Cole Sprouse and Lili Reinhart‘s split rocked the Riverdale fandom to its very core in the summer of 2019. The breakup was so shocking that it triggered a wave of think pieces vying to make sense of what just didn’t make sense. Cosmopolitan even gave the split an astrological analysis (apparently, an eclipse while Mercury is in retrograde is a death knell for those with a Libra moon, which Sprouse may or may not have). E! News simply wanted us to "relive" the couple’s "PDA-filled romance" like some sort of memorial slideshow at a funeral. The whole breakup seemed more tragic than literally any Riverdale murder — and there’s been plenty. We take our CW stars seriously, okay?
Sprouse and Reinhart have shared a notoriously private relationship — at least when they aren’t kissing in Paris or stunning the Met Gala red carpet (above) — but even the most private couples eventually lose their cool. Just like a Riverdale plot line, the pair dropped a number of hints throughout their romance that, in retrospect, might have revealed they weren’t as perfect a match in real life as they were onscreen … at least until their alleged reconciliation just months later, that is. But more on that below. For now, let’s dig into the real reason why Cole Sprouse and Lili Reinhart broke up in the first place.
Lili Reinhart and Cole Sprouse split in June 2019
Cole Sprouse and Lili Reinhart reportedly broke up right under our noses, and Riverdale fans were none the wiser. Go figure for two people who make a living on a teen mystery series. According to E! News, the supposed on-and-off couple split "earlier" in the summer of 2019, but reports of their breakup only hit headlines in late July. Where were our clues?
A source that spoke to E! News at the time claimed the couple were "intentionally keeping their distance" from each other. On the outside, this intentional distance certainly looked a whole lot like work. Reinhart reportedly spent that June in New Jersey filming Chemical Hearts, an Amazon Studios adaptation of the YA novel Our Chemical Hearts, for which she also served as executive producer. It marked her first major credit behind the scenes. During this time, Sprouse was hanging out in Florence, Italy with his Suite Life co-star and twin brother, Dylan Sprouse.
It goes without saying that Italy and New Jersey are across an ocean, so the fact neither of them were spotted on each other’s Instagram accounts seemed pretty normal. The second Riverdale festivities kicked up again at Comic-Con, they were back to posting about each other on a regular basis, making the breakup news seem like that much more of a mystery.
Bughead hasn’t always seen eye to eye
Forget Hal Cooper — resentment is the real killer in a relationship. It’s clear Bughead hasn’t always seen eye to eye, and while it’s normal for couples to have some disagreements, it’s not really normal to look like you want to murder each other onscreen. At least save it for when no one’s watching.
A July 2019 video from the Riverdale press rounds certainly spoke volumes about Lili Reinhart and Cole Sprouse’s seemingly doomed relationship. In it, Madelaine Petsch joked with a reporter as Sprouse sat behind her quietly giggling with the rest of his castmates. The mood seemed light until Reinhart randomly turned to her boyfriend and hissed, "Be respectful." She also may have said, "You look stoned," although the audio is a bit unclear. Sprouse balked, "What?" and made a sour, sarcastic face. The second Reinhart turned back around, he immediately rolled his eyes and his smile dropped.
Of course, reading into the meaning behind Sprouse’s facial gestures is purely speculative, but there’s not really ever a situation where an eye-roll is a good sign. Plus, if he was faking annoyance with that ferocity, the dude probably deserves an Emmy.
Did a bad first impression signal Lili Reinhart and Cole Sprouse’s breakup?
If you couldn’t tell Cole Sprouse and Lili Reinhart were headed for a breakup, Reinhart’s first impression of her future boyfriend might have given Riverdale fans some clues. In truth, it didn’t seem like she liked him all that much, and you know what they say about first instincts: they’re usually pretty spot on.
In a 2018 video segment for Glamour, Reinhart actually admitted that she initially thought Sprouse was annoying, specifically when he talked. "That was my first impression, I was like, ‘That guy’s got an annoying voice.’ And now it’s grown on me I guess," she said. She must have not watched The Suite Life as a kid. Over time, Reinhart managed to put her first impression aside and fall in love with her onscreen beau. In the Glamour video, Reinhart admitted that Sprouse was her smartest friend, and Sprouse confessed that Reinhart constantly pushed him to be better. Aww.
Cole Sprouse and Lili Reinhart’s friends saw the writing on the wall
Cole Sprouse and Lili Reinhart’s interview spat might have shocked Riverdale fans who were used to watching Jughead and Betty romance each other onscreen, but it doesn’t really seem like it was anything out of the norm for people who actually know them. According to an anonymous source who spoke to People, these two have very different personalities and "their lifestyles often clashed." They reportedly clashed enough that their friends "didn’t really expect them to last in the long-run." Hey, sometimes your besties do, in fact, know best.
"Things have felt super heavy in the relationship for a while, and it got to be too much. They’re both very professional though and trying to be as amicable and friendly as possible," the source told People.
We’d say when things start navigating into the territory of public bickering, that’s probably just a little too much. Nonetheless, People reported that Bughead continued to keep things as professional as possible on set, though it probably wasn’t easy having to kiss their ex for a paycheck.
Cole Sprouse thought Lili Reinhart was really guarded
Intimacy is the hallmark of a good relationship. Couples who struggle to communicate are totally doomed, no matter how much they might actually be in love. According to Cole Sprouse, Lili Reinhart didn’t initially jump into their relationship — or into deep friendships with any of her castmates — with open arms. It took her months to open up, despite the fact that they were playing lovers on TV.
In a video for Glamour, Sprouse admitted that Reinhart was "a tough egg to crack. She’s very shy at first, reserved, and I think it was about halfway into the first season she started letting people in truly."
It’s not clear if Reinhart has remained guarded throughout their on-and-off relationship, but Sprouse seems anything but reserved. After all, the star had no qualms about telling the New York Post about the crush he had on his Friends co-star, Jennifer Aniston — you know, when he was eight years old. He’s also been known publicly roast his twin brother, a hobby they both seem to share. Sometimes opposites attract, and sometimes it’s really hard for opposites to get along.
Did their relationship get too public?
Lili Reinhart and Cole Sprouse made their first red carpet debut as a couple at the 2018 Met Gala. This was nearly a full year after the CW stars first sparked romance rumors by packing on the PDA at Comic-Con in 2017. According to Elle, things were still not fully confirmed until the pair was caught by the paparazzi kissing in Paris during a Riverdale convention. After that, it was pretty hard to keep their relationship under wraps. The only problem was that both Reinhart and Sprouse really, really seemed to want to keep their romance private.
In a 2018 Harper’s Bazaar interview, Reinhart made it clear her love life was off-limits to the public. "I’m not okay talking about my relationship. I’m not going to tell you my love story. That’s just not appropriate right now," she said. Sprouse seemed to share a similar sentiment when he was interviewed for People‘s Sexiest Man Alive issue. "Whether you dismiss [the dating rumors] or whether you encourage those rumors, it’s giving people who are in my opinion are a bit entitled to your personal life more power," Sprouse said, adding, "So I just never talk about it because it’s not anyone’s right to know."
As the couple’s relationship deepened, Sprouse and Reinhart did get more open about their private affairs, but it’s possible that eventually put a strain on their bond.
Cole Sprouse and Lili Reinhart’s social media styles don’t really match up
Let’s be real: it’s important for couples to agree about internet usage. It’s more than just sharing idiotic memes to keep the spark alive. According to Business Insider, social media is a major source of concern, and it triggers fights among younger couples — especially when one half of that couple is more private than the other. Lili Reinhart and Cole Sprouse seem to have totally different views of the internet, which could have led to some tension in their alleged on-and-off relationship.
Though both Sprouse and Reinhart regularly post about each other on Instagram and often joke on Twitter, Sprouse seems to be far more confrontational on the net. He’s pretty much mastered the art of trolling, and he roasts everyone from his friends and family to his co-stars. He even called his brother trash on Twitter. Reinhart doesn’t really seem to poke fun on the internet in the same way. Mostly, she finds it unfunny, hurtful, and unhealthy.
"Unless you’re personally experiencing it, you could never understand how it feels to have thousands of people spewing hate at you constantly," the star wrote on Instagram (via Just Jared Jr.) while announcing a "break from Twitter." She added, "As a whole, that site is not good for my mental health, and it isn’t benefiting me anymore."
It just goes to show that the couple has had some major online differences and hasn’t always been able to overcome them.
Lili Reinhart seemed to get over the breakup quickly
Breakups are always difficult, but Lili Reinhart seemed to get totally over hers with Cole Sprouse quicker than you’d think. If Sprouse’s epic eye-roll was his signal, Reinhart’s sassy Instagram post was her smoking gun. The actress has been known to post some sweet captions about her beau on Instagram. In 2018, the star wrote a rather poetic (and since-deleted) birthday post for Sprouse that read (via Teen Vogue), "It seems as if the world would still be a stranger to me, if not for you. I’m so thankful that our paths intertwined to form this beautiful adventure."
It’s safe to say those sweet sentiments were numbered. Gone were the days of gushy Grams, because we were in the era of sass by July 2019, when the actress took it back to Comic-Con, the place the couple first sparked romance rumors two years prior. In an Instagram photo, Reinhart sat between Sprouse and co-star K.J. Apa, and wrote: "Please don’t put me between these two ever again."
It was innocent enough, but it did show an air of bitterness towards Sprouse. Let’s also not forget Reinhart’s mysterious tweet that seemed to hint at a breakup: "One must choose very wisely when considering how many f**ks to give. Don’t give your f**ks away so easily. Don’t let someone who is not worthy of any f**ks, take your f**ks away from you. Some things/people are just not worth it." Wow, so much for taking the high road on internet shade, huh?
Fans thought Lili Reinhart and Cole Sprouse’s breakup was temporary
The final stage of grief is acceptance, but it seemed like Riverdale fans never quite got there when it came to Bughead’s breakup — that said, everyone kind of needed to calm down. We still got to see Betty and Jughead as a couple on the show, at least until the actors decided they could no longer stand each other and the network was forced to edit their romance out of the script. But it never appeared like that was even close to happening, anyway, considering Reinhart and Sprouse remained chummy enough online that some fans began suggesting they were on their way to reconciliation.
Eagle-eyed fans pointed out that as news of the couple’s split hit the headlines, Reinhart posted a photo with Sprouse on her Instagram story. She also posted a video that showed her jumping on a trampoline with her co-stars. Both Reinhart and Sprouse were smiling, and they certainly didn’t seem like people who had just been through a "very messy breakup," as E! News reported, while oddly confirming fans’ optimistic suspicions. According to a source who spoke to the publication, the couple might have already been "heading back in the direction of getting together" by July 2019.
Cole Sprouse and Lili Reinhart are back
It looks like Bughead fans weren’t wrong in holding out hope. Stans know best! In a since-deleted November 2019 Instagram post, captioned "The sequel" (via Refinery29), Lili Reinhart posed next to Cole Sprouse while smiling. The pair even gave each other a big, sloppy smooch. Did this signal that the couple had broken up and were giving it a second go? At the time of this writing, it’s still hard to say if they ever called it quits at all.
In August 2019, which might as well be dubbed the official summer of the Bughead split rumors, Sprouse admitted he didn’t really care much about the breakup headlines, because that’s the "nature of our industry." He told Entertainment Tonight, "I think you have to poke fun of it a little bit. It’s kind of something you sign up for, but as long as [you] can keep it light and fun, it’s all good."
So, what was actually going on? We can read Reinhart’s Insta post one of two ways: either these two never broke up and were making fun of the speculation, or they did, in fact, break up and got back together. But then there’s option three: they were actually broken up and purposely tried to confuse us, because of course Sprouse had to keep up guessing. Around the same time Reinhart seemingly confirmed their relationship status, Seventeen reported that Sprouse walked the red carpet at the People’s Choice Awards totally alone. Hm.
Hey Cole Sprouse and Lili Reinhart, why so solo?
Cole Sprouse and Lili Reinhart are masters of throwing off the press. In February 2020, breakup rumors hit headlines yet again when the pair — allegedly — didn’t hangout with each other at the same Oscars after party. Wait, didn’t they just reunite?
According to E! News, Sprouse and Reinhart both attended the Vanity Fair party in Beverly Hills after the 2020 Academy Awards. They reportedly "arrived at the same time," but a source who spoke to the magazine claimed they "didn’t see them hangout together." Apparently, Sprouse spent most of his time with his twin brother, Dylan, and Dylan’s model girlfriend, Barbara Palvin. Reinhart, on the other hand, reportedly hung out with her female co-stars, Camila Mendes and Madelaine Petsch, who "all took photos in the portrait studio and made their way to the main bar for a drink together."
Curiously enough, it seems E! News‘ report turned out to be false. Vanity Fair later posted a photo of Sprouse and Reinhart hanging out together at the party in question. In the snapshot, Sprouse held two drinks: one for him and a champagne that appeared to be for his gal. It has to be said: they certainly looked like a couple.
Was an Instagram glitch to blame in the case of Cole Sprouse and Lili Reinhart?
There is absolutely nothing that cements a celebrity split in stone like a good, old-fashioned Instagram unfollow. In recent years, the social media platform has made it even easier to find out who’s unfollowing who with a handy search feature. It’s like the tech gods know we’re peeping on celebs, and such a thing was always bound to happen with the notoriously private Lili Reinhart and Cole Sprouse.
Though it’s still impossible to tell if Riverdale‘s resident lovebirds are actually a couple or not, breakup rumors yet again surfaced around the same time the pair allegedly steered clear of each other at that 2020 Vanity Fair post-Oscars batch. That, we know, was a false report, but was Reinhart’s unfollow the real deal?
According to Seventeen, Bughead fans noticed that the star unfollowed Sprouse on Instagram in February 2020, but she dispelled all speculation later that week in an Instagram Story. "There was a glitch on Instagram everyone, don’t freak out," she wrote (via Seventeen). What kind of glitch does that?