Eye contact is important, but some people may have trouble maintaining it. Others may not always understand the various types of eye contact and could question what eye contact means. Does eye contact mean attraction always? Or can it have other implications?
Read on to understand if you’re having trouble with eye contact or want to learn more about how eye contact affects relationships.
Why is it so challenging to make eye contact?
The power of eye contact in love is undeniable, but trouble making eye contact is not uncommon. For some people, lack of eye contact can be due to anxiety that arises from shyness or lack of confidence. In some cases, looking people in the eye can feel quite uncomfortable.
In some instances, people may even have a condition called social anxiety disorder, which makes them self-conscious in front of others and fear judgment. Studies have shown that this disorder makes people nervous and unable to maintain eye contact.
While some people may have this condition, usually lack of eye contact can be solved with a little boost of confidence in many instances. Beyond anxiety and lack of confidence, difficulty with eye contact may be temporary in certain instances.
Sometimes eye contact can be problematic, but it is important to recognize that there is more than one type of eye contact. Before exploring the power of eye contact in relationships further, it is helpful to understand the various categories of eye contact. Consider the categories below:
Intentionally avoiding eye contact
Lack of eye contact, when done intentionally, can be an indication of a problem in the relationship. In such cases, lack of eye contact can be a sign for you to take a hard look at the relationship and address the festering problem.
For example, someone who avoids looking their partner in the eye may be angry, or they could be hiding something from their partner. Or the lack of eye contact can indicate that they are upset about something, and you may have to probe them to find out the details.
But you shouldn’t panic that something is terribly wrong if your partner appears to be avoiding eye contact purposely, but you should at least be prepared to have a conversation.
An unintentional lack of eye contact can sometimes happen between strangers or when someone is nervous. It could just signify a lack of confidence in a relationship or that your partner’s mind is elsewhere.
Your partner may not realize that they are avoiding eye contact, and if they are distracted or shy, they may not even recognize that you’re attempting to make eye contact.
Someone of the opposite sex might glance your way, accidentally meet your eyes, and then look away quickly. One way to tell if the glance was accidental is that it will likely just be a one-time occurrence.
On the other hand, a glance in your direction, in which a person immediately looks away when you make eye contact, can sometimes mean there was an attraction. The person may have been gazing at you without your knowledge, and instead of maintaining eye contact, they look away, embarrassed, when you notice them.
The difference between conscious and unconscious gazing is that if someone is consciously glancing in your direction because of an attraction, they are likely to respond positively, such as with a smile, if you make eye contact with them a second time. It is a positive sign.
One sure sign of eye flirting are those lingering glances that last longer than a few seconds. When two people are attracted to each other, it becomes natural for them to hold eye contact.
Lingering glances may occur during a conversation when you notice that the two of you have locked eyes after smiling at each other or sharing a joke. It may be more subtle than staring at each other, but the lingering glance is typically meaningful and suggests that the two of you are connecting.
Intense eye contact
Intense eye contact between man and woman is more significant and indicates a strong attraction and a desire for further conversation. This eye contact lasts for several seconds or more and indicates that a person has a genuine interest in you.
When your partner or spouse meets your eyes and holds your gaze, it is easy to feel their love for you. This type of eye contact shows that they are physically attracted to you and that they care deeply for you.
10 powers of eye contact in a relationship
Now that we’ve established the different levels of eye contact in love and attraction, it’s time to move on to the powers of eye contact in a relationship. Consider the following ten factors that show the power of eye contact in love:
The power of eye contact is so strong that research has found that it creates physiological arousal. So, not only will you feel in the mood for physical connection when your partner makes eye contact, but you can also expect your body to respond at a biological level.
Most people know that smiling is indicative of emotional support in a relationship, but people can also fake a smile. Eye contact allows you to determine whether or not your partner’s smile is genuine.
When a person’s eyes narrow and create crow’s feet around the eyes during a smile, you can be sure that your partner is genuinely happy and not forcing a grin. A genuine smile reaches the eyes, whereas a fake one engages only the lower half of the face.
3. Leads to engagement
When you make eye contact with your partner, not only will you feel more aroused, but you’ll also feel as if they are more engaged in the conversation. Research conducted on test subjects proves that eye contact establishes more connection even between strangers.
We all want to feel heard in relationships, and making eye contact allows us to feel heard. Eye contact increases the connection between partners and makes us feel that our partner cares more about us.
Your partner may tell you that nothing is wrong when upset, but looking into their eyes tells the true story. You can probably tell just from making eye contact when your partner is sad. At the same time, they may appear bright-eyed when they are happy.
Looking people in the eye is an excellent way to stay in tune with their feelings, which is vital in relationships, as it allows you to offer support when they appear sad and share in their happiness when their eyes are full of joy.
When you look into your partner’s eyes, you can begin to feel what they are feeling and share their emotions with them. This draws the two of you closer together, allowing for a stronger connection and greater empathy between the two of you.
Psychologists know that our brains can connect us with our partners and even take on their emotions and suggest that the eyes are a window through which we can become one with our partners.
A recent study found that when a person’s pupils become dilated, their partner’s pupils also increase in size. Therefore, looking into our partner’s eyes causes physiological changes that lead us to mimic them.
To have a successful and lasting relationship, two people must develop a close bond with each other. Regular eye contact bonds you to your partner, as the eyes, as the saying goes, are the “window to the soul.”
Just as eye contact may indicate attraction early in the relationship, it can help keep the attraction alive over time. Locking eyes communicates to your partner that you are attracted to them, which is helpful for the relationship.
What lack of eye contact does to a relationship?
The importance of eye contact in relationships cannot be denied, which means that lack of eye contact can damage relationships. For example, if you never make eye contact with your partner when they are talking, they may feel ignored or as if you are not entirely paying attention to them.
Lack of eye contact can make your partner feel that you do not desire them or are no longer attracted to them. It can make them feel insecure and doubt their place in your life.
Finally, trouble making eye contact can weaken the bond and emotional connection you have with each other. Lack of eye contact can lead your partner to feel that they cannot trust you or as if you are growing apart from them.
Watch this video to learn more about the importance of eye contact in relationships:
Eye contact is important to connect people and develop the bond that is necessary for a healthy relationship. If you find that you or your partner always avoid eye contact, there may be a lack of connection between the two of you or an underlying issue like anxiety.
If this is the case, or if there seems to be a lack of intimacy and connection in your relationship, you may benefit from seeking counseling to address the problem.
Sometimes, though, a lack of eye contact can be an issue with confidence or shyness, which you can overcome with practice to experience the benefits and power of eye contact in a relationship.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Jenni Jacobsen is a licensed social worker with a master's degree in social work from The Ohio State University, and she is in the process of completing her dissertation for a Doctorate of Philosophy in Psychology. She has worked in the social work field for 8 years and is currently a professor at Mount Vernon Nazarene University. She writes website content about mental health, addiction, and fitness.
Licensed as both a social worker through Ohio Board of Counselors, Social Workers, and Marriage/Family Therapists and school social worker through Ohio Department of Education as well as a personal trainer through American Council on Exercise.