We can all agree on the obvious signs your sweetie wants out — like he swaps that wallet photo of you for one of his mom — but what about the more subtle signs? Spotting them is the key to surviving with your pride (and even your relationship) safely intact. “Instead of closing up when we’re afraid a romance may be ending, we need to force ourselves to be open,” says Maya Talisman Frost, an English professor and novelist living in Hangzhou, China. “In many cases, open communication can prevent a downward relationship spiral, so pay attention and watch for opportunities to connect.” Here are five early clues you’re about to get dumped:
Sign #1: Your dates morph into group outings
Has he started inviting a few friends — or a few dozen — along when you go out? He may be trying to tell you something, according to Matt Kennedy of Orlando, FL: “When I want to end a relationship, I’ll invite my buddies along with us to movies, parties and dinner,” he explains. “That way, it becomes more of a group thing instead of a date.”
And even more telling than the size of the crowd is the way he acts within it. “If he’s more flirtatious with other women, making you feel extraneous, or he scans the room instead of focusing on you,” he may be ready to move on, says Debbie Mandel, author of Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul.
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Sign #2: He becomes Mr. Extreme Makeover
It’s an old wives’ truism for a reason: a person who’s cheating suddenly wants to look better, says Lisa Daily, author of Stop Getting Dumped! “So if he was a blue button-down shirt and chinos kind of guy and suddenly he’s wearing Armani, that’s not a good sign,” she explains.
But hey, new threads and six-pack abs doesn’t mean he’s getting some love on the side — just that he’s open to the idea. “What most of my guy friends say is that when they’re not into the relationship anymore, they’ll work out and buy new clothes because they’re looking to impress women,” says Janelle Nicolo of Beverly, MA. “Since most men in relationships get comfortable and ‘let themselves go,’ when your man starts taking better care of himself, he may well be contemplating replacing you.”
Sign #3: He’s cranky and critical all the time
You tell a joke; he rolls his eyes. You ask what he’s doing Friday; he snaps, “Why are you pressuring me?” You complain about your boss... and he sides with her! What gives? “When there’s a lot of contempt in the relationship and he’s suddenly critical and judgmental, that’s a warning sign,” says Diana Kirschner, Ph.D., author of Love in 90 Days: The Essential Guide to Finding Your Own True Love. Sometimes when a man feels unhappy but powerless to change things, he’ll act out (kind of like a two-year-old who doesn’t want to eat spinach). Yes, you’re the spinach in this scenario, but don’t take it personally: he is jumping down your throat for absolutely no reason. Remember that you deserve to be worshipped, not tortured, by your man. And love is supposed to be fun.
Sign #4: His body language says, ‘Get me out of here!’
You know those guys who three days before they dump you say, “You make me so happy” or “We should get our own place together,” right? We all wonder why they do it, but the good news is, there’s a way to see it coming — just check out his body language when he speaks. Watch for the one-shoulder hug, a sign he’s “distancing” himself from you in the relationship, says Daily. Patting your back while hugging you is another bad sign, because it shows he’s uncomfortable. Also, check to see if he’s looking up and to the left as he proclaims his devotion to you. According to private investigators, a guy who does this is lying: the look to the left shows he’s using the “creative” side of his brain, says Daily — a good indicator that he’s telling you a whopper.
Sign #5: He’s hard to reach — in every sense of the word
Check all that apply: Do you find yourself calling him more than you used to? Wondering why it took him a day to respond to your email when he used to IM you back in 10 seconds? Has he cancelled more than one date in the last month because he’s crazy busy at work? Has he tried to change the subject after you brought up an issue that requires future planning for two — from where to go Saturday night to whether or not to live together? According to Kirschner, these are “tells” spelling out his time-to-get-outta-here intentions.
To tell if he’s just genuinely busy or getting ready to break free, tune in to how you feel about his lack of time, says Nicole E. Marquez of Tempe, AZ. “For a month or so before my boyfriend broke up with me at lunch — just like George on Seinfeld — there was a ‘dark cloud’ over the relationship,” she recalls. “It was like a sense of impending doom. I think with relationships, your gut feeling is always right.”
Bottom line: If any of these clues rings true, try talking to your guy, says Talisman Frost. Let him know that you want to hear whatever he’s thinking — the less judgmental your tone, the more likely he’ll be to truly open up. In some cases, just being able to vent his relationship anxieties may relieve them. At the very least, by speaking up you gain some ownership of the breakup, making you feel less like a victim and more like the mastermind of your own love-life happiness.
New York-based writer Lisa Lombardi has contributed to Redbook, Cosmopolitan, and other national magazines.