- Warning signs in a relationship include excessive jealousy and frequent lying.
- You should also be careful with a partner who frequently criticizes or belittles you.
- Another important red flag is an unwillingness to commit: relationships should not be one-sided.
We’re always told to stay away from people who exhibit relationship red flags, but exactly what common signs should we look out for?
Whether you’re dating a new guy or girl, a long-term boyfriend or girlfriend, or even in a marriage, you may be unaware of the warning signs. Red flags, such as constant put-downs, can indicate a type of emotional abuse, which is relatively common.
It can be helpful to know what red flags to look for so you can proceed with caution or cut things off if necessary.
What are red flags in a relationship?
Relationship red flags are warning signs that there may be unhealthy patterns or behaviors between you and your partner.
Often, especially in new relationships, lust and love can cloud your judgment, making it hard to spot warning signs.
The best known warning signs can be abusive behavior and aggression. However, it’s easy to miss some red flags in relationships. Toxic behaviors like manipulation, gaslighting, and narcissism can go unnoticed.
We spoke with couples therapists to learn more about relationship warning signs, why they’re easy to miss, and what to do if you spot them.
1. Frequent lies
Constantly catching your partner being dishonest is not a good sign.
“We’re all guilty of white lies, but if you notice your partner is constantly cheating on you or getting caught up in lies, that’s a red flag,” says Samara Quintero, licensed marriage and family therapist at Choosing Therapy.
These can be little lies, like being dishonest about where they are going, or big lies, like not telling you how much debt they have.
Being lied to over and over again can make it hard to build a solid foundation in the relationship or destroy one you’ve already built, which can lead to an unstable future, says Quintero.
2. Constant humiliation
A partner who frequently criticizes or puts you down, even if it’s in a subtle or passive-aggressive way, can affect your self-esteem.
“This is a form of emotional abuse that can generate feelings of anxiety and insecurity in the couple,” says Quintero.
She says that some common examples may sound like:
- “You’re lucky I’m still with you because you’ll never do better than me.”
- “You sound so ridiculous when you’re trying to be funny.”
A 2013 study suggested that emotional abuse could be just as damaging as physical abuse, with both contributing to depression and low self-esteem, so this red flag should be taken seriously.
“It’s imperative to address this behavior with your partner, and if they refuse to take responsibility or express a willingness to change, it might be time to reevaluate the relationship,” says Quintero.
3. Unwillingness to commit
If your partner is unwilling to compromise even when it comes to little things, you should proceed with caution.
“If you’re in a relationship with someone who seems to make everything one-sided, you can end up overcommitting and feeling resentful, hurt, misunderstood and dissatisfied,” says Emily Simonian, a licensed marriage and family therapist. and the head of learning at Thriveworks.
In healthy relationships, it’s crucial that you consider each other’s needs and wants and that compromise isn’t a one-way street.
4. Tendency to run away from difficult discussions
A partner who lacks the emotional or behavioral skills necessary to cope with problems and instead runs away from them can damage their relationship.
Some examples are walking away from arguments without listening to you or ignoring you for days at a time when things get tough.
People who have trouble tolerating difficult emotions tend to lash out or run away when the going gets tough, says Simonian. Even healthy relationships will go through tough times, so you want to make sure your partner communicates effectively with you instead of running away when the going gets tough.
5. Controlling behavior and excessive jealousy
If your partner is very jealous, this can lead to controlling behavior.
For example, they may feel jealous when you have a social life outside of your relationship, says Simonian. A jealous partner may also smother you with excessive calls or texts and try to control what you do.
“Attempts to control usually start out subtle, but eventually increase in intensity and can often leave you feeling like nothing you do is ‘good enough,'” says Simonian. “If you find yourself feeling stifled or constantly altering your behavior to appease his jealousy, it could be a sign of bigger trouble to come.”
A 2010 meta-analysis found that as jealousy increases in a relationship, the quality of the relationship decreases, indicating that jealousy harms romantic relationships. Additionally, a 2014 study suggested that people in relationships where one partner acted overly possessive in the early stages were more likely to have an unhealthy communication style later in the relationship.
6. Lack of healthy and open communication
A partner who resorts to passive aggressiveness, blames, or expresses emotions aggressively exhibits ineffective communication, says Quintero.
Communication is the foundation of a relationship, so if the two of you can’t communicate in an open and healthy way, you’re going to run into trouble.
“A healthy relationship provides a safe place for both partners to talk openly about their emotions without fear of being judged or criticized,” says Quintero.
A 2017 study suggested that early communication in a relationship could play a role in future relationship satisfaction and that satisfaction with communication early in a relationship could result in a friendlier relationship later on.
7. They have no friends
If your partner doesn’t have any friends of their own, this can be a red flag for many reasons.
They may not be able or willing to create and maintain friendships with others. This could mean that they lack social skills, have a difficult personality, or have a negative view of other people.
Another problem with a friendless partner is that they can be clingy or demanding too much, if not all, of your time. They may not understand your desire or need to spend time with your friends, which could turn into resentment.
8. They are not supportive of you or the relationship.
According to a 2014 analysis of nine studies on the topic of dating relationships, it takes commitment and support for your relationship and partner to maintain stability.
It turns out that “wanting” the relationship to last is not enough. Instead, people should actively engage in behaviors that show support for their partner and the relationship as a whole.
If your partner isn’t supportive of you or the relationship, this could be a red flag. This lack of commitment could cause problems in the future.
Yellow flags versus red flags
Yellow flags are also warning signs of potential trouble to come. However, they may not be as obvious or insidious as red flags.
Yellow flags can be issues that can still be resolved and do not have to become red flags with proper communication. However, you should watch out for yellow flags as they can lead to relationship problems in the future.
Some examples of yellow flags in relationships include:
- taking criticism wrong
- talking to his ex
- Lack of experience in long-term relationships.
- They don’t share their feelings often.
Yellow flags can be annoying, but they’re not exactly a deal breaker.
What to do when you notice red flags in your relationship
When it comes to relationship red flags, the best way to handle them is early, honestly, and fairly. Open an honest dialogue with your partner, express your concerns and feelings, and let them do the same.
Consider your needs, communicate clearly and often, and try to control your emotions. In some cases, you may want to seek the help of a professional, such as a marriage counselor or therapist.
It is always important to be honest with yourself throughout the process and lean on family and friends if necessary.
When you notice red flags early in a relationship, take note of them.
Whether you find yourself lying, experiencing possessiveness, or being put down, you need to take the situation seriously and consider how it could affect your relationship not only in the near future but in the future as well.