If you watched the presidential inauguration and noticed President Donald Trump and his wife Melania’s relationship seemed strained, you’re not alone.
During Trump’s first weekend in office, as women around the globe rallied to protest the White House’s attempt to roll back reproductive rights, many on Twitter scrutinized images of the new president and his third wife, Melania Trump, that appeared to show some awkwardness, animosity and discomfort between them.
Some pointed out differences between the way the Trumps have behaved in public with former President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle’s body language, which suggested a more respectful relationship.
On Inauguration Day, when the Trumps got out of their car to greet the Obamas, Trump left Melania in the car and ascended the stairs to greet the Obamas on his own.
Body language experts told Mic behavior like this could be one of many signs of an unhappy relationship.
“If you didn’t know that they were married, you wouldn’t know that they are married,” communication and body language expert Susan Constantine said by phone.
“Not only did he not wait, he went up the stairs and greeted the Obamas,” body language expert and professional speaker Patti Wood said by phone. “He didn’t even look back to see if she was there or help her up the stairs.”
Wood elaborated, “He does not, as she comes to his side, hold her, greet her, bring her in close. He does a quick glance as if she was anybody and he doesn’t touch her.”
The Trumps vs. the Obamas
The Obamas, on the other hand, shared a few tender moments during the proceedings. When Melania Trump handed Michelle a gift, Barack saw that she was uncomfortable and took the gift off her hands. “It’s a great couple moment, like, ‘Oh, honey, I’ll take care of this for you,'” Wood said.
The Obamas were also caught in another moment of affection on Inauguration Day. As you can see in the GIF below, as Michelle approaches Barack on the steps, he grabs her hand and kisses it. “It’s a very tender moment,” Wood said. “It seems spontaneous.” Donald Trump, on the other hand, gives Melania a cursory nod and looks away, never touching her.
Constantine believes the Obamas’ body language demonstrates a much stronger relationship. “Melania is an object to [Trump],” Constantine said. “I don’t see any warmth or true love and compassion in that relationship whatsoever.”
Meanwhile, when the Obamas meet, “they meet through their eyes,” Constantine said. “Their bodies are parallel. There’s a lot of genuine warmth and love between the two.”
The inaugural dance
The Trumps’ body language during an awkward first dance at the inaugural ball can also provide insight into their relationship, experts said.
Wood pointed out that Melania leaned away from her husband as they danced. “That typically says, ‘I don’t want to merge with you as a partner,'” Wood said. Meanwhile, Donald is “pulling her in sexually,” touching her pelvis to his.
As they held hands and danced, she held her fingers out straight — a small sign that can demonstrate a lack of affection, Wood said.
Why does this matter?
Trump is an infamous womanizer who has boasted about sexually assaulting women and abusing his fame to manipulate them. His proposed health care policies would make abortion state-legislated, and he has pledged to defund Planned Parenthood. Already, he has reinstated a policy known as the “global gag rule,” which prohibits foreign organizations receiving family planning funding from the U.S. from providing patients with information about abortions.
Wood pointed out that Trump doesn’t generally change his behavior or body language when in different situations, so the timing here is important: Trump’s public behavior while masses of women gathered to protest his office suggested he didn’t care about or think much of his opposition.
While in this case, some found his behavior disturbing, his consistency “can also read as authenticity,” she said. “He’s the same wherever he is, in whatever situation he’s in.”