Body Language Signs Your Partner Is About To Break Up With You

Relationships are complex: whether you and your partner have been together for years, or you're fresh out of the honeymoon phase, it isn't easy to always understand your partner's state of mind. As the two of you become more comfortable and fall into a routine, you may quickly be blindsided when your partner suddenly reveals that they aren't happy in the relationship. If you are concerned that your partner might be having second thoughts, there are early warning signs that should not be ignored.

When you're on the lookout for relationship red flags, pay close attention to your partner's body language. It's common to overlook your partner's physicality or write it off as their natural habits. But with closer inspection, how your partner sits, gestures, and even where they choose to look while talking to you can clue you into the possibility that they might be considering a breakup.

Jess Ponce III, a body language expert, communication coach, and author of "A.W.E.S.O.M.E.," gave The List an exclusive guide for understanding your romantic partner's body language, and how to identify subtle signs that your relationship might be in trouble.

Pay close attention to your partner's wandering eyes

When you and your partner are having an intense conversation, take a moment to notice where they are looking. Direct eye contact is often seen as a sign of respect – people who look someone directly in the eyes are more likely to be telling the truth. Body language expert Jess Ponce III revealed that a person's eye line is a huge indicator of how they are feeling about the situation they are in.

If your partner looks up at the ceiling or down at the floor when attempting to answer a question, they could be deciding what information, if anything, they want to share with you. Ponce calls this the "thinking spot" – when your partner repeatedly looks in a certain direction while talking, it could indicate that they are uncomfortable or they are hiding something. While everyone's eyes may wander from time to time, especially during important conversation or conflict, a noticeable repetition of distracted eyes is a clear indicator that someone is struggling to stay present in the conversation. Avoiding eye contact all together is a huge red flag – Ponce warns that your sweetie could be gearing up to say something unpleasant that they know will hurt you, or they are attempting to ignore their own unpleasant feelings.

Notice where your partner puts their hands when you talk

No matter how in love you may be, you and your partner can't always be hand in hand. Where your partner places their hands while speaking may give you some insight into how they are feeling about the relationship. Large, passionate (yet safe and respectful) hand gestures indicate importance. "The heart hold," a term that Jess Ponce III coined, is when your partner holds their hands to their chest, almost literally "sharing their heart with you." In contrast, putting their hands in their pockets or behind their back may imply that your partner isn't listening or does not care about the topic.

Your partner may choose to cross their arms. Ponce says that this could be your partner's way of staying in a "self-protected space," feeling safer when they are putting a barrier in between the two of you, both physically and emotionally. The author does claim that this arm placement is up for interpretation, and may not always be a direct act of aggression: "We all know that crossed arms means that somebody is closed off. What we don't know is whether the other person is listening to us or not. They could be resting their arms in a closed position seriously considering what you are saying, be judging it, or completely disengaged." When decoding your partner's intent behind their crossed arms, consider other factors that may inform how they are feeling, such as the topic of conversation, their tone of voice, and their gaze.

You might feel like your partner isn't really listening to you

If your partner is feeling restless in the relationship, they might begin to display impatient habits such as rushing through your conversation. Jess Ponce III says this can happen in both a group setting and a one-on-one conversation. They may cut you off while you're telling a story to friends, or use subtle put downs that imply you don't know what you're talking about. They may also use filler language such as "yeah yeah" or "uh huh" to indicate their disinterest when you are speaking directly to them. This behavior can begin subtly and grow over time, making it hard to notice after a while.

According to Ponce, this kind of reaction might actually be an indicator that they, themselves, don't feel heard. The body language expert shared with The List, "As a tip, you may want them to say what they have to say. Listen to them validate their experience. Then use that as a launching point for you to continue." Be open and willing to hear their point of view, and use your behavior as a metric for how you expect them to react in return. If they cannot match this energy, there is definitely a deeper issue in the relationship.

Your partner may be physically putting distance between the two of you

One of the biggest indicators that your partner may be considering a breakup is if they are uninterested in being close to you. In a relationship, people make bids for connection throughout the day, as an attempt to gain their partner's attention and affection. Per The Gottman Institute, these bids can be anything from paying your partner a compliment to initiating intimacy. When these bids for connection are constantly shut down, you may start to feel distance grow between you and your partner.

What can begin as an emotional distance can quickly manifest into how your partner physically interacts with you. When you attempt to connect with them, your partner might back up and maintain a large space between the two of you. "The back up," as Jess Ponce III calls it, may be your partner's way of rejecting closeness and regaining a sense of security in the relationship. According to Ponce, "This individual is nervous, but not necessarily due to precarious reasons like lying. Often, it is because they don't feel comfortable being put into the center of attention." It is important to respect your partner's need for space during this time and verbally communicate with them if you are hoping to physically connect once things de-escalate.

Try not to base your worries solely on your partner's body language

It's important not to hyperfixate on your partner's body language so much that you forget to consider the context of the surrounding situation. All couple's fight, and your partner's fight language might include crossed arms or pacing around the room. They might be more introverted in group settings or exhausted after a day at work and won't have much to say. Your partner may see you as a safe space to vent and unload their feelings about their bad day onto you, which can be misinterpreted as relationship frustration. Jess Ponce III reminds us that analyzing body language is simply a "great way to start to examine how other people communicate with you and how you communicate to them. They are, however, not set in stone for every situation." When analyzing your partner's body language in search of red flags, identify which behaviors are new and which ones they have always displayed, even during the beginning of the relationship.

The best thing to do to combat any misunderstanding is to clearly communicate with your partner. Ask them how they are feeling, bring up concerns you have or changes in their behavior that you have noticed. If you and your partner are still having relationship problems, it might be time to consider seeing a couples counselor.