With celebrity breakups happening left and right, it's apparent that relationships are tough — in or out of the spotlight. Criticism, stonewalling, contempt, and defensiveness are to blame, , a relationship research center. But that's not all. Here, two body language experts break down specific gestures that may indicate that your relationship is bound to fail — unless you make some serious changes.
Power couples (think: Prince William and Kate Middleton) have in-sync walking patterns. "The goal is for couples to walk with their feet side by side on an invisible line," Patti Wood, body language expert and author of told GoodHousekeeping.com. "When this walking pattern is disrupted, it indicates that there is disconnect between the couple."
Some say that distance makes the heart grow fonder. Others argue that it's exactly what tears relationships apart. "The ideal intimate zone is somewhere between zero and 18 inches," Susan Constantine, human behavioral expert and author of , told GoodHousekeeping.com. "When one partner holds back from intimacy or turns it down, there may be some greater issues at hand."
Eyes tell a story about one's relationship. "When you're sexually attracted to someone, your pupils will dilate in a moment of intimacy," says Wood. "It happens subconsciously, so it's a good indicator of your significant other's interest in you." So yes, check your partner's eyes next time you go in for a kiss — they may show you exactly what you need to see.
When royals cross their legs, they can chalk it up to proper etiquette. But for the average Joe, crossed legs can show that someone feels detached from the situation —or worse, the person that they're with. "If your legs are closed, your partner will pick up on your disinterest," says Wood."And a lack of sexual interest leads to a relationship's downfall."
Smirking at anyone — your partner included — is extremely condescending. "By smirking at your partner, you're showing that you think you're the superior in the relationship," says Constantine. You and your partner should be equals, which means you should both wipe those smug looks off your face.
Stonewalling is the original breadcrumbing. "When someone turns their back on their partner, hangs up the phone before the conversation is over, or tunes out, it is referred to as stonewalling," says Constantine. Not taking your partner's thoughts or perspective into consideration is a major red flag.
Hey, we all need a pat on the back from time to time. However, it's questionable when a romantic partner opts for a gentle pat instead of a intimate embrace. "If you partner begins to pat you on the back during a hug, it immediately desexualizes it, " says Wood. "Let's face it, you and your partner aren't just teammates."
In emotional situations, we all have a tendency to find ways to comfort ourselves. Women, in particular, typically touch their neck or throat. "Oftentimes, touching the neck or throat indicates that someone is keeping something from another person," says Wood. "The throat is the gateway for words, and therefore it's one of the most vulnerable parts of the body."
Research from suggests that contempt is one of the leading causes of divorce. Furrowed brows are a clear indicator of criticism. "No one likes to be criticized ," says Constantine. "When someone notices that they're partner has 'judgy eyes,' they'll immediately feel defensive and put up a fight." And that leads to a new string of issues...
How does your partner react when you give a play-by-play of your day? Or bring up last night's episode of your favorite TV show? If they actively engage with you, you're in the clear. But if they fidget, play with with their phone, or worse, completely ignore you, then you may have a few issues to sort out. "This reminds me of '1, 2, 3 squirrel," says Constantine. "Your partner should want to completely focus on you, no matter the subject matter."
Dramatic change, especially when it comes to time and attention toward the relationship, is a cause for concern. "Time is a nonverbal action," says Wood. "For example. if your partner used to be on time but is now late, then it should raise a few eyebrows."
When you want to prove a point, hand gestures might be necessary. And sometimes they're totally fine, but other times, not so much. "Choppy hand gestures, in particular, lead to a 'my way or the highway' mentality," says Constantine. The same goes for other rapid movements such as pouncing or pacing.
It's cute when couples morph into one another. Think: An elderly couple waltzing into the grocery store in matching sweaters. See? There's no harm in that. But if you and your partner are mimicking one another out of spite, then that's a totally different issue. "Mimicking, name-calling, ridicule, and sarcasm are all means of contempt, which leads to relationship sabotage," says Constantine.
Sometimes it's important for partners to balance each other out. Opposites attract, right? Well, not when it comes to facial expressions. "It's troubling when one person in the relationship doesn't show the correct emotional response given the situation," says Constantine. "If your partner is stressed, your face should reflect that. The same goes for any emotion that your partner feels."
Yes, some of us put our hands on our hips out of mere comfort. But when someone stands in this stance while sternly talking to their partner, it means that they're seeking control over their significant other. "This cocky stance is an obvious way to show someone who's boss," says Constantine. "However, this isn't necessary in a strong relationship."
Crossing arms isn't a good look for anyone, including your S.O. For starters, it's one way to immediately distance yourself. "Typically, people cross their arms when they're trying to defend themselves," says Constantine. "It's a visible way to put your guard up, which is never a good thing in an intimate relationship."
In a relationship, you want your voice to be heard — and not sidelined by your partner. "If your partner cuts you off when you're speaking, it means that they're thinking of any answer rather than listening to you," says Constantine. In other words, they're focusing on me,me,me instead of connecting with you, you, you.
If you notice that your partner (or even, yourself) are physically close to everyone except for one another, then it's time to evaluate your relationship. "When examining the lack of intimacy between you and your partner, it's important to think about if this is singular to you," says Wood. "If so, that means there's trouble in paradise."
A loving couple has a tendency to lean toward one another with their bodies, legs, and even chairs. "If your seat is pointed away from your partner, then so is your body," says Wood. "This is dangerous because it means that you're disinterested in connecting with your partner."
Yes, this annoying gesture should be left in the past (we're talking your teenage days). "It's simple: Eye rolling indicates a disapproval or annoyance with your significant other," says Constantine. There's clearly an issue in your relationship if your both rolling your eyes day in and day out — however, an eye roll from time to time seems totally normal.