a one-sided mouth raise,” Van Edwards explains.

“Dr. John Gottman [relationship and marriage expert] has found that when a member of a couple shows the smirk, it indicates possible problems for the future,” Van Edwards says. “This is because if we feel contempt towards our partner, it means we are feeling scorn, disregard or disdain.”

Van Edwards suggests if we feel ourselves going into the smirk, or if we see it on our partner’s face, to address it ASAP in order to get to the bottom of what the problem is.

3. You're Always Fake Smiling

On the point of mouth-related body language, let’s talk about the fake smile. You know the kind, right? A fake smile is the one that doesn’t even engage the eye muscles. According to Marc Chernoff, a professional coach who writes on happiness, relationships, self-improvement, and the like on his blog Marc And Angel Hack Life, fake smiling is an example of body language that should be avoided. On his blog he wrote that fake smiling is commonly seen as a sign of deception.

4. You're Constantly Crossing Your Arms

You might not think much of it, but regularly crossing your arms may be giving your partner some communication signals that are not, in any way, good ones. Forbes spoke to dating coach Paulette Kouffman Sherman who noted arm crossing is a behavior that indicates that we’re closing ourselves off and self-protecting. Kouffman Sherman said it’s a defensive move — so it’s essentially creating a barrier between you and your SO.

5. You Kiss With Closed, Hard Lips

When you’re greeting your SO at the end of a workday, what’s the kiss like? Is it soft and lingering? Great. Is it closed and hard? Not so great. Redbook spoke to Susan Quilliam, author of Body Language Secrets: Read the Signals and Find Love, Wealth and Happiness who said, “Kissing with hard, closed lips communicates tension and avoidance of intimacy.” Oppositely, Quilliam noted, “Soft lips that linger just an extra second clearly say, ‘I'm happy to see you and I wish we could do more of this.’” That said, try to stick to the latter when you’re puckering up.

6. You're Anti-Mirroring

“When two people are really getting along they tend to mirror each other,” Van Edwards says. “They begin to use the same voice intonations, they use the same gestures and they can even walk the same way. This kind of mirroring or mimicry actually breeds camaraderie.”

The opposite, however, is also true. Van Edwards says when you don’t mirror your SO, it makes it harder to bond with him or her. “If you hold yourself back from nonverbally falling in sync this can make it harder to emotionally get on the same page,” she adds.

Van Edwards suggests those in a relationship should embrace the mirroring, sync up and align to one another, as this can bond you on a brand new level.

7. You Point Your Feet In The Opposite Direction

Our feet can be very telling when it comes to what we’re communicating to those around us. According to Joe Navarro, body language expert and author of What Every Body is Saying, who spoke to, “The feet are the most actual part of the body. If I don’t like you, my feet won’t go near you. When we like someone, we orient our feet closer and toward them or, if not, we will literally turn our feet toward an exit — trying to get away.” If your feet are constantly pointing in the opposite direction of your SO, try to get to the bottom of what’s happening in the relationship that’s subconsciously making you turn away from him or her.

8. You’re Always Looking At Your Phone

This is very logical — if your partner is always looking at his or her phone and never paying attention to you, you might think something is off too, right? Likewise goes for when you’re acting this way with your phone. A study from Baylor University found cell phone snubbing (neglecting one’s partner to compulsively check a cell phone) leads to damage in a relationship as well as a lower life satisfaction for the snubbed partner and greater levels of depression. If you want to avoid harm to the relationship and to your partner directly, quit being on that phone so much and start living in the moment.

9. You Use Your Eyebrows To Speak

Your eyebrows are capable of saying much more than you might imagine. Furrowing eyebrows, specifically, is something that can show negativity, according to CNN. The outlet spoke to trial lawyer Maria Katrina Karos who said, “This almost always means something negative.” Overall, it’s a signal that something is wrong. Instead of furrowing at your partner, try telling them what you’re thinking instead.

10. You Stroke Your Chin When Your Partner Speaks

According to Chernoff, stroking your chin when someone is speaking to you tells that person that you are passing judgment. Chernoff writes on his blog, “If you look at someone while you’re stroking your chin, they may assume that you’re making a judgmental decision about them.”

11. You Stay Still & Stiff During Sex

When you’re in a happy relationship, the sex should align to that happiness. This means a body language that’s in sync in the bedroom, according to Redbook. The outlet spoke to Martin Lloyd-Elliott, author of Secrets of Sexual Body Language, who explained that stiffness on your part, though, can be a problem. Lloyd-Elliot noted warning signs in the bedroom as, “Eyes clamped shut, and stiffness, especially in the neck and the shoulders, communicate coldness and anxiety.” Loosen up a little to show you’re actually enjoying the time you’re spending together in the buff — your relationship as a whole might just benefit from it.

If you notice you’re partaking in some (or all) or the body language cues discussed here, consider making some changes to the way you’re nonverbally communicating with your SO. By avoiding speaking through actions like these, you might find you’re better able to verbally communicate your issues and — ultimately — might find your relationship flourishes from it.

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