Cheryl, 35, and Liam Payne, 25, were plagued by reports that their relationship could be on the rocks in February last year. However, the now former couple appeared to quell the rumours as they put on a united front at the BRIT Awards 2018. A matter of months later, the parents-of-one decided to part ways on a romantic level. Issuing a statement on their Twitter accounts, the pair explained it had been a “tough decision”, but they continued to love one another as a family.
While the singers rarely stepped out together for events, the two were pictured grinning on the red carpet in February that year.
This was one of the last times the duo were at a showbiz event together as a couple.
While the pair looked happy, a body language expert has suggested that these pictures could have contained some clues that their relationship may not last after all.
Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk, body language expert Judi James explained that despite the pair packing on the PDA, their emotions could be spotted via their eyes.
“While nobody wants to see a popular celebrity couple split up, watching incongruent body language rituals like Cheryl and Liam’s on the red carpet as they went into ‘denial’ mode over their relationship troubles can make for painful viewing,” she said.
“It’s generally the eyes that are the give-away to inner emotions and while Cheryl seemed able to use a lot of eye ‘checking’ gestures on Liam, using eye contact or looking back as though keen to check he was on-message, Liam did seem to struggle with his response, preferring to look away or straight at the cameras.”
What’s more, the expert pointed out that there appeared to be a disparity in the pair’s poses – which could have suggested a break-up could be on the cards in the near future.
Judi continued: “His poses tend to feature one hand stuffed into his pocket, which can suggest a desire to hide and while Cheryl appeared to be signalling she was tactile and even flirty, stretching and arm out to touch his arm or placing her fingertips on his chest, Liam looked happier keeping his hands to himself.
“Even when they did hold hands as they walked along the red carpet, Cheryl’s eye-scan of Liam’s face appeared wary and it was her towing him along via an outstretched arm as he plodded behind staring straight ahead with his lips sucked in, suggesting pressure or regret.”
Judi went on to study a video which was posted to social media, showing the stars spending time in a dressing room, ahead of the star-studded awards ceremony.
“In their dressing room it was Cheryl lying stretched out with her legs over Liam’s lap, trying to look flirty, and later it was Cheryl making the cheeky joke about her ‘safe’ word during sex while Liam sat looking genuinely shocked and surprised,” she told Express.co.uk.
“Sitting at the table next to Liam, Cheryl’s body language was hugely incongruent. She might have become giggly and flirtatious but before that point she had her hands on the table displaying signs of anxiety.”
The body language expert went on to explain that couples can often exhibit subtle tie-signs when they’re together, before pointing out that Cheryl and Liam seemed to be doing something else.
“When a couple really connect their body language tends to be riddled with small, subtle romantic tie-signs like mutual, exchanged glances and reciprocated touch,” she spilled.
“It’s the very small body language moments that define a relationship, not the sudden and rather over-performed PDAs that Cheryl was set on doing here.”
And, in a video of the duo sitting in the audience that same night, the singer songwriters seemed to be “awkward”.
“Both display signs of awkwardness before the interview begins,” Judi said. “Cheryl fiddles with her fingers while Liam remains slumped in his seat, looking away with a distant eye-expression.
“As Jack [Whitehall, 30, who was hosting the evening] begins to question them, Cheryl performs a tongue-poke, which can imply rejection or dislike.
“Liam looks similarly uncomfortable, wiping his hand across his mouth as though reluctant to speak.”
The clip saw the comedian poke fun at Liam’s former One Direction co-star, Niall Horan, who was not present at the event.
And, while many viewers will have been focusing on the cheeky quip, Judi took a closer look at how the two solo artists reacted.
“When Jack cracks the joke about Niall there is none of the natural ‘sharing a naughty joke’ gestures exchanged between Liam and Cheryl,” she said.
“Liam’s head falls back as he laughs but his eyes don’t naturally seek out Cheryl’s response in a bid to try to share his own laughter with her.”
Moments later, the TV presenter turned the topic of conversation to their sex lives, where she made a surprising revelation about a safe word they may use is “don’t stop”.
“When Cheryl comes up with her infamous ‘don’t stop’ line, Liam looks genuinely surprised and shocked,” Judi said.
“His mouth falls open and his eyebrows rise and he places a hand across his chest as though keen to distance himself from the apparent disclosure.”