Body language can reveal many truths about relationships—but only if you know how to read it. In Celebrity Couples: Decoded, an expert interprets A-listers' interactions to shed light on their IRL dynamic.
Two and a half years after the young couple began dating in November 2015, model Gigi Hadid and pop star Zayn Malik are calling it quits, according to statements they each posted on Twitter.
Although their relationship timeline held few signs of an impending breakup, their body language has long contained some hints, according to North Carolina-based body-language expert Blanca Cobb: "Seeing tension or atypical behavior can give you a sense that something may not be right in a relationship," she says. Here's what she saw in Gigi and Zayn...
When they were close as could be on the red carpet:
Gigi and Zayn Malik attend the Costume Institute Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in May 2016.
Check out the way Gigi touches Zayn's chin and cheek. "You touch someone on the face when you want them to focus on you. He's definitely not distracted, and her smile says she's enjoying the attention."
The couple interlocks their fingers—the most intimate way to hold hands, Cobb says—and stands face-to-face with the back of their hands pressed against each others' pleasure zones. "It means you really like someone and you're attracted to them—it's passion, and an intimate moment for them, which is interesting because you don't usually see bedroom eyes in public," Cobb says.
When Gigi laughed into a kiss:
During their first summer of dating in July 2016, Gigi posted the photo above, which appears to have been taken mid-kiss. "His eyes are closed, which shows he's in the moment," Cobb says of the passion she sees in this exchange. "His nose looks smushed, which seems uncomfortable, but makes it look like he's really going in for the kiss with open lips rather than a peck."
Meanwhile, Gigi's expression suggests she's humored by Zayn's attempt to kiss her. "It's a fun, playful moment—and a sign they're in a good place," Cobb says.
When Gigi let her phone come between her and her boyfriend:
Gigi and Zayn walk in New York City in September 2016.
Here, the couple appears to be holding each others' hands with Zayn's arm ahead of Gigi's, suggesting he takes the lead in their relationship, Cobb says. But look closely, and you'll see Zayn is holding Gigi's while Gigi is holding her phone. "Normally, when you hold someone's hand, nothing gets between you—it's skin-to-skin contact," Cobb says, noting that Gigi easily could have slipped her phone in her pocket or a bag, rather than keeping it in her right palm. "She's putting up a physical barrier, which reflects a psychological distance," Cobb says, although she can't speculate on exactly what's going on between them.
When Zayn held Gigi at the hip:
Zayn and Gigi are spotted out in New York City in 2016.
A couple of months before their one-year-anniversary, Zayn plants a low-slung hand on Gigi's waist, which says, "I've got your back, I'm with you, I'm supporting you," according to Cobb. "His hand is near her core power zone and lower pleasure zone, which you don't touch unless you feel close to someone," she says.
Interestingly, Gigi covers Zayn's hand with her own, confirming she's OK with the physical contact, according to Cobb. "I don't get the impression that she's trying to stop him from touching her since she'd be applying more pressure with a tighter grasp," she says. "But she still doesn't seem to be initiating touch, especially since she has her phone in the other hand."
When Gigi reached down to Zayn:
The couple poses in October 2016.
In this photo, instead of standing shoulder-to-shoulder, Zayn asserts himself in a power position by standing with not just his hand, but his entire arm up to the shoulder, ahead of Gigi. "It's not necessarily a bad thing for a male partner to take charge," Cobb says. "It all depends on what the other partner likes."
Meanwhile, Gigi projects a pleasant smile as she droops her right shoulder to lean closer to Zayn—a sign she's comfortable leaning on him in their relationship, Cobb says. And see the way their fingers aren't exactly intertwined? "It could be the height difference, but it looks like Zayn is just providing a placeholder for Gigi's fingers," Cobb says. "In this moment, he might not feel as touchy-feely, although it's no indication of how they are in private."
When Gigi took the lead... with her phone:
Functional couples don't have to hold hands all the time, Cobb says, and here, more than a year before announcing their breakup, Gigi appears to be holding her phone rather than Zayn's hand. Uncharacteristically, Gigi takes the lead; based on the direction of her toes, she's walking to the left as Zayn veers straight ahead. Interestingly, they both lead with the right foot, which suggests they're emotionally in sync—even as they move in different directions, according to Cobb.
When Gigi walked a hair behind Zayn:
Gigi and Zayn are photographed in New York City in April 2017.
Cobb says the couple's physical proximity in this snapshot is telling: "There's closeness," she says. "You move toward people you're attracted to."
That said, neither party looks particularly happy to be photographed at this moment. "Even if they were having problems, staying close to each other could give them a sense of security when they're out in public," Cobb says.
When Gigi got rained on to get a step ahead:
Zayn and Gigi are seen in New York in May 2017.
In May 2017, Gigi leads the way with Zayn at least one stride behind her, deviating from the couple's baseline. While they're still within each other's personal space, which extends four feet in every direction, according to Cobb, "the distance between them suggests they're disconnected at this moment."
What's more, it appears as though Gigi is walking into the rain to distance herself from her partner, according to Cobb. Without context, "you've got to wonder why, and what's going on," Cobb says, acknowledging that there could be a conflict—or Gigi could be skipping ahead to get into a car.
When the couple posted a looped kiss on their two-year anniversary:
In November 2017, Gigi and Zayn shared a kiss that said, "I'm really digging you right now, let's take it to the bedroom," Cobb says, pointing out the way Zayn appears to be almost biting at Gigi's bottom lip and pulling. "It's a hot moment."
Both of them have their eyes closed, and Gigi, it seems, is trying to hide a smile. "It's sexual, but also playful. When you can have fun like that together, it's good," Cobb says.
When the couple held hands before their split:
Zayn and Gigi step out in New York City in January 2018.
After the New Year, but before announcing their break, Zayn and Gigi interlock their fingers as Zayn, characteristically, takes the upper hand. "She has a pleasant, polite smile," Cobb says, seeing no genuine joy from either partner at this moment. "Their ambivalence makes me wonder if they really want to be with each other."
The Bottom Line
"There's a lack of consistency," Cobb says, explaining that couples who jump between super hot and cold behaviors can sometimes work but make her wonder what's going on behind closed doors.
She also sees Gigi's ever-present phone as a red flag. "Having a phone in your hand as you're holding hands with your partner doesn't send a good message," she says. "When you spend time together, you can always shuffle objects around to focus on making a connection with your partner."
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.