Is there really such a thing as a surprise breakup? You know, where everything is straight-out-of-a-rom-com perfect, and then out of nowhere, you’re on the receiving end of a brutal “it’s over” speech with no idea where it went wrong?
Maybe, but more often than not, the road to Dumpsville is littered with clues, so we checked in with college guys for an inside scoop on how to decode which behaviors might just be a prelude to your breakup.
1. He’s vague about the future with you
We’re not saying to panic if your boyfriend doesn’t feel like chatting about what you should name your future children. A little aversion to “future talk” is normal. But if your beau is suddenly squeamish about setting dates more than a week or two in advance without a good excuse, there might be an expiration date on your relationship that you don’t know about.
But does the fact he won’t commit to next month’s sorority formal mean that he’s got your breakup date set? Not necessarily, but at the very least, avoiding the topic of the future is a sign that he’s having doubts about your relationship, says to Ben Wills, a recent graduate of Vassar College.
“It might not be that he knows for sure you won’t be together in a month,” he says. “But it might mean that he’s questioning your relationship and he’s buying himself time to decide.”
2. He prefers small talk to deeper discussions
Communication is key in a relationship, and it might be key to your impending breakup, too.
“If you’re a girl that’s looking for signs that he’ll break up with you soon, I think the biggest piece of advice would be to examine his communication and compare it to how it used to be,” says Dale Lavine, HC’s resident Real Live College Guy.
Chances are one of the reasons you’re currently dating your boyfriend has to do with how well you two click conversationally. So if you find that your communication has turned exclusively into small talk and fluff topics, he might be mentally checking out of the relationship.
3. You’re the only one initiating plans, texts, calls and dates
Does it feel like you’re suddenly back at square one, and it’s like before you started dating? Wondering why he isn’t texting you first, feeling nervous about suggesting plans, waiting for him to call… all of the above are hints that a breakup is heading your way, and guess what? He might be dropping them on purpose.
“I would definitely try to give hints [that I was going to break up with a girl] with how I acted,” says Ben. “Taking longer to text back, being less emotionally forthcoming and acting less interested in her life… I feel like she should have warning signs that it’s coming, because no one wants to be smacked in the face by a breakup.”
4. His social calendar has suddenly exploded—and you’re not invited
Sure, he probably hangs out with friends already, but be wary if new friends and extra plans are coming mysteriously out of the woodwork.
“I was dating a guy for a few months and things were going great,” says Jordan Sypek, a senior at the University of Tampa. “Randomly he kept seeming less and less interested in being around me. He would start hanging out with the guys more and drink all night with them. He would also start going out without me, and tell me not to go to the same parties he was at. I saw him at a bar one night and he completely ignored me… The next morning we met up and he told me he wanted to see other people.”
There’s nothing wrong with plenty of bro time, but watch out if he’s using it as an excuse not to see you. A social life separate from you gives him time away from your relationship in a way that won’t raise questions, and it helps him develop a routine for when you’re out of the picture.
5. The (ahem) physical side of your relationship has changed
If a breakup is on the horizon, sparks can either fly or fizzle in your sex life. Spending less and less intimate time together is an easy sign that he’s getting more distant, but keep an eye out if his engines are suddenly revved up, too.
“He might be thinking, ‘Well, I’m going to make sure to enjoy the sex while it lasts,’” says Ben.
Intimacy outside the bedroom might feel out of balance, too. Things might start to feel one-sided. Maybe he’s stopped dropping the L word as much as he used to, he doesn’t steal kisses the way you do or now you’re always the one to reach for his hand first. While these things might be normal in another relationship, if you notice a definite shift in his affections and find yourself doing most of the work, your boyfriend could be feeling uncomfortable, knowing that he’ll soon be breaking up with you.
6. His personality pulled a 180
If you find your guy acting like someone you wouldn’t want to date, he probably hasn’t inexplicably turned into a jerk overnight. Instead, his new unsavory personality might be a sign that he wants you to break up with him so he doesn’t have to do it himself.
“Breaking up sucks,” says Ben. “Guys really just want to avoid uncomfortable confrontation, especially with relationships. So if they can make it so they’re not the one doing the breaking up, then all the better for them.”
7. Things just feel off
Breakups rarely follow a textbook formula, so if the dynamic of your relationship seems to have shifted, don’t brush it off as something you’re imagining—talk to him about it. It might not be a surefire sign that things are doomed, but you’re better safe than sorry.
“Many, if not most, men are awful liars, and we can’t keep up a facade of loving, peaceful discussion forever,” says Dale. “If things start to fall apart, you’ll notice.”
Remember: relationships (even doomed ones!) rely on communication, so even if your boyfriend is doing all of the above, don’t abandon ship without asking him what’s up. If there’s something else going on, he might just need a nudge to check back into your relationship.
*Names have been changed.