Dating and Relationship Advice

Breakups suck. Few things are worse than the feelings of utter rejection and loss that breakups bring. Except, maybe, the shock that comes when the breakup is unexpected. Emotional whiplash—one second, you’re booking a couples massage for a weekend getaway in Vermont and the next you’re ordering pad thai for one so you can drown your sorrows in peanut sauce. It can be incredibly painful to realize that someone you cared about and trusted could have hidden such a major truth from you.

According to psychologists at the University of Texas, your ex may not have been hiding their intentions as well as you thought. The study they conducted found that the words your significant other uses in their everyday conversations actually change in the months before they end things with you.

The psychologists looked at over a million posts on the r/breakups subreddit and analyzed the language users used both before and after a breakup. Crazily enough, they discovered that people’s language around their relationship began to change about three months before the breakup, often before the person even consciously decided to end things with their significant other.

The users' language changed in three main ways:

  1. Increase in “I” pronoun use – Super subtle, but very telling if someone shifts from talking about “we” or “us” to talking about “I” and “me”.
  2. Decrease in formality – The more casual someone’s speech becomes, the less they’re thinking critically about a topic. If they’re not thinking critically about a relationship, it might mean they’re already checked out.
  3. Increase in cognitive processing words – Words like “would”, “want” and “suppose” indicate that someone is trying to make sense of the relationship, and considering what life would be like if they were no longer in it.

What’s even more interesting is that the researchers discovered that these subtle shifts in language don’t just apply to the dumper, they also apply to the dumpee. That means that even if you’re not consciously aware that a breakup is coming, your subconscious might have already picked up on your SO’s cues.

Bananas, right?!?!

And language isn’t the only way we can tell if a relationship is on the express bus to Breakup Town. Nonverbal cues like these can also be clear road signs:

  • Body Language – Crossing arms, avoiding eye contact, and physically turning away from you
  • Decrease in Physical Contact – Reduced sex life or even a reduction in small touches like hugs, kisses, and hand holding
  • Increase in Bad Behavior – Being rude or disrespectful, flirting with other people
  • Increase in Flakiness – Lateness, not texting or calling you back, or just not showing up

These breakup signs are not here to make you feel bad if you didn’t notice them. You didn’t do anything wrong by being dumped, and it’s not your fault if you didn’t pick up on these subtle cues. More often than not, if your significant other is giving you these cues, they’re already halfway out the door. At that point, there’s not much you can do to fix the relationship. Their loss.