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Healthy Body Language in Married vs Divorcing Couples

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There is a well-known aphorism that says silence is worth one thousand words. It may sound like an overstatement at first, but the reality is that it is pretty true.

With over 200 bones and 650 muscles in our body, it is no surprise that physical language has infinite ways to express sentiments and feelings. In fact, only 7% of communication is verbal, whereas the remaining 93% is non-verbal, including body language and varying tones of voice.

In relationships, body language can be a significant giveaway of how intimate two partners are. How do in-love couples behave? What physical signs do spouses going through a divorce process show? Here, we explore and compare recurring body language in both happily married couples and separating partners.

Smiling and smirking

Are you calm? Are you worried? Are you content or upset? Our facial expressions can reveal a great deal about our emotional status. Smiling, especially if correlated with a slight raise of the eyebrows, can indicate confidence and friendliness. In short, it is a positive body language sign.

In happy couples, smiles tend to abound as a genuine sign of love, esteem, and affection. “A smile is one of the best signs of connecting to a partner,” says body language expert Inbaal Honigman. “Eye contact, teeth out, dimples – a full smile is an indication of openness, trust and security in the relationship.”

On the contrary, smirks can have a completely different meaning. Indeed, smirking at someone – including one’s own spouse – is condescending, often signifying that you believe you are the superior in that specific relationship. This may happen in divorcing couples, as both individuals no longer see themselves as equal and in tune.

Walking in or out of sync

People who get on with each other generally share similar passions and have aligned interests. In the same way, happily married couples are likely to walk in sync as they tend to reflect and mirror each other.

“A couple doesn’t decide to walk in sync, and that’s the whole beauty of it,” Honigman adds. “When two people walk as one, same pace, same stride, both dropping left foot together, right foot together, staying side by side – that shows that they care.

“They pick up on the other person’s gait and match it, in a subtle attempt to share the experience of walking with their partner. This indicates a desire to share every experience.”

Walking out of sync, instead, can conceal sentiments of competition or a lack of care. Of course, this is not an exact science, as there may be an array of diverse reasons for which people walk at a different pace. However, a consistently disrupted walking pattern may suggest that there is a potential emotional disconnect between partners.

Pupils, eye gazing, and blinking

Eyes are famously remarked as the mirror of the soul, encompassing a wide range of sentiments and emotions. Couples who are in a healthy, loving relationship tend to gaze into each other’s eyes with intensity, often exchanging whole conversations without even opening their mouths.

One way to understand whether two spouses are attracted to each other is to keep an eye on their pupils. In fact, it has been found that attraction can cause pupil dilation, and therefore in-love partners may appear to have larger, expanded pupils when exchanging glances with one another.

On the other hand, eyes can express negative body language too. irregular blinking may suggest that the person in question is experiencing feelings of distress or discomfort. Discontinuous blinking can indicate that someone is trying to intentionally control their eye movement, signalling that they are not pleased to be in a specific situation. In divorcing couples who no longer feel comfortable sharing time with each other, this could be a telling body sign.

Caressing and patting

Soft caresses are a clear, unequivocal sign of affection. Whether to show support or to simply exchange tender moments, caressing one’s partner is likely to be a frequent gesture between happily married spouses.

On the other side, patting on the back as opposed to embracing your better half could be a sign that love is starting to wane. This is because it can be an attempt to deromanticize what could be seen as an intimate episode. Hence, it is likely that – whatever the reason or circumstance – divorcing or divorced couples will opt for pats as more detached, less sentimental alternatives.

There is also a chance that divorcees will not touch each other at all, and prefer to keep at arm’s length from the other person at all times.

Open palms and crossed arms

Another factor to take into consideration is that both our postures and gestures change based on who we talking to, often reflecting our feelings towards a person. Couples who open their palms when communicating display openness, interest, and a willingness to listen. What’s more, open hands indicate honesty, which is a crucial aspect of happy, healthy relationships.

“When we talk to someone who we share loving emotions with,” Honigman says, “our whole body exudes trust.”

“Torso to torso, we stand relaxed, shoulders even, palms open towards each other. We give the other person’s aura a wordless embrace.”

Conversely, crossed arms may reveal some tension between two people, and this behaviour often emerges in divorcing or divorced couples. From feelings of anger and frustration to disappointment and insecurity, they can signify – during a conversation – the need to create an invisible barrier.

Spontaneous touches

There is no hiding that when you fancy or feel attracted to someone you have an instinct to make physical contact. Constant, spontaneous touches make frequent appearances in loved-up, married couples.

But what if one or both partners touch their own neck or forehead when chatting with each other? Tendentially, divorcing or divorced women will put their hands on their neck or throat when keeping something from the interlocutor – in this case, their ex partner. The throat, in particular, is where words emerge from and is a fragile, vulnerable part of the body.

Ultimately, in a relationship, body language can disclose an abundance of feelings and emotions. From smiles and gazes to out-of-sync walking and crossed arms, there are many different physical signs that can reveal the sentimental status of two people.   

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