Relationship Red Flags You Should Know

Last Updated
December 7, 2023

Red Flags
Not-So-Obvious Signs
Yellow Flags
Healthy Relationship
Helpful Products

Relationship Red Flags
- Being Excessively Possessive
- Pressuring You About Sex
- Emotional Abuse
- Displaying Anger, Aggressive Or Violent behavior
- Physical Abuse
- Degrading Comments A Major Red Flag (Public or Private)
- Making Derogatory Comments About Others
- Unwilling To Compromise
- Controlling Behavior
- Lying About Small Things
- Silent Treatment
- Toxic Behavior, A Red Flag
- Lacking Empathy Or Compassion
- Withholding Love And Affection As A Form Of Punishment

Here Are Some Not-So-Obvious Relationship Red Flags
- It's common to hear red flags in relationships becoming apparent regarding money.
- Slow at introducing you to their life and friends or family.
- They do not act like they are interested in you but then get angry if you do not show enough interest in them.
- They diminish your goals, interests, and dreams.
- It's all about them: They always need to be the center of attention in any situation.
- Make promises but never fulfill them.
- Having low self-esteem.
- Having a double standard.
- Partners have a history of being unfaithful.
- They don't want to commit.
- Falling into a new romance just after breaking up.
- Lacks respect for you or others

Relationship Yellow Flags
- The "you're not good enough."
- You're not happy about your partner's friends.
- The "my needs always come before yours."
- The "you deserve better than me speech."
- Your partner is too busy to spend time with you.
- You feel like there's no future for this relationship, and it might be time to move on.
- Telling you they are thinking of breaking up even in a new relationship

Healthy Relationship Signs
- Communication is open and honest
- Both partners feel respected and valued
- Both partners feel safe and secure
- Both partners feel heard and understood
- Both partners feel trust and support
- Both partners are willing to compromise and work through conflicts.
- Both partners can maintain individuality and autonomy
- Both partners have healthy coping mechanisms for managing stress and emotions.
- Both partners have shared goals and values.
- Both partners have healthy ways of expressing intimacy and affection.

We've all been there. We meet someone, and we can't help but feel like this could be the one. Immediately we ignore all of those little warning signs screaming at us or bigger things that make us question their character, telling us to back off. And then, inevitably, things go wrong. Here are the top relationship red flags to watch out for. If you see any of these in your relationship, it's time to get out before things get too complicated.

The first stepping stone in any good relationship is to have good morals and values. This is essential as it creates firm and healthy relationships in not just your personal life but also in family and business relationships. If you have different values and morals in relationships, it becomes difficult for any individual to compromise and adapt to create healthy relationships.

Now that the basics are out, here are the red flags in relationships.

Obvious red flags in relationships & warning signs

Being excessively possessive

In a relationship, your partner should love and care for you without getting too emotionally close by invading your personal space. Overprotectiveness, though, can be a red flag that indicates they don't respect your independence and privacy.

A couple being intimate in a relationship about Relationship Red Flags

Pressuring you about sex

In the realm of relationship red flags, sexual coercion stands out as a particularly serious concern. Coercion in sexual contexts refers to situations where one partner pressures the other into engaging in sexual activities against their will. This pressure can take many forms, ranging from emotional manipulation to outright threats. It's crucial to recognize that consent in a healthy relationship should be enthusiastic and freely given, without any form of pressure or duress.

When a partner persistently pressures for sexual activity, it not only undermines the foundation of trust and respect in the relationship but also crosses into the territory of abuse. This kind of behavior is a glaring red flag, signaling a deep-seated problem in the relationship dynamics. [1][2]

Emotional abuse

Emotional abuse, a critical relationship red flag, manifests in behaviors that undermine an individual's sense of identity, dignity, and self-worth. This form of abuse encompasses a range of actions including verbal assault, humiliation, intimidation, and isolation. One of its most insidious aspects is the ability to distort the victim’s perception, often making them feel at fault for the abuser’s actions.

Victims of emotional abuse often experience profound psychological impacts, including personality changes, anxiety, depression, and severely diminished self-esteem. These effects are exacerbated the longer the abuse persists, creating a complex web of dependency that makes it increasingly difficult to escape the abusive relationship

Signs of Emotional Abuse:

  • Ignoring or excluding
  • Swearing & Yelling
  • Insulting
  • Intimidation
  • Threats
  • Isolating
  • Humiliating
  • Blaming the victim
  • Controlling behavior
  • Using and abusing [3][4][5]

Acting overly jealous or insecure

n the complex dynamics of relationships, acting overly jealous or insecure often raises significant red flags. Such behavior, stemming from deep-seated insecurities, can manifest in various concerning ways. For instance, a partner who frequently checks on their significant other, tracking their movements via phone or GPS without consent, exhibits a lack of trust and respect, both crucial elements for a healthy relationship dynamic​​​​.[6][7]

This form of jealousy transcends mere emotion, becoming a display of controlling behavior. It's not just about feeling insecure; it's the actions that follow - like unwarranted snooping through phones or social media accounts. Such actions signal a breach of privacy and a toxic tendency to dominate, rather than to partner in, a relationship​​.[8]

The issue compounds when this behavior leads to a partner feeling suffocated or monitored. A relationship should be a space of mutual respect and understanding, where each individual feels free to maintain their own social life and personal space. Excessive jealousy infringes on this freedom, often paving the way for a toxic environment.[9]

Displaying anger, aggressive or violent behavior

In relationships, displaying anger, aggression, or violent behavior can be significant red flags. Uncontrolled anger often escalates conflicts and leads to negative interactions that remain unresolved​​. These behaviors, instead of resolving issues, can perpetuate a cycle of retaliation and aggression​​. [10]

Recognizing and managing anger healthily is crucial, as unchecked anger can jeopardize relationships and potentially transform into emotional abuse or passive-aggressive behaviors​​.[11][12]

A man being abusive in a relationship about Relationship Red Flags

Physical abuse

Physical abuse stands out as a glaring red flag in relationships, one that demands immediate attention and action. Characterized by visible wounds or scars, physical abuse includes any form of physical harm such as punching, hitting, strangling, or forcibly restraining someone.

This type of abuse often escalates from minor aggressive behaviors to more severe violence over time, making it crucial to recognize and address it early. The impact of physical abuse extends beyond the immediate physical injuries, leading to long-term psychological trauma and a breakdown in personal autonomy and safety.[13]

Degrading comments a major red flag (public or private)

In a relationship, degrading comments, whether in public or private, are a major red flag. These remarks, ranging from subtle put-downs to overt insults, are forms of verbal abuse, indicative of toxic dynamics. They inflict emotional harm, diminishing self-esteem and fostering feelings of worthlessness.

Such behavior, far from benign, is an alarming indicator of underlying disrespect and a potential precursor to escalating abuse. [14]

Making derogatory comments about others

People often use derogatory comments to express their negative opinions of others, but this is never constructive.

This shows that the person has a tendency to be rude and hurtful. It doesn't matter what their reason is or what they say; if they can make those kinds of comments without blinking an eye about people who are different from them, this type of behavior will continue as soon as they get into a disagreement with others.

Do not make derogatory comments about others. It is important to have a positive mental attitude, as this will help you to be a better person in general. [15][16]

This is a warning sign of typical low self-esteem.

Unwilling to compromise

In relationships, an unwillingness to compromise is a significant red flag. It often manifests as one partner persistently insisting on having their way, ignoring the other's needs or desires. This behavior, a form of controlling attitude, undermines the partnership's foundation of mutual respect and understanding.

It's not just about small disagreements; it's a deeper issue where the inflexible partner may use criticism, blame, and manipulation to dominate. Such dynamics indicate a concerning imbalance, signaling a lack of healthy, two-way communication.[17]

Controlling behavior

Controlling behavior in relationships, a significant red flag, often manifests as possessiveness or obsession. This includes making decisions for a partner without consultation, indicative of a desire to exert dominance and control. Overly personal inquiries early in a relationship can also signal controlling tendencies.

More alarming are manipulative tactics like using threats, punishment, or guilt to enforce compliance, often leading to emotional abuse. Unreasonable demands, such as frequent check-ins, further exemplify this behavior, rooted in insecurity and past attachment issues. Such actions create an oppressive dynamic, undermining trust and mutual respect​. [18][19][20]

Lying about small things

In the realm of relationship red flags, displaying anger, aggressive, or violent behavior is a significant concern. This behavior can manifest as frequent explosive outbursts or a rapid switch from calm to rage, revealing an inability to regulate emotions healthily.

Such tendencies not only create a tense and unpredictable environment but also pose a serious risk to emotional and physical safety. In relationships, it's crucial to feel safe and respected; however, aggression and violence fundamentally undermine these needs. [21][22]

A couple giving each other the silent treatment in a relationship about Relationship Red Flags

Silent treatment

The silent treatment stands out as a concerning behavior. It's more than just a lack of communication; it's a form of emotional manipulation. This tactic, manifesting as prolonged silence or refusal to acknowledge the other's presence, is different from healthy conflict resolution.

It's used to control, induce guilt, or assert dominance in a relationship. The silent treatment can create an imbalanced power dynamic, eroding trust and preventing genuine conflict resolution.[23][24]

Toxic behavior, a red flag

Toxic behavior is any display of verbally or physically abusive behavior towards another person. It can be directed at the victims, their loved ones, friends, co-workers, and even pets! This toxic trait has been seen in many different types of relationships.

It's essential for us all, as human beings, to not only care about ourselves but also consider taking action- think before you speak or act because what we do will affect other people in some way, shape, or form, whether good or bad. [25]

Lacking empathy or compassion

mpathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, is essential for healthy interpersonal connections. Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), for instance, is often characterized by a notable deficiency in empathy. This doesn't imply an absolute absence of empathetic abilities, but rather a dysfunctional form of empathy, influenced by various motivational and situational factors.

Individuals with NPD may display behaviors that seem empathetic, but these are often superficial and driven by self-interest. Similarly, psychological conditions like sociopathy and psychopathy are marked by a distinct lack of empathy, affecting an individual’s ability to form genuine, caring relationships.[26][27][28]

Withholding love and affection as a form of punishment

Withholding love and affection as a form of punishment is a significant red flag in relationships. This behavior, a type of emotional suppression, can lead to detrimental effects on relational dynamics. Research indicates that partners engaging in this behavior exhibit increased stress responses and diminished intimacy, eroding the relationship's foundation.

Emotional withholding is also a recognized form of emotional abuse, often used manipulatively to diminish a partner's self-worth and maintain control.[29][30][31]

Short video

Here are some not-so-obvious relationship red flags

  1. It's common to hear red flags in relationships becoming apparent regarding money.
  2. Slow at introducing you to their life and friends or family.
  3. They do not act like they are interested in you but then get angry if you do not show enough interest in them.
  4. They diminish your goals, interests, and dreams.
  5. It's all about them: They always need to be the center of attention in any situation.
  6. Make promises but never fulfill them.
  7. Having low self-esteem.
  8. Having a double standard.
  9. Partners have a history of being unfaithful.
  10. They don't want to commit. 
  11. Falling into a new romance just after breaking up.
  12. Lacks respect for you or others [32]

Do NOT let someone make you feel bad about yourself! You should be with someone who believes in you and wants the best for you, as you would want for them. If they aren't pushing you toward something good in your life, RUN!

You can ask yourself a couple of questions:

Are we equals?

Are we both happy?

Is the red flag something I can live with?

How do my family and friends see this relationship?

When asking yourself questions and answering them honestly, it is good that you will realize what value a specific relationship has in your life and if certain behaviors create any flags in your relationship.

Some more red lights flashing

  1. The "we just don't have anything in common anymore" flag.
  2. The "I need to be free to do what I want without your judgmental gaze on me all the time" flag.
  3. The "I'm never wrong, you are" flag.
  4. You feel like you always have to ask for what you want in the relationship and repeat this often with no change.
  5. You don't think your partner values your opinion or feelings at all.

It is essential to be aware of red flags as early in a relationship as possible. If you see a yellow flag, take action before it becomes a red flag, and the trust starts deteriorating. When looking for signs of an abusive or unhealthy relationship, ask yourself if your partner ever does any of these things- insults you, controls how much time you spend with other people, belittles what you do or believe in front of others, threaten violence against anyone who disagrees with them (including their own family), has been physically violent towards someone else, harms pets/animals…the list goes on and on.

Remember that every type of relationship should have equal power dynamics and fairness. People will only change if they can acknowledge that they are at fault. If you and your partner are on the same page, you can work through any problems.

Relationship yellow flags

  1. The "you're not good enough."
  2. You're not happy about your partner's friends.
  3. The "my needs always come before yours."
  4. The "you deserve better than me speech."
  5. Your partner is too busy to spend time with you.
  6. You feel like there's no future for this relationship, and it might be time to move on.
  7. Telling you they are thinking of breaking up even in a new relationship
A woman feeling anxious in a relationship about Relationship Red Flags

Energetical compatability - living in fear

One lesser know the reason for leaving a relationship that is gaining a lot of traction with experts is your energetical compatibility. If you are a high-energy individual, wanting to go out, see new places, explore new locations, and take on new hobbies, and your partner only wants to stay home, does not want to do anything, or living in a "state of fear" one of you will be unhappy.

A couple holding hands in a relationship about Relationship Red Flags

Healthy relationship

A good relationship provides a secure environment where both individuals can freely express their emotions without fear of being judged or condemned. Communication is the basis of every relationship. Therefore, you are in a good one if you and your partner can communicate openly and want to collaborate. [33]

Conclusion

The reason why relationships are so complex is that it's not just about you. You have to be able to take in the other person’s feelings and needs. But if your partner constantly exhibits these top relationship flags or warning signs, then that might be a sign that they're not suitable for you. If this sounds like something, you want advice on or need help with, reach out to an expert!

They can talk through what’s going on in your life and give some sound guidance based on their experience and trained knowledge. Speaking to other married couples may not give you the right advice for your relationship. It doesn't matter how “obvious" someone may seem regarding their behavior; there are always hidden clues waiting to surface.

FAQ

Why Do People Ignore Red Flags In Their Relationships?

People ignore red flags in their relationships because they want to believe that things will get better. They may be in denial about the problems in the relationship, or they may be hoping that the other person will change.

Is It Better To Confront Someone About Red flag, Or Just Let Them Go?

In general, you should confront someone about a red flag if you feel unsafe or uncomfortable. If the person is able to change their behavior after being confronted, then it's likely worth it. However, if the person does not take your concerns seriously or continues to behave in a harmful way, it may be better to let them go.

References

  1. medicalnewstoday; Sexual coercion: Definition, examples, and recovery
  2. psychologytoday; What Everyone Needs to Understand About Sexual Coercion
  3. psychologytoday: Emotional Abuse
  4. healthyplace: Emotional Abuse
  5. psychologytoday: The Many Faces of Emotional Abuse
  6. betterup: 15 red flags in a relationship to look out for
  7. healthyplace; My Partner Cheat?
  8. healthyplace; My Partner Cheat?
  9. betterup: 15 red flags in a relationship to look out for
  10. psychologytoday: What Triggers Anger and What to Do About It
  11. psychologytoday: How to Deal With Anger in Relationships
  12. psychologytoday: 6 Tips for How to Manage Anger in Your Relationships
  13. womenshealth: Physical abuse
  14. psychologytoday:Hostile Venting: Mean Phrases Scar Intimate Relationships
  15. psychologytoday: Backhanded Comments, Digs, and Subtle Put Downs
  16. relationrise: What Does Degrade Mean in a Relationship
  17. psychologytoday; 10 Relationship Red Flags
  18. psychologytoday;Be Mine: Dealing With Possessiveness in a Relationship
  19. mantracare: Introduction To Obsessive Behavior In A Relationship
  20. clevelandclinic: Signs of Relationship OCD and How To Cope
  21. mindbodygreen; 13 Red Flags In A Relationship You Shouldn't Ignore
  22. openup: How Do You Recognise Red Flags in a Relationship?
  23. positivepsychology: 11 Anger Management Therapy Techniques and Interventions
  24. wellandgood: Yes, the Silent Treatment Can Be a Manipulation Tactic—Here’s How To Handle It
  25. webmd: What Is a Toxic Person?
  26. psychologytoday: Narcissistic Personality Disorder
  27. frontiersin: The dark side of empathy in narcissistic personality disorder
  28. pubmed: Empathy in narcissistic personality disorder
  29. psychologytoday: What Happens When Partners Withhold Affection or Emotion
  30. themendproject: THE MOST TOXIC FORM OF EMOTIONAL ABUSE
  31. happierhuman: 23 Emotional Abuse Red Flags in Your Relationship
  32. verywellmind: 13 Red Flags in Relationships
  33. ny.gov: What Does a Healthy Relationship Look Like?

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