A super pared-down timeline of their up-and-down relationship: The two met on the set of the film adaptation of Nicholas Spark’s tear-jerker The Last Song. For a while, it was all handholding and love songs—until the first breakup in August and the next in November. And then like a wrecking ball, they called off their engagement in 2013, a year after Liam proposed.
In the interim, the two dated other people while maintaining a private friendship—which eventually morphed back into a full-blown relationship in 2016. It was a tough break, but they clearly needed the time apart.
“It’s good for people to have that space to grow individually. Otherwise, when you’re with someone from 16 until 24, you grow into the same person,” Miley told The Sun on Sunday. She even sealed the re-engagement with the release of “Malibu,” a sob-inducing song about Liam. (P.S. Liam photographed her for the cover art, in which she's sporting her engagement ring again...aww!)
Then in a major turn of events, when their Malibu home burned down in the wildfire that ripped through California in November 2018, the couple tied the knot in a last-minute, über-casual ceremony a month later. Miley admitted to Vanity Fair that she and Liam might not have gotten married so soon had it not been for the loss of their house, but “the timing felt right,” she said, “and I had to go with my heart.”
While the rumours come and go, Miley says that she and Liam have “found a new bond underneath all that rubble"—and it seems that with time to mature independently, they’re on again for good. But if history repeats itself, who’s to say they won’t need time apart again?
Well, for one, relationship expert Terri Orbuch, PhD, author of 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage From Good to Great and professor at Oakland University in Michigan, does. She analysed the couple's body language over the years—here's what she sussed out:
1. Miley's got Liam on the brain.
Orbuch isn't sure where Liam's head is in this moment (maybe he's just hungry), but she feels pretty confident about how Miley's feeling. "You can tell she really cares about him," says Orbuch. She even speculates about Miley's admiration for her then-boyfriend thanks to the way Miley's body is turned toward Liam's.
Plus, it helps that she's literally staring at him, like googly-eyed staring. And while Orbuch would have preferred to see Liam's eyes on Miley and see his hand placed on her waist with intention (instead of obligation for the photo), at least he's got one foot pointed toward his girl. It means she's on his mind, too, somewhere...
2. Liam can always be himself when he's with Miley.
Okay, now things are looking up.
When she sees this photo, Orbuch's eyes go straight for Miley's hand on—no, clutching—Liam (a move you're about to see a lot). Apparently, it means "she's totally into him and he's all hers," says Orbuch, giving the affectionate advance her expert seal of approval.
What's more, there's absolutely zero space between Liam and Miley's bodies. (Ugh, jealous.) The meaning? They're beyond bonded. And even though Liam isn't exactly beaming the way Miley is, his vibe tells Orbuch that he's super relaxed and comfortable with her. He doesn't have to play it up for the cameras because M's opinion is the only one that matters to him. Daww.
3. When they're good, they're so good.
Orbuch appreciates a casual and candid moment like this one.
It proves Miley's grip on Liam isn't just something she does for the cameras. She relies on him and he walks tall to show her that she can depend on him, too. And check out those feet: They're stepping forward with the same foot in unison, which means they have the same priorities in life.
According to Orbuch, they're both all in as long as they're happy, and when they're not, they'll go their separate ways (which happens for the first time a few months after this moment is snapped!!!)
4. Miley (literally) leans on Liam...
Yet again, Miley seems to be doing the lovey-dovey heavy lifting here, but Liam's showing he cares in his own way, says Orbuch.
How? Peep the way he's standing tall for Miley to pose up against him. And yeah, he isn't looking at her, but his smile for the photographers is a loud statement about how proud he is to be by Miley's side.
5. ...And Liam loves being there for Miley.
You know it's love when you're too preoccupied with your S.O. to look forward while you walk. In this moment, it's clearly worth running into a wall if it means Liam can look at Miley while guiding her through the backstage commotion.
And though Orbuch would feel more secure if Miley and Liam were stepping forward with the same foot (again, it indicates that they have shared goals), she lets it slide because of those locked eyes, their handholding, and Liam's (dreamy) smile.
6. Miley wants everyone to know how proud she is of Liam.
Even when they've reverted to their signature pose, Orbuch is able to pick up on some clues about this relationship. Miley's look to the side tells Orbuch that she's checking over her shoulder with pride and eyeing everyone who's peeping at her and Liam.
She wants people to know that they're the real deal. Her M.O. is pretty spot-on, considering Liam (who has ~both~ feet pointing toward Miley this time) popped the question just a few months later.
7. They truly only have eyes for each other.
"This photo screams romance," says Orbuch. "They are gazing at each other with happiness and love." Just look at their locked faces and try not to smile yourself.
And even though they're all dressed up and surrounded by cameras, Orbuch says "there's a different vibe in this photo." Liam, she says, is way more relaxed and not as stiff as he was at the start of their relationship. (Perhaps that's the result of all that independent growth Miley attested to.)
The mutual head tilts and angled body positions confirms these two have found their groove and are ready for whatever ride life brings them—since they're finally, finally off their personal rollercoaster one.
This article originally appeared on Women's Health US.