To See or Not to See: What Are Your Partner’s Eyes Saying?

Close-up of a young woman smilingI can remember an experience with my spouse about 12 years ago. We attended a partner yoga class. While these types of classes are not sexual, partners can experience deep intimacy as they find ways to support each other in various yoga postures.

My spouse and I moved through the class with relative ease. Our final pose involved eye gazing. In this practice, we sat across from each other with our buttocks resting on our heels. Our left arms relaxed at our sides, left hands in our laps, and our right arms reached up and forward toward each other. With our elbows bent, we rested our right hands on each other’s hearts and breathed quietly.

My spouse looked into my eyes. Without words, I felt his kindness. To my surprise, my eyes welled up with tears. His gaze touched my soul deeply. I felt beautiful and completely wrapped in his love. I will never forget that moment.

While these more intense moments do not happen on a daily basis, they occur from time to time. We may have a moment where we catch each other visually and cast a knowing smile. No words are required.

I often facilitate eye gazing exercises in therapy sessions. Initially, partners might giggle a bit, make jokes, and, after 30 seconds or so, begin to settle into each other despite any discomforts that arise. Partners often share how “hard” the exercise felt when we process it afterward.

Some partners become acutely aware of disconnection, as if the exercise holds up a mirror they did not want to look into. Other times, partners cry tears of joy or express mutual love and a renewed sense of commitment to the other.

How often do you quietly look deeply into your partner’s eyes? Gaze into them over dinner? Kiss passionately with your eyes open?

How often do you quietly look deeply into your partner’s eyes? Gaze into them over dinner? Kiss passionately with your eyes open?

If the answer is “never,” I invite you to become curious about yourself and your relationship. If you allowed your partner to look deeply into your eyes, what might he or she see? What do you shield your partner from? What do you fear you might see in your partner?

If you are feeling adventurous, try an eye gazing experiment at home. Set a timer for three minutes. Minimize distractions. Turn ringers off on phones. Sit comfortably across from each other, arms resting at your sides. Take a couple of deep breaths and quietly look at each other. Scan your partner’s face. Look away if you need to, but always come back to his or her eyes.

Your experience will provide you with a wealth of information:

  • You might find yourself squirming with discomfort as your partner looks into your eyes OR your partner’s gaze may lull you into a dreamy stupor.
  • You might feel sheer terror and violation about being looked at so deeply and want to crawl into yourself and hide OR you may find that your partner’s gaze feels safe and easy.
  • You might feel silly, giggly, and foolish OR you may become pensive, reflective, and grounded in your partner’s gaze.
  • You might feel rigid, tense, and hold your breath OR you may feel relaxed and in flow with your partner’s energy.
  • You might feel disconnected, empty, and alone OR you may feel connected and fully loved.

This information may confirm a connection and love you both experience from the other on a daily basis. If not, the degree of discomfort reflects important information that requires your attention. Any discomforts most likely show up in both tangible and intangible ways throughout your relationship.

How do you plan to use the information you learn?

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  • Leave a Comment
  • Carlee

    May 18th, 2015 at 10:28 AM

    I cannot wait to try this out with my husband!!

  • Maranda

    May 18th, 2015 at 3:13 PM

    There are times when we spend so much time trying to read the hidden messages in the things that he says without taking a look and REALLY SEEING what he is showing us. People usually show us who they are, it is up to us to take off the blinders and really understand how they are feeling.

  • silly girl

    May 18th, 2015 at 6:35 PM

    I do this often!

  • silly girl

    May 18th, 2015 at 6:36 PM

    I do this often with my love of my life

  • Daisy

    May 19th, 2015 at 3:37 AM

    For some reason most of us see only that which we want to see. If we are not ready to really be open to what someone is trying to tell us then no matter how deeply we stare into their eyes, we are not going to be able to find what it is that he or she is trying to tell us.

    This is a point in time when you know that you are going to have to stop closing yourself off to all that they are trying to say to you and be willing to listen and learn from them.

  • Tanya

    May 19th, 2015 at 10:18 AM

    Sometimes you may not even know what will spark those strong responses and emotions inside of you, but when it happens it can come at you like a flood of revelations!

  • Brian

    May 20th, 2015 at 1:09 PM

    I wonder at times why my mouth says one thing but I am really thinking another, and then I want my wife to know all of that and she is just clueless. I want her to be able to look at me and know that there is something wrong but I guess there are too many interpretations and the best thing would be for me to learn how to say it all out loud but that never seems to happen. I think that in some way I am scared to say what is really on my mind because I am afraid of what might happen if I do.

  • will

    May 21st, 2015 at 3:41 AM

    There is just something about that soulful gaze that can melt you, let you fall in love all over again with this person

  • Carmen

    May 25th, 2015 at 8:49 AM

    When I looked at my ex husband in his eyes and there was nothing there, I knew that that’s when it was really over for the two of us. When you know that you have looked at this person before and there was joy there and now there is nothing, for you or for himself, it’s over.

  • Dave R

    July 24th, 2015 at 5:36 PM

    …. I so completely understand, & know what you are saying. And, how painful to see what is no longer there.
    I am presently in the process of preparing to separate from my wife. It has been so clear, for quite a long time, that “it” has all died. So, I did the eye gazing experience. All that I saw, was emptiness, pain, and sadness. That was the litmus test, and I finally knew.

  • Carolynn Aristone, MSW, LCSW (author)

    May 25th, 2015 at 9:13 AM

    Pausing, giving and receiving in a silent, intentional moment can speak volumes – how much can you give? How much permission do you give yourself to receive? When do you begin to shut it down and why? … all of these questions can come up in this simple yet powerful exercise. This does not replace verbal expression. It is a necessary means to our various forms of self-expression. Thank you for your insightful comments.

  • Carolynn Aristone, MSW, LCSW (author)

    July 27th, 2015 at 8:25 AM

    That’s a painful realization for sure. Hopefully, the relationship served as a vehicle toward self-discovery and ultimately, self-love.

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