How Reading Body Language Can Improve Your Relationship

Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant, LMHC
Updated February 20, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Reading body language can help you improve communication with your partner. A study conducted by UCLA showed that only 7% of communication may come from the words that are spoken, while 38% of communication may come from tone of voice, and 55% may come from body language. The more aware we are of what we are communicating and how to read body language, the better our communication skills may be. To learn more about body language and improve communication in your relationship, it can be beneficial to work with a licensed therapist in person or online.

Improve communication with your partner through therapy

Communication in relationships

When you think of the "perfect" relationship, it usually includes good communication, both verbal and nonverbal. You may imagine the two of you walking hand in hand, stealing kisses, gazing into each other's eyes, and laughing and cuddling together. All these things can express closeness, interest, and romantic feelings without having to speak a single word.

Good relationships rarely exist without good communication. Many fights and arguments begin because of a breakdown in communication, and many of these disputes can worsen because of the lack of communication skills within the relationship.

Motivational guru William Paisley once said, "Communication is the fuel that keeps the fire of your relationship burning; without it, your relationship goes cold." If this is true, and we know from the UCLA study that most communication can come from body language, then it can make sense that we should learn about reading body language if we want our relationships to succeed.

Mirroring body language

When someone feels a connection with another person, they tend to mirror their body language. That can mean if you're having a conversation with your significant other, and they are using the same type of hand gestures as you or demonstrating the same posture as you, your conversation is most likely going well.

When we feel a bond with someone, we will often subconsciously mirror their body language. Have you ever noticed that when a couple has been together for a while, they start to take on each other's mannerisms? They typically feel a connection with each other and have unknowingly started to mirror the body language of the other.



When it comes to body language, a smile is often easy enough to read, but have you ever wondered if the smile you’re getting is genuine or not? There have been many studies conducted to find out how to spot a fake smile. It turns out that the key may be in the eyes—or next to them, anyway.

When someone gives a genuine smile, crinkles or crow's feet usually show up on the outside of their eyes. However, this doesn't typically occur with most fake smiles. Still, some people may have perfected the fake smile enough that they can achieve eye crinkles even though they are faking. However, if you don't see crow's feet when someone smiles at you, they are likely not smiling genuinely.


You can tell a lot about a person's mood by their posture. If someone comes into a room slouching with their eyes on the ground, we tend to think they are either sad or lacking in confidence. However, if someone comes into the room with their shoulders back, chin up, and with a strong posture, they tend to exude confidence. Posture can play an even bigger role in communication than you might realize.

When your significant other leans in while you are talking, they are most likely engaged in the conversation. They may be actively participating in it, and you may have their full attention. However, when they are reclined back as you are talking, they are generally more relaxed. They could still be engaged in the conversation, but the posture they are using can set a slightly different tone.

Eye contact

Getty/Jordi Salas
Improve communication with your partner through therapy

Making eye contact often helps you connect with the other person. That is typically why speakers are taught to work on making eye contact to draw people into a presentation. Making eye contact with another person can also show them you are interested in them and invite conversation. This could even be how you and your significant other got together in the first place.

As the relationship develops, making eye contact can show that you are engaged in conversation with your partner. For the most part, if the other person is making eye contact with you as you speak, it shows that they are listening. 

There can be a common belief that if someone is lying to you, they will not make eye contact with you. While this can be true at times, the widely held belief has generally turned the tide. Since most people know that you expect them not to make eye contact if they are lying, many people will do the opposite. As they lie to you, they may purposefully make eye contact with you. However, this type of eye contact usually feels forced, and the person usually holds their stare for too long. It may even begin to feel uncomfortable.

Clenched jaw and furrowed brows can equal stress

When someone is experiencing stress, they tend to clench their jaw tighter and furrow their eyebrows. There are many reasons that someone may reach this point. It could be that they are uncomfortable with the direction that the conversation is headed. They may feel anxious about the topic that you are discussing. Or, if you aren't talking about something that would be stressful to them, it could be an indication that they aren't listening to what you are saying. They could be thinking about something else that is causing them stress.

Crossed arms

Some people naturally cross their arms because they don't know what else to do with them. However, crossed arms can also be a sign of resistance. Many psychologists explain that crossing your arms, or even your legs, can be a sign that you are closed off.

What body language communicates about your relationship

Body language can be a good indicator of what someone is thinking because many people aren't conscious of what they are doing. Your significant other might be working hard to control what they are saying, but their body language could communicate the truth behind their words.

The body language in your relationship can also help you determine when the relationship is in trouble. Here are some potential signs to watch out for:

  • You don't sit next to each other when in the same room.
  • You don't walk side-by-side.
  • When you talk, they don't lean in or make eye contact.
  • You use a lot of choppy or aggressive-looking hand gestures.
  • You mock each other instead of mirroring each other.
  • Arms are often crossed.
  • There is a lot of eye-rolling.

If you see these signs, it may be time to take action. You may decide to work on repairing the relationship or determine whether it's time for it to end. You might try to remember to examine not just the body language that your significant other is displaying, but your own body language as well.

Repairing your relationship

If you are picking up on body language signs from your spouse or significant other that there could be trouble, then you may decide it’s time to start repairing the relationship. It could also be a sign that you both need to become more aware of what your body language is communicating. Sometimes, we may read body language incorrectly. Just because you see some of the signs above happening in your relationship does not necessarily mean that you need to call it quits. It could just be a sign that you both need to work on improving your communication skills.

Couples therapy can be an effective way to improve a relationship. A non-biased neutral party can help each of you analyze your role in the relationship and see what you could be doing differently to make improvements and strengthen your bond.

Many find that online couples therapy provides a more comfortable setting for talking about issues with their significant other, as you can speak to a professional from the comfort of your own couch or any other location with an internet connection. Researchers have found, that couples therapy can be effective via video conferencing. Whether you choose to attend therapy in person or online, you may rest assured that both can be equally effective.


Body language often says more than words do. Gaining familiarity with the typical meanings associated with cues like smiles, posture, crossed arms, a clenched jaw, and eye contact can be helpful. To further improve your communication skills, you might choose to work with a therapist online or in your local area. You can even participate in couples therapy with your significant other to learn more about each other’s communication styles.
Learn how your body communicates
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