By Genevieve Wheeler

3 days ago

Sometimes, I think we try to trick ourselves into being comfortable with (or attracted to) someone because they feel so right on paper. I know I'm guilty. A guy will check all of my boxes — silly, friendly, down to watch endless episodes of Friends while petting my head — and I'll convince myself all is well, but something just doesn't click. And as much as you try to ignore the signs that you're just not comfortable your partner, they're undoubtedly there. Nipping away at your relationship like fleas on a dog.

What's crazy is that we might not notice these signs, at least not immediately. You want to feel comfortable and content in your relationship, so don't recognize that you flinch at your boyfriend's touch or can barely hold your girlfriend's gaze. 

Mhm, mhm. Same. 

"Our body language and our perception of body language is largely determined by the brain — we make split decisions based on how we judge others," explains body language expert Tonya Reiman. "Typically, that judgment occurs within one-tenth of a second. Research shows that whatever we are feeling first shows up in our brain's limbic system, and then in our bodily reflexes." 

In other words, the way your body moves directly reflects your emotions. Your head is raising red flags that your heart, for whatever reason, is trying to ignore. And if you're doing any of these three actions around your partner, it could mean that something in your brain is saying, "Ay, yo, something doesn't feel right here."

You're Avoiding Eye Contact

"Often, too little eye contact is due a lack of confidence," Reiman says. "However, it is sometimes due to a lack of interest — you need to recognize other signals in order to determine which you are dealing with."

If you're avoiding your partner's gaze — or even feel a little creeped out if they try to hold eye contact with you for too long — it's a surefire sign that you're uncomfortable around them. As Reiman mentioned, it could mean a couple of different things: You might feel insecure around them, or maybe you're just not that interested in focusing your attention on that person. Either way, something feels off, and you're definitely not 100 percent secure around your partner.

You're Forcing Laughter 

"Those who are insecure [or uncomfortable] often laugh nervously," explains Reiman. "Quite often, people are unsure of themselves and the situation, so they are trying to make others laugh ... This is often an awkward time, as individuals who aren’t secure try to break tension with laughter [because] they are nervous."

Remember the episode of Friends, "The One With Chandler's Work Laugh"? Where Chandler does this crazy, fake laugh around his boss? Yeah, if you're doing that around your partner, you — like Chandler — are probs not as relaxed around that person as you might think or hope. And if you're constantly breaking up the conversation with nervous giggles, they're probably picking up on that tension as well. 

You Like To Keep Your Distance 

"Our personal bubbles of space expand and contract to suit our moods, our relationships, and our situations," explains Reiman. "When someone gets too close to us ... the part of the brain known as the amygdala is triggered as we (potentially unconsciously) feel we might be attacked." 

Obviously, if you recoil or flinch at your partner's touch, it's a clear indicator that you're uncomfortable around them. But even beyond that, if you don't love getting close or cuddly with that person — i.e. letting them into your personal "bubble" — it's likely because you feel uneasy about letting them in, physically and emotionally.

"In most situations, we are able to calm the amygdala down by engaging our frontal cortex, which inhibits this emotional activation," Reiman elaborates. "However, that doesn’t always happen and the situation might become too severe and too prolonged. When this happens we feel like a trapped animal and become extremely anxious, causing us to hit the many different levels of fear, fight, or flight."

In less neuroscientific terms, we have the capacity to let people in if and when we want to. So, if you behave like a spooked gazelle around your SO, take a step back (maybe even literally) and reflect on what this might mean. 

We all get a little nervous at the start of a relationship, but if you're months in and still avoiding eye contact, filling conversations with fake chuckles, or jumping at their touch, it might be time to move on and look for a partner who doesn't make you squirmy and insecure. They're out there, I swear!

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