Nonverbal Firsts: When Nonverbal Cues Are the Impetus of Relational and Personal Change in Romantic Relationships

  • Valerie Manusov
  • Tony Docan-Morgan
  • Jessica Harvey


Nonverbal cues occur in all of our interactions, but they are particularly important in our close relationships (Noller, 2006). People show affection, distrust, love, disappointment, and myriad other messages through nonverbal modes of communicating with their loved ones (see, for e.g., Guerrero, 1997; Floyd, 2006). They also reflect how people define their relationship with one another (i.e., as romantic, as unequal, as formal) (Burgoon & Hale, 1984). People may, for example, enact their relationship as an intimate one by gazing at one another in a loving way or holding hands in public (Andersen et al., 2006). Or they may show that a relationship is uncertain, with intimate behaviors used tentatively. In such cases, the nonverbal cues are functioning as reflections of what the relationship means to, or how it is defined by, the people in those relationships.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Andersen, P. A., Guerrero, L. K., & Jones, S. M. (2006). Nonverbal behavior in intimate interactions and intimate relationships. In V. Manusov & M. L. Patterson (Eds.), The Sage handbook of nonverbal communication (pp. 259–277). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baxter, L. A., & Bullis, C. (1986). Turning points in developing romantic relationships. Human Communication Research, 12, 469–493.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bolton, C. D. (1961). Mate selection as the development of a relationship. Marriage and Family Living, 23, 234–240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Burgoon, J. K., & Hale, J. L. (1984). The fundamental topoi of relational communication. Communication Monographs, 51, 193–214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Conville, R. L. (1988). Relational transitions: An inquiry into their structure and function. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 5, 423–437.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Docan-Morgan, T., Manusov, V., & Harvey, J. (2013). When a small thing means so much: Nonverbal cues as turning points in relationships. Interpersona: An International Journal on Personal Relationships, 7, 110–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Duck, S. W. (1994). Meaningful relationships: Talking, sense, and relating. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  8. Floyd, K. (2006). Communicating affection: Interpersonal behavior and social context. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Golish, T. D. (2000). Changes in closeness between adult children and their parents: A turning point analysis. Communication Reports, 13, 79–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Graham, E. E. (1997). Turning points and commitment in post-divorce relationships. Communication Monographs, 64, 350–368.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Guerrero, L. K. (1997). Nonverbal involvement across interactions with same-sex friends, opposite-sex friends, and romantic partners: Consistency or change? Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 14, 31–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Guerrero, L. K., & Floyd, K. (2006). Nonverbal communication in close relationships. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  13. Johnson, A. J., Wittenberg, E., Haigh, M., Wigley, S., Becker, J., Brown, K., & Craig, E. (2004). The process of relationship development and deterioration: Turning points in friendships that have terminated. Communication Quarterly, 52, 54–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Johnson, A., Wittenberg, E., Villagran, M., Mazur, M., & Villagran, P. (2003). Relational progression as a dialectic: Examining turning points in communication among friends. Communication Monographs, 70, 230–249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Levinger, G. (1983). Development and change. In H. H. Kelley et al. (Eds.), Close relationships (pp. 315–359). San Francisco, CA: Freeman.Google Scholar
  16. Manusov, V. (1990). An application of attribution principles to nonverbal messages in romantic dyads. Communication Monographs, 57, 104–118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Manusov, V. (2002). Thought and action: Connecting attributions to behaviors in married couples’ interactions. In P. Noller & J. A. Feeney (Eds.), Understanding marriage: Developments in the study of couple interaction (pp. 14–31). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Manusov, V., & Milstein, T. (2005). Interpreting nonverbal behavior: Representation and transformation frames in Israeli and Palestinian coverage of the 1993 Rabin-Arafat handshake. Western Journal of Communication, 69, 183–201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Masheter, C., & Harris, L. M. (1986). From divorce to friendship: A study of dialectic relationship development. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 3, 177–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Noller, P. (2006). Nonverbal communication in close relationships. In V. Manusov & M. L. Patterson (Eds.), The Sage handbook of nonverbal communication (pp. 403–420). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Planalp, S., & Honeycutt, J. (1985). Events that increase uncertainty in personal relationships. Human Communication Research, 11, 593–604.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Prager, K., & Buhrmester, D. (1998). Intimacy and need fulfillment in couple relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 15, 435–469.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Surra, C., & Huston, T. L. (1987). Mate selection as a social transition. In D. Perlman & S. Duck (Eds.), Intimate relationships: Development, dynamics, and deterioration (pp. 88–120). Beverly Hills: Sage.Google Scholar
  24. Thayer, S. (1986). Touch: Frontier of intimacy. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 10, 7–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Valerie Manusov, Tony Docan-Morgan, and Jessica Harvey 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Valerie Manusov
  • Tony Docan-Morgan
  • Jessica Harvey

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations