Red flags in a relationship aren’t merely the hilarious pet peeves or conflicting preferences that Twitter makes them be. For example – a woman who hates men without beards or a guy who can’t stand women with pets. Red flags in relationships are signs which raise an eyebrow, your instincts will always detect them. Some red flags are not always obvious, because they aren’t always obvious deal-breakers. When dating someone new, it’s all too easy to look at the person through rose-colored glasses and miss the signs that they’re not right for you.
Often referred to as red flags, we’ve all seen these glaring signs before, however, experts say most people choose to ignore them until it’s late in the relationship. Here we will define red flags to look out for and what to do about them.
Defining Red Flags
A relationship red flag is a warning sign that appears during a relationship that could indicate a problem. It is essentially a signal that goes off when something’s not right, intuitively telling you to steer clear. In the case of relationships, they’ll show up when your partner does or says something that rubs you the wrong way and makes you question the relationship. It’s behaviors that give you a serious pause (or should give you a serious pause).
1. They are physically/ verbally and/or emotionally abusive
Any kind of physical abuse should be taken very seriously, psychotherapist and relationship expert Ken Page, LCSW says – “If you feel physically scared by how a person is, or if they’ve ever behaved in ways that are physically abusive or threatening, that’s it. Give it an absolute, 100% no!”. In a healthy relationship, you support and encourage one another. Anybody that makes you feel like you’re the problem, you’re crazy, or you’re causing them to act a certain way is a walking red flag!
2. They describe all of their exes as “crazy”.
“When your new partner can’t identify some way that they caused some of their past breakups, that is a reason to use “extreme caution”, says couples counselor and dating coach – Gina Senarighi, Ph.D. Some relationships end so badly that we’re still sour about an ex years down the line—but if your new partner spews bitter criticism at any and all of their “crazy” former lovers every chance they get, it’s a good clue that they are the problem. This is one of the commonly ignored red flags (especially by women).
3. They are narcissistic
A narcissistic personality disorder is a mental condition that indicates self-obsession, and a misplaced sense of importance. It can come across as delusions of grandeur, although not in a clinical sense. They are not experiencing a break with reality, although it might feel that way to the people close to them. Narcissists believe that the world revolves around them. And if anybody threatens this belief, turmoil and chaos tend to follow. Being emotionally involved with a narcissistic, ego-driven person can be exhausting and traumatizing. Their needs will always be considered more important than yours.
4. They don’t listen to you
In this instance, we are not talking about a partner who forgets to buy bread on his way home or forgets your friend’s names. This is about those significant aspects of yourself that you share with your partner, like your interests, your traditions, and the people in your life who make you feel whole. As a human being, you have a deep desire to be heard. Period. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to share your thoughts or feelings with your partner only to experience deflection or defensiveness. Communication is key, If you feel like you’re not being seen or heard you can try asking your partner if they know how important that matter is to you, If they improve, then great! If not, remember that someone who isn’t willing to grow isn’t worth your time.
5. They gaslight you
Gaslighting is emotional manipulation where your partner twists reality, making you doubt your perceptions through denial (“I never said that”) or by blaming you (“You’re too sensitive”). Not only is it abusive, but it’s also very difficult to identify. Dulcinea Pitagora, Ph.D., New York City-based psychotherapist and sex therapist says “The partner waving this red flag may use the other partner’s vulnerabilities against them, making the gaslit partner believe that they are to blame for whatever the problem is, and making it difficult to know whether they’re actually seeing a red flag or not”. Because gaslighting can leave you second-guessing yourself, seek the support of people who make you feel safe like a therapist or trusted loved one to discuss what you’re feeling and get more clarity on your partner’s behavior.
6. They are emotionally unavailable
Someone who is emotionally unavailable may indicate so in a variety of ways. Perhaps this person only wants to see you late at night or when it’s convenient for them, or they aren’t taking appropriate steps to put in effort in general. According to experts, other things like difficulty talking about their feelings, or saying they don’t want a relationship, are also signs that someone may not be emotionally available. Never force someone into making efforts to be with you, this should come naturally. Not seeing any effort should be motivation for you to move on.
7. They lack emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive and manage emotions. People with a low level of emotional intelligence are unable to pick up on your feelings or empathize with you. This often results in unnecessary conflicts or forms of manipulation.
Codependency in relationships can be a pervasive pattern that causes issues such as emotional exhaustion and increasing mental load. So when does this happen? Codependency, or “relationship addiction,” happens when two people rely on each other exclusively for emotional, psychological, and even physical support. This alienates them from their other relationships and can stunt personal growth.
9. Constant fighting & Anger issues
No relationship is perfect, but ultimately, a healthy relationship should add to your happiness—not take away from it. Constant fighting over little things that are just insignificant, especially if you’re newly dating somebody, is a red flag. If someone is very quick to anger, has frequent explosive outbursts, or switches emotions quickly (i.e., happiness to rage), this shows a lack of ability to regulate emotions in a healthy way. It’s important to take note of the behavior and not normalize it.
Yellow flags versus red flags
Yellow flags are similar to red flags, only slightly less severe. A red flag is a clear warning sign. In contrast, yellow flags indicate a problem area that needs to be addressed. There are bound to be imperfections and areas for improvement in any relationship. However, no relationship should cause more harm than good. Yellow flags are signals that point towards patterns or behaviors that need to be shifted in order for the relationship to flourish. For example, a red flag might be when a partner forbids you from going to events without them. A yellow flag could be them becoming grumpy or angry when you do.
Taking care of yourself should be a top priority in life. If a relationship is coming between you and your happiness something needs to change. If you notice some red flags in your relationship, you need to do the following:
- Acknowledge your own needs
- Avoid being overly emotional
- Seek professional help
- Be honest with yourself
- Set boundaries
- Reconnect with family and friends
- Know when to leave!