When first dating someone or falling in love, it’s easy to get swept off your feet and ignore some of the not-so-perfect parts of your relationship. But sometimes, those not-so-perfect parts become more significant issues that can transform your relationship into a toxic, manipulative, and even abusive situation.
Though they are sometimes difficult to identify when you’re in the thick of it, red flags suggest you’re in an unhealthy relationship, and we’re here to help you recognize them. In our guide below, we’ll unpack what red flags are, provide some examples, and offer advice on addressing them.
Understanding Relationship Red Flags
What are red flags in a relationship with a man or woman? Red flags are warning signs, signaling you may be in an unhealthy and possibly abusive relationship. Sometimes, they can be big, obvious, flashing signs, like if your partner physically hurts you or refuses to let you see your friends or family. However, relationship red flags can also be much more subtle and nearly undetectable, like if your partner love bombs you with affection and adoration. Because of this, it’s essential to understand the different kinds of red flags and how to recognize them in your relationship.
That said, if you notice one (or several) red flags in your own relationship, then it’s an indication that you should stop, reflect on your relationship dynamics, and determine if it is wise for you to proceed with your relationship. More times than not, it’s best to walk away.
Red Flags vs. Yellow Flags vs. Green Flags
To understand the different flags in relationships, it helps to think of them as traffic lights. Red means stop, yellow means proceed with caution, and green means go.
If you notice red flags in your relationship, these are considered dealbreakers. They are warning signs that signal you to stop what you’re doing and remove yourself from the situation.
Now, if we compare red flags vs. yellow flags, yellow flags aren’t quite as severe as red flags, but they’re still cautioning you to slow down. For instance, an example of a yellow flag is that your partner has trouble expressing their emotions or communicating effectively. It’s not a major warning sign, but it is something you and your partner will want to address in order to have a healthier relationship.
Then, there are green flags, representing healthy, non-toxic characteristics and qualities in a partner that help support a safe, secure, and happy relationship. For example, you might share similar relationship goals and mutual respect for one another.
Signs of Red Flags in a Relationship
Unfortunately, red flags in a relationship with a woman or a man can manifest in many ways. While we’ve provided some examples of red flags below, it certainly isn’t an exhaustive list.
That’s why it’s important to remain vigilant and trust your gut. If something doesn’t seem right in your relationship, it probably isn’t, so don’t look the other way. And if your partner behaves in ways that make you feel sad, belittled, controlled, unsafe, or physically, mentally, or emotionally harmed, then it’s crucial to recognize this behavior as a red flag and seriously consider leaving the relationship.
1. They Have Violent Tendencies
Violence is a major red flag. If your partner physically harms you in any way, then it’s 100% a sign to remove yourself from the relationship. However, your partner can still be violent without laying a hand on you. For example, if they throw a chair across the room when their favorite football team loses a game or break a dinner plate on the kitchen floor when something doesn’t go their way, these are violent tendencies you should not ignore.
Also, it’s important to realize that what might start as small glimpses of violence may turn into much bigger blowouts that could put you in a dangerous and life-threatening situation.
2. They Control You
Control is another red flag in a relationship with a man or woman. Often, the control starts out seemingly innocent and can grow into something much more intrusive. For instance, your partner might begin the relationship by showing great interest in who you spend your free time with. However, that could quickly turn into them prohibiting you from seeing certain people, tracking your whereabouts, excessively calling and texting you, and showing up unannounced.
Control is a tactic used to isolate you and make you codependent on your partner, so if your partner becomes overly possessive of you, recognize this as a red flag.
3. They Love Bomb You
This red flag can be tricky, as it comes disguised as affection and adoration. Love bombing refers to when someone showers you with love in order to manipulate you. In this case, your partner might want to spend all their time with you, deliver intense declarations of love, and overwhelm you with excessive gifts.
While it might seem innocent at first, love bombing is a strategy used to gain control and diminish your independence, which can lead to a toxic and unbalanced partnership.
4. They Abuse Drugs and/or Alcohol
Excessive drug and/or alcohol use can negatively impact your partner’s mental health, which will inevitably negatively impact your relationship. If you’re dating someone who is struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction, you should consider this as a relationship red flag and urge your partner to seek help. Even if they mean well and have the best intentions, your partner can’t fully show up for you in the relationship until they can treat their addiction.
5. They Have Experienced Relationship Trauma
Let us be clear; just because someone has witnessed or experienced relationship trauma doesn’t mean they are undatable. That said, they must recognize how their history impacts their relationship and do the appropriate self-work and therapy to overcome their challenges.
However, suppose they haven’t addressed that relationship trauma. In that case, they may act on that learned behavior in a relationship with you, perpetuating the trauma and passing it on to you, which ought to raise some major red flags.
6. They Don’t Trust You
A lack of trust can lead to various other issues, making it a relationship red flag. You see, if you and your partner don’t share mutual trust in one another, it could create a jealous and controlling situation. For instance, if your partner doesn’t believe that you’re spending time with a mutual friend, they might forbid you from going out, stalk you, accuse you of lying, gaslight you, or even create a hostile environment for you and that friend—all of which are red flag behaviors.
Remember, trust is the foundation of a healthy relationship; without it, you could be in troubled waters.
7. They are Narcissistic
If your partner is a narcissist, then it’s the equivalent of a red flag flapping in the wind. This is because narcissists tend to be self-centered, self-serving, manipulative, and controlling individuals who lack empathy, struggle with insecurities, and have anger and jealousy issues.
As you can imagine, they don’t make the best partners. So, if the person you’re seeing falls into this category, there’s a good chance you’ll begin noticing other red flags in your relationship that are warning you to get out and run for the hills.
8. They are Emotionally Unavailable
A healthy relationship thrives off communication, and part of that communication involves expressing and interpreting emotions. However, if your partner isn’t willing to have anything besides surface-level conversations or refuses to explore their feelings, this could be a red sign in a relationship with a woman or man.
When you’re with someone emotionally unavailable, you may also notice they avoid being affectionate, send mixed signals, bail on plans, and won’t label your relationship, all of which will prevent you from moving forward with your partnership.
9. They are Physically, Emotionally, or Mentally Abusive
Abuse is another major red flag in a relationship. What might start as something seemingly minor can quickly escalate into a dangerous situation, so it’s crucial not to ignore the signs of abuse in your relationship. Whether your partner tears you down and destroys your self-esteem or pushes you around during an argument, no kind of abuse is acceptable. If you experience it, you should immediately remove yourself from the relationship.
How to Handle Relationship Red Flags
If these red flags sound familiar in your relationship, it’s time to raise the alarms.
Begin by clearly communicating your concerns and identifying the issues with your partner. In some cases, your partner may be willing to change and work on improving their behavior, but in other cases, it may be a lost cause. If your partner ignores, denies, or gets angry over your concerns, it’s time to leave the relationship.
At this point, turn to your loved ones for support. Depending on your situation, you may need their help removing yourself from your toxic situation. But if you cannot break free from the relationship, consider turning to a professional, such as a therapist or social worker, for additional guidance and support.