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We've all seen couples who seem perfect, both in real life and on social media. They hold hands, steal kisses and gaze lovingly in each others' directions. On social media, they pay loving tributes to each other — with words, photos and emojis.
Sure, sometimes it can be a sign of legitimate happiness. Other times, the overt public displays of affection or social media PDA can be masking an unraveling relationship. As the relationship plummets, the posts (by one or both members of the couple) can get even more clingy — as their self-esteem is often tightly wound up in the relationship.
This week, we saw the beloved "The Bachelor" couple Lauren Bushnell and Ben Higgins end their engagment — which is devastating to both them and so many of their fans. Their Instagram posts over the past year were filled with beautiful, loving photos. The last one was posted by Higgins just two weeks ago, where he wrote that Bushnell "is a light in this world."
Though one might have noticed that Bushnell's less-frequent posts honestly indicated that things weren't always perfect.
Here are some potential social media red flags to watch for, indicating that a relationship may be heading south:
1. Syrupy sweet posts
When I see posts like, "I know I have finally met the ONE and it feels so good after SO long! I love you my honeybee!" — and a couple has been on four dates — I know it might be a warning of trouble ahead. Or: "Having a great day with my soulmate! Best feeling ever!" Usually followed by dozens of hearts and angel emojis.
2. Mismatched affection
One of the lovers looks distant and not so happy about being photographed — repetitively (not just in one photo). Or one partner is tightly hugging the other, while the other just looks limp like a wet noodle.
3. Frequency of posts dramatically increases or decreases
If the posts were once every day, and now they're just once a week — that could indicate trouble in paradise. Or maybe they never posted, but all of a sudden there are three mushy posts in one day. They're trying to overcompensate for something.
4. Constantly changing relationship status
We all know those people, who roll in and out of relationships. Their status goes from "in a relationship" to "single" and then a few weeks later, "in a relationship" again! These status changers are very likely candidates for more relationship disasters. You'll likely see this behavior repeated over and over again.
It is very normal, and lovely, for couples to post beautiful photos and graceful, loving words on their partner's birthdays or anniversaries, and on special occasions like Mother's Day or Father's Day. In fact, if they don't, it might be seen as a red flag, too.
The best advice? Take social media posts in any relationship slow and steady, just the way you want to keep your relationship!
Dating coach Bela Gandhi is the founder and president of Smart Dating Academy.