Interpret Your Spouse’s Body Language: Red Flags to Watch For
Although the spoken language is a profoundly human thing, it isn’t the only way we humans communicate. It’s often our body language, that silent communication, that tells us important things about each other on a more subtle – and often more telling – level.
In most cases, we pick up these nonverbal cues in a completely subconscious way. But if we pay attention, they can provide important insights into the people around us.
Body language: What it reveals
At the heart of human body language lies the brain’s limbic system. This is the more ancient part of the brain that controls emotions and emotional reactions. Our physical bodies are designed to be congruent with how we feel inside, and even if we try to act and talk in ways that betray them, the body will often leak our true emotions.
The raised eyebrow, clenched fist, crossed arms – even the way you sit can tell someone volumes about the way you feel and your intentions. Like other mammals, humans have relied on these non-verbal cues for centuries. And because this communication operates on an unconscious level, it often tells more about us than the things we say or do that we try so hard to control.
What can certain body postures reveal about someone that their words belie? Someone who is reflecting a defensive posture like crossed arms may be signaling discomfort or wanting distance, even when they profess their love. On the flip side, someone who feels drawn toward you will naturally lean in, pupils dilated. Liars won’t make eye contact. Fidgeting can betray nervousness or dishonesty. Someone who is dominant will unconsciously take up more space or hold a more prolonged gaze.
When you’re in a relationship with someone, if their body language and words are at odds with each other, it can be a serious red flag.
Red flag body language in a relationship
A relationship requires an incredible amount of trust and commitment between two people. Let’s say your spouse says all the right things, and yet there’s something you can’t put your finger on. In fact, that “something” you’re sensing may have more to do with the signals you’re getting from your partner’s body language than the things being said.
Here are seven body language red flags that could indicate there is more going on in your relationship than meets the eye.
1. They don’t keep eye contact
Your spouse has a hard time keeping eye contact lately. Eye contact is a very intimate thing, and someone who avoids it may be feeling some general discomfort – or guilt.
2. They cross their arms
Arm crossing is the consummate signal of blocking the other person and closing off. While this can be a common stance for some, for most people, it’s a guarded gesture. It could suggest anything from your spouse not feeling open to something you’ve suggested to them feeling defensive about something they’ve done.
3. Their posture is stiff
When someone feels relaxed and comfortable, their posture reflects that. If your spouse’s posture is unusually stiff lately, it could mean they’re feeling uneasy or tense. While it may be general tension, it might also be uneasiness regarding your relationship.
4. They shift their feet
Constantly moving one's feet or looking down at the feet is a sign of uneasiness. It can even reflect a desire to walk away from a situation. You may wonder if your partner is feeling a need to walk away from the relationship. If so, it may be time to understand what’s going on.
5. They lean away from you
Leaning toward or away is usually a subconscious way of showing a desire for closeness – or distance. If your spouse subconsciously leans away, especially when you’re looking for intimacy, this can say a lot about how they feel about your relationship.
6. They fidget
Excessive fidgeting such as tapping fingers, shifting weight, and playing with hair can signal nervousness or restlessness. Is there a reason your spouse is feeling particularly nervous around you?
7. They minimize physical contact
Physical contact is one of the hallmarks of relationship health. If your spouse has started to move away from you and minimizes contact, it could be a sign that there are things amiss.
What this language might convey
Your partner’s subconscious body language could indicate issues to consider regarding your relationship.
For instance, if your partner constantly avoids eye contact or fidgets whenever you talk about something of importance, they may be withholding their real feelings. They may say they’re happy, but their physical gestures say the opposite. They may say they’re satisfied with your physical relationship, but on the flip side, they may seem to lean away with the most minimal physical contact.
Are they being dishonest? Are they cheating? Body language may help you gain some possible clarity.
But while body language can be revealing, it’s not foolproof. You don’t want to jump to conclusions based solely on these signals. Take everything in context to understand why your spouse may be acting the way they are. You might think you’re getting some negative non-verbal signs, but don’t throw in the towel completely. The only way to fully understand your spouse’s feelings is to open a dialog and honestly discuss it.
If your spouse’s body language keeps telling you something is wrong despite them saying there isn’t, you might want to consult with a couples therapist to try to get to the root of the problem so you can deal with it honestly and openly. Therapy can offer you and your spouse tools for open communication so you don’t have to keep guessing when something feels “off.” And if the problems can’t be overcome, parting ways may be your healthiest option.
At Hello Divorce, we are here with supportive and compassionate services for those who decide to divorce or are even considering it. If you decide that ending your marriage makes the most sense, our online divorce plans make the process easier and less costly. We also offer hourly mediation that can help you navigate an impasse. Schedule a free 15-minute phone call to learn more about our services.