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You Asked: He Never Makes Eye Contact

Dear Sugar,

I have been dating my boyfriend for about four months, and we had been good friends for about three years before we started going out. He is a pretty classic male — uncomfortable with heavy or emotional issues, withdraws when he's upset, etc. One thing I can't stop thinking about is that he rarely, if ever, makes eye contact. The other day, when we were talking about something important and were laying in bed, he actually had his entire body turned away from me. I couldn't even see his face!

I'm a psychology major, so I pay attention to body language. I know that lack of eye contact can mean the person is lying or nervous. The other night I flat out asked him why he never makes eye contact. He got defensive and said, "There isn't always a psychological reason for everything. It's just the way I am. I'm not an eye-contact sort of person." I don't buy it. Why do you think he does this? It makes me uneasy.

—Needs More of a Connection Connie

To see Dear Sugar's answer

Dear Needs More of a Connection Connie,

While it's true that many guys don't like sharing their emotions and laying their thoughts out on the table, guys are usually good at being upfront and open when you tell them about how you feel. It's great that you asked him why he never looks at you when you talk about important stuff, but he obviously took it as a personal attack since he reacted so defensively.

Instead of pointing out that he doesn't make eye contact, tell him how it makes you feel. Tell him what you told me: that it makes you uneasy and makes you think that he has something to hide. Explain that when he looks you in the eye, it shows that he respects you and feels comfortable with you, and it makes you feel close. When he doesn't look at you, it makes you feel like you can't trust him.

Some people are painfully shy and nervous when interacting with others, and it sounds like he has a hard time feeling comfortable connecting in that way. I don't think it means you can't trust him, since you said you’ve been friends for three years. He may just have a difficult time with intimacy. Be sure to continue talking about this issue, so he knows how important it is to you. I think that giving your relationship time and being patient with him may be all he needs. I hope this helps.


Join The Conversation
murishk murishk 9 years
You've known him for over 3 years and only now this bugs you?
heineken67 heineken67 9 years
Some people naturally don't make much eye contact, and for multiple reasons. It doesn't necessarily mean anything about his personality or emotions or past. It could, but I wouldn't jump to conclusions. Maybe you should just mention that you like his eyes and like looking into them. Start slow and gradually get him used to more eye contact. Or you could just accept that he's different and let things progress naturally.
snowbunny11 snowbunny11 9 years
I have a vision problem where it is difficult for me to make eye contact with people! It's not something you can tell just by looking at me, and your bf might not even realize that is a symptom of an eye problem he could have. Not saying that this is the problem, but it's true that you don't necessarily have to have some underlying psychological condition to avoid making eye contact.
reeeeka reeeeka 9 years
I don't think just because he doesn't make eye contact means he's lying. I don't like making eye contact, especially prolonged eye contact with people. It makes me nervous...there are only a few people that I can actually make that kind of eye contact with. Just because I don't make it with you means I'm lying. I find if I stare at peoples mouths or noses they get the sense that I am indeed looking them in the's a good trick. "psych majors have a tendency to diagnose problems that aren't always there" ...I agree. You're going end up pushing him away and causing problems... Maybe you should let up...
popgoestheworld popgoestheworld 9 years
I just got back from a seminar called "The Truth about Lying" that talked about just this sort of thing! One thing they said that might be relevant here is that in order to detect if someone is lying or nervous, you have to "norm" them first. In other words, if they ALWAYS avoid eye contact, and then they tell you something and stare straight at you the whole time, they might actually be lying. Or if someone is typically great at eye contact, and they can't look at you, they're probably lying. For this guy, his baseline or "norm" seems to be avoiding eye contact, so it probably doesn't indicate anything. However, his VERY defensive response leads me to believe that something is up. If he's not lying, he's clearly annoyed at you analyzing him so that's an issue in and of itself.
RedPointyHeels RedPointyHeels 9 years
Is it just with you or with everyone? I think that makes a huge difference. I used to have a hard time making eye contact with people - it was partly nerves, partly a self confidence/insecurity issue, so assuming that his lack of eye contact suggests a problem in your relationship may not be correct.
RockAndRepublic RockAndRepublic 9 years
if i dont make eye contact with people, it's strictly unintentional. Otherwise, it might give the impression that you don't really care and/or are not listening.
Linny Linny 9 years
i don't like making eye contact with people i'm talking to. i know it's kind of ridiculous but i start thinking about things like if i'm staring or if i'm looking at them too much does it look like i'm trying in intimidate them or if it looks like i'm trying to overcompensate by looking at the person right in the eye so it looks like i'm lying. like i said, it's rediculous. i can listen to people better if i am not looking at their eyes. if my visual attention is on something different, i can focus on what the person is saying. i'm also one of those people who needs music or noise to concentrate on work. i'm an auditory person and the eye-contact distracts me because it's not natural to me and i over think it.
blingbling blingbling 9 years
I dated a guy like this and it bothered me - though in his case I think that it boiled down to him not really caring about what I was saying and caring more about what else was going on. ::) I am shy and have to remind myself - force myself - to make eye contact. I'm not crazy or lying. It might just be the way he is. I wouldn't like it either, though.
rosey_y rosey_y 9 years
He obviously doesn't like eye contact in the first place but perhaps his particular reluctance to look you in the eye has to do with you using your psych knowledge to analyse him and pick him apart. Especially since it's a new relationship. No one would like to feel like they're constantly being analysed - I know I wouldn't! I think his response "There isn't always a psychological reason for everything" is indicative of this. I know your instinct is to get to the bottom of his behaviour, but perhaps this just contributes to his discomfort with eye contact. It sounds like some pretty heavy conversations you two have been having. At 4 months with my boyfriend we were very happy, giggly and light hearted! I think some good old patience and understanding might be in order. If things don't improve in coming months with you completely off his back about it then perhaps reconsider, but in the meantime just try to enjoy each other's company. And save the psych for your classes!
chicaparati17 chicaparati17 9 years
The one question I have, is he from a different culture? You didnt mention it so maybe he isnt but many know that is common place for some cultures. I agree with the others maybe he is just shy...dont let it drive you wild. We all having annoying behaviors that are simply that "behaviors" nothing that will cause the walls to come tumbling down. I say overlook it and move on.
caryatid caryatid 9 years
this may be a bit extreme, but it might also be helpful to note that some people with autism or mild forms of autism (like Asperger's) have trouble in social situations and with making eye contact. maybe this doesn't apply, but something to keep in mind!
Jinx Jinx 9 years
I like when people make eye contact, especially my mate, so this would really bother me.
Marci Marci 9 years
I know that when I met my fiance, I was nervous with him sometimes and was uncomfortable with a lot of eye contact. I felt like he could see through me or something! But as time went on, I became more at ease, and that came with it. So just give him a chance to relax at his own pace.
lemassabielle lemassabielle 9 years
Agree with everyone that it probably doesn't indicate that is a liar or anything of that nature. You seem very bothered by it which is the problem. I personally also DESPISE too much eye contact with people. I feel like it's almost more intimate than kissing and other forms of intimacy. It's like that person can totally see into your soul and pick you apart. I avoid it at all cost. So, I'm on your boyfriends side. He was opening up to you in his own way and I think the eye contact and intimacy will come in time. It's a new relationship and you have been friends for so long! you have to adjust.
Berlin Berlin 9 years
Oh my, I swear it was me reading my own writing here! See me? Well I'm you lol, 2.5 years further int the relationship lol. I'm also a psych major, and my boyfriend, well you described him perfectly! A good indication of what is going on is taking a look at how he is with his family. In my case, they love each other, but they aren't talkative, don't really keep in touch, hate calling each other and never, and I mean never speak about any heavy or emotional issues. Apparently this is how he grew up, with any time someone in his family has something important on their minds or in their life, they don't share it. Realizing this I started to take it way easier on him. He doesn't like to talk about anything 'heavy' so unless it's really important, i just respect that and learned to love that part of him. And when there is something I really need to talk about, I just come out and say this is really important to me and I'd like to talk or see what you think... and he really comes around being he sees that I respect how he handles most other issues lol. It's almost like they deal with emotional issues like a child, where they just freeze up and shrink into a shell (like if they hide from the problem it isn't really there) but this is one place where I feel family plays a big role. If you aren't taught to talk about your emotions and other important issues, there is a good chance you will continue this through life. Whereas for myself, I'm a talker! My mother and I are best friends and can talk about anything, so going from an open book to one on lock down it can be a big switch. But in my case it was so worth it. So my advice, if you really want to keep this relationship going, determine if it is an issue that is outside of any underlying problem (like that he's just raised that way) and if it's a deal breaker for you or not. If you can live with it, then just try to really bring up issues that truly matter, after all we women do tend to bring in drama, and if a guy is more towards the classier end of the spectrum that most others, then he will draw back even faster.
herjoiedevivre herjoiedevivre 9 years
I personally think that with his personality being the way it is- hard for him to talk about his feelings and stuff- he positioned his body away from yours as a way to maintain some privacy while he opened up. that's what I thought as soon as I read it. and I agree with everyone about 'I' statements. be careful about 'you's- you might just be asking/probing, but it sounds like you're attacking.
cubadog cubadog 9 years
I agree with Rev and Greggie being a psych major does not make an expert on male behavior. While I do think it is a little odd that he had his back to you there have been a reason why like he wasn't in the mood to have a conversation with you at the point in time. Not making eye contact is relatively normal it doesn't always mean someone is a liar or has intimacy issues.
Greggie Greggie 9 years
"Just so you know, psych majors have a tendency to diagnose problems that aren't always there... just like med students becoming hypochondriacs." Agreed. I have trouble with eye contact as well. I only focus with one eye at a time, and eye contact is extremely uncomfortable. Turning away with the entire body would bother me, though.
Lovely_1 Lovely_1 9 years
My boyfriend is a clasic guy too...and at first he had A LOT of trouble opening up to me and realizing that he can communicate with me and tell me his problems and that I WILL listen and offer advice. I think the root to this problem is he never really had anyone to talk to before. He does have a family, and they lvoe each other deeply, but they are very unlike mine. My fmaily voices every opinion and everyone communcates with one another and cries when they want and it's just a very open family compared to his. He is getting much better though, and we usually have a nightly chat in bed before I go to sleep. Just try and let him know that you are listening and that he shouldn't be embarrassed to opening up to you.
bfly1133 bfly1133 9 years
Your boyfriend is correct in stating that not all body language is indicitive of some underlying issue. Every single person does things that can be construed as negative, when in fact they mean nothing important. There is a really good chance that he has issues with eye contact or that he just doesn't do it for some reason. Helk, he may not even know the importance of it. I feel like a broken record when I say this, but using "I" statements is much more effective when communicating to others. I can understand how your statement could have been taken has harsh and as an attack. Dear has some really great advice at dealing with this issue.
NdHebert NdHebert 9 years
Its real hard for me to make eye contact also. I have no intimacy problems, I'm not a liar, and i'm not crazy. It just makes me nervous and sometimes my vision gets blurry if I look at something for a while. I actually had an interview yesterday and the woman never looked away from my eyes, it made me nervous and uneasy. I'm not an eye contacat sort of person either!! I wouldn't look too much into it.
ReverendZelda ReverendZelda 9 years
Just so you know, psych majors have a tendency to diagnose problems that aren't always there... just like med students becoming hypochondriacs
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