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An Expert Explains Why Jenna and Channing Were Always Touching

'If you're madly in love with each other, you don't separate.'
PHOTO: Getty Images

In a surprising joint statement issued simultaneously on Instagram on April 3, 2018, Jenna Dewan-Tatum and Channing Tatum announced their decision to separate after nine years of marriage:

"Absolutely noting had changed about how much we love one another, but love is a beautiful adventure that is taking us on different paths now," they wrote. 

Although North Carolina-based body language expert Blanca Cobb was initially shocked by the news, she's cynical of their statement. "The subtleties of their body language has changed," she insists.

The couple met in 2005 on the set of Step Up and began dating shortly after. They got engaged in September 2008, married in July 2009, and had their daughter Everly in May 2013 before allegedly separating quietly several months ago.

Here, Cobb examines the couple's interactions as their relationship progressed:

DATING

Jenna laughs at Channing.

The joy emanating from this photo is as real as it comes: Both Channing and Jenna display genuine smiles, with strong cheek muscle contractions. Jenna's mouth gapes open in a good laugh, as evidenced by the way her head tilts back, and her right hand contracts, says Cobb.

Jenna looks up at Channing for eye contact as though she's sharing her laughter; meanwhile, Channing leans toward her. "It's like they're saying, 'This is our moment,'" Cobb says.

Meanwhile, Channing uses both hands to bring Jenna toward him, and Jenna holds him around the waist. "It's natural to pull a person close to you when you really love them and can't get enough of them," Cobb says. "You can tell they're really really enjoying each other."

Channing leans in. 

Although Cobb characterizes Jenna's smile as polite, and Channing's grin as posed, she notices the way this couple's bodies are meshed together. Although Channing has a tight grip on Jenna with some tension in his fingers that suggests something might be off—particularly since he shoves his whole left hand in his pocket, a sign he's hiding something—"physical closeness projects emotional closeness," Cobb says. "And there's no air between them."

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ON THE BRINK OF ENGAGEMENT

Channing leads the way.

"Candid shots aren't posed or scripted, so they can give you a barometer reading of what's really going on," Cobb says. Here, Channing and Jenna choose to hold onto each other with their fingers interlaced, which Cobb says is a way to maximize skin-to-skin contact. Channing's hand is on top, meaning he tends to take charge in their relationship, according to Cobb, who's more interested in this couples' feet: They both lead with the right foot, suggesting they're in sync, or compatible, she says.

NEWLYWED

The duo puckers up.

"Standing pleasure zone to pleasure zone is one way to communicate, 'I'm really into you,'" Cobb says—and in this kiss, there's no question: Channing kisses Jenna's top lip as she goes in for the bottom of his mouth. "It's more passionate and intimate than a peck," Cobb adds.

And see the way Jenna holds the back of Channing's neck to bring him closer, as he hunches his shoulders toward her to get closer—despite their height discrepancy? "It's an indication they both really want that kiss," Cobb says, also noting the way they both close their eyes. "They're both enjoying the moment without distraction and find it meaningful," she says.

Jenna grasps Channing's arm.

Here, Jenna grips Channing's upper arm, bringing him in close for support and to maintain their connection, according to Cobb, who says the tension in Jenna's fingers might have stemmed from noticing a photographer snapping away. Although Channing looks distracted while Jenna's smile says she's enjoying herself, the incongruence is likely circumstantial. "They're total mirror images," says Cobb of the couple's similar stride.

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They walk with clasped hands.

In this candid shot, Channing and Jenna share almost identically grave expressions. "It implies they're on the same wavelength," Cobb says, noting that a couple who simultaneously express emotions besides happiness isn't necessarily unstable behind closed doors.

Channing and Jenna are still interlocking fingers and leading with the same leg, Cobb notes—two signs their bond is strong as ever.

EXPECTING

Channing hold's Jenna's baby bump.

"Because you can get a sense of what someone is thinking by looking into their eyes, you can tell they're emotionally connecting here," Cobb says. "They're also as close as they possibly can be when a woman is pregnant, pleasure zone to pleasure zone—it's like they're saying, 'It's me and you—let's forget the rest of the world.'"

From the way Channing's eyes are squinted, you can tell he's almost giggling as Jenna drops her jaw to let out a laugh. "They're into each other and enjoying the moment," Cobb says.

What's more, Channing holds Jenna's belly as if it's his world, with his left hand on her lower back to show he supports her.

NEW PARENTS

Jenna goes for Channing's thigh.

With polite smiles, Channing and Jenna lean into one another as Jenna slips a hand on her husband's lap. "Touching an intimate zone can be flirty, and it's one way to paint a picture of what kind of passion is in a marriage," says Cobb, who sees this couple's body language as evidence of sexual chemistry.

They pose with some distance between them.

"His body looks a little awkward," says Cobb of the way Channing stiffly leans toward Jenna. Uncharacteristically, there's quite some space between their bodies, and Channing's right fingers are curved. "When you're stressed or anxious, your body gets smaller as if to protect itself psychologically—so he could be feeling tension about something," Cobb says. "The seriousness of his face matches his hands." With an open hand that signals confidence, Jenna looks less tense—meaning they're emotionally mismatched in this moment, she says.

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They sit side-by-side—but apart.

Here, Jenna crosses a leg toward her husband, which means she's not using the limb as a psychological barrier to distance herself from him, according to Cobb. "Her foot is in his personal space, and you only cross barriers when you're feeling comfortable and connected to your partner," Cobb says. "It's a good sign."

However, "they're both in their own worlds, and there's no intersection," Cobb says of this photo, in which Channing leans forward as Jenna leans back. This, she notes, differs from the seated photo they posed for above.

GOING STRONG

They hold onto each other.

"When you post your own photo, you control the public's perception by circulating an image you want people to see," Cobb says of Channing's Instagram. It's why Cobb is confused by the photo he selected: Although Jenna and Channing embrace each other with both arms, and he leans into her, Channing is barely smiling—and Jenna has had bigger grins. "If you're not ready to let the world know you’re having problems in paradise, you might post pictures of yourself in paradise to safeguard your privacy," she says, hinting at a ruse.

ON THE FRINGE?

They walk side-by-side with stiffness.

Unlike previous photos, the couple's stride is off here: They lead with different legs, suggesting their chemistry could be faltering, too, according to Cobb. Their expressions have also changed—NBD, though, because this shot is candid. What concerns Cobb most is the couple's stiffness: There's no swinging of their clasped hands or humor in their faces. "They just look more serious," she says.

They both sorta smize.

In one of the most recent photos taken before the couple's split, Channing positions his shoulder behind Jenna's, and figuratively, standing behind someone shows you support them, Cobb says. But she adds they look particularly rigid and have space between their bodies. Jenna stands unnaturally erect: "Straightening your posture can give you a few extra millimeters of personal space that can seem like miles when you're stressed," Cobb says.

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Now check out their hands. "You hide your hands when you're feeling nervous," Cobb says—and look at that: Channing and Jenna are both doing it. "When you mirror each other's behaviors, you're in sync—even if they're not positive. If you're both unhappy, you both show it."

The Bottom Line:

"If you're madly in love with each other, you don't separate," says Cobb, but "they've consistently projected a couple that's emotionally in sync, and based on their body language, I really think they still like and enjoy each other."

Follow Elizabeth on Instagram and Twitter.

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This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.