Psychologists find most common break-up sign

Anya Meyerowitz
·2-min read
Photo credit: Unsplash
Photo credit: Unsplash

From Red Online

Sometimes a break-up feels like it's come out of the blue, and we're left wondering how we didn't spot the signs. But, according to a new study, there could be a subtle indicator that most of us are missing when it comes to catching onto the fact that our other half wants to call time on the relationship.

The research, carried out by psychologists at the University of Texas and published in the Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Science Journal, found that months before a break-up happens, the small words your partner uses in everyday conversations can often be an insight into what is to come.

And those words? Well, one of the main changes the researchers found when analysing more than a million posts from 6,800 Reddit users who posted about their break-ups, was an increase in the use of 'I' and 'we' pronouns.

'These are signs that someone is carrying a heavy cognitive load,' Sarah Seraj, the lead author of the study, explains. 'They’re thinking or working through something and becoming more self-focused.'

Sarah and her team found that, by analysing the Reddit posts, they could chart the change in language used up to three months ahead of the break-up.

Other language changes they identified included a drop in formality (which shows a reduction in analytical thinking) and a rise in words associated with ‘cognitive processing’. These are the words we use when we’re trying to make sense of something, such as 'want,' 'would' and 'suppose'.

Don't panic though because a change in wording isn't a sure-fire way to tell that your partner is thinking about ending it. However, it is a useful insight into the role language plays in ascertaining what someone is thinking at any one time.

Perhaps most interestingly, the researchers found these language changes to be true of both the person being broken up with and the one ending the relationship, meaning that, even if you’re not consciously aware the end of a relationship is coming, it can still affect you.

If you do notice a change in your partner's language in line with the findings above, rather than jump to conclusions or getting defensive, perhaps open up a dialogue about how you're both feeling — gently checking-in, without alarming your partner with an out-of-the-blue question. Communication is always a good thing, whether you feel your relationship is on the brink or not.

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