Red flags in a relationship are like warning signals or behaviors that wave a caution flag, indicating potential problems or concerns.
It is characterized by negative, harmful, and unhealthy interaction patterns between two or more individuals.
These patterns have the potential to inflict emotional, mental, or even physical harm and can manifest in various types of relationships, whether they’re romantic partnerships, friendships, family ties, or even professional connections.
Identifying these red flags in a toxic relationship is crucial for your well-being and safety.
Early recognition of these warning signs empowers you to make informed decisions about whether to confront and address the issues or, in some cases, to make the difficult choice of ending the relationship to protect yourself. Your happiness and health should always come first.
14 red flags in a relationship to look out for, according to experts
Recognizing red flags in a relationship is of utmost importance for your well-being.
Before addressing these warning signs, it’s essential to understand what they look like and why they can be dangerous.
Below are some of the common red flags in a relationship, according to experts.
1. Overly controlling behavior: A common red flag in relationships, overly controlling behavior, indicates someone who prioritizes their desires over what’s best for you, said BetterUp‘s Erin Eatough, Ph.D., an occupational health psychologist who has published research on employee well-being in over 30 outlets such as the Journal of Applied Psychology.
In healthy relationships, there is a balance where both partners have autonomy and respect for each other’s decisions.
2. Lack of trust: Trust is a cornerstone of healthy relationships. When distrust becomes prevalent among partners, friends, family, or colleagues, it can signal an unstable relationship, Eatough said.
While doubts may arise occasionally, they shouldn’t prevent you from trusting those in your life.
3. Low self-esteem: Those close to you should uplift and support you. According to Eatough, if you feel unsupported by your partner, family, or friends, it’s a sign that something needs to change.
Love should empower, not diminish.
4. Frequent lying: According to Samara Quintero, a licensed marriage and family therapist at Choosing Therapy, consistent dishonesty, whether small or substantial, can erode the foundation of a relationship, per Insider.
Trust is key, and repeated lies can make building or maintaining a strong connection challenging.
5. Unwillingness to compromise: Healthy relationships thrive on compromise, says Emily Simonian, a licensed marriage and family therapist and the head of learning at Thriveworks.
If your partner consistently makes everything one-sided, it can lead to feelings of hurt, resentment, and dissatisfaction. Both sides should consider each other’s needs and desires.
6. Excessive jealousy: A jealous partner can lead to controlling behavior, suffocating you with excessive calls or texts.
Over time, this can make you feel as if nothing you do is ever enough. It’s a sign of deeper issues, Simonian says.
7. Love Bombing: While it may seem like romantic gestures at first, coming on too strong early in a relationship, known as “love bombing,” can lead to devaluing and degrading behavior.
Be cautious if someone rushes into intense proclamations of love or offers excessive gifts and then uses it as collateral later, said Jennifer Kelman, a licensed clinical social worker and a mental health expert, via Forbes.
8. Verbal or physical abuse: Any form of violence or dangerous behavior is an immediate red flag in a relationship.
Disagreements are normal, but when they escalate to abuse, it’s vital to remove yourself from the situation, Holly Schiff, a licensed clinical psychologist, said, according to TODAY.
9. History of infidelity: If someone has a history of cheating, it can lead to constant worry and affect your mental health and self-confidence, Schiff said. Infidelity may cause you to question your worth.
10. Gaslighting: Gaslighting is a manipulative tactic that makes you doubt your sanity and judgments.
Victims often feel guilty, regardless of whether they’ve done anything wrong. It’s a clear red flag in a relationship, Eatough noted.
11. Substance abuse: Substance abuse can be a red flag, but it’s possible to work through these issues if the person is willing to seek help.
Ultimately, you should decide if it’s healthy for you to remain in the relationship, according to Schiff.
12. Lack of social connection or friends: Not having friends or close relationships can be a red flag, as it may indicate deeper issues, such as social anxieties or shyness, said Eatough.
13. Lack of emotional intelligence: Emotional intelligence is understanding and managing emotions.
Eatough noted that people with low emotional intelligence may struggle to empathize and often create unnecessary conflicts or engage in manipulative behavior.
14. Different life goals: Sharing similar life goals is crucial in a long-term relationship, Schiff said.
Misaligned goals, such as marriage, living location, having children, or financial matters, can lead to dissatisfaction in the long run.
Recognizing these red flags is the first step in maintaining healthy, fulfilling relationships and ensuring your well-being.
Unfortunately, some individuals start accepting red flags as just a “part of the package,” putting themselves at risk of emotional, psychological, and even physical harm.
Common reasons why we ignore red flags in a relationship
In relationships, red flags are like important warning signs. But why do we ignore them when they’re so crucial?
Below are the three common reasons why we ignore these red flags in a relationship, according to Angela Avery, LPC, NCC, a psychotherapist licensed professional counselor from Good Therapy.
1. Fear of Facing Painful Truth
- The first reason we ignore relationship red flags is the fear of discovering an uncomfortable truth.
- We might ask our partner about concerning behavior, but if their answers don’t align with our expectations, we avoid challenging them.
- We often resist uncovering the truth because it might mean making significant changes like moving, managing finances, or personal growth.
2. Doubting Our Intuition
- The second reason we ignore red flags is doubting our own instincts. We believe our partners would never betray us and that their explanations must be truthful.
- We overlook gut feelings, disconnection signs, and vague explanations from our partners, preferring to accept their words as facts.
- Dismissing red flags due to self-doubt can keep us from recognizing fundamental truths about our relationships.
3. Misguided Beliefs About Relationship Effort
- The third reason for ignoring red flags is the misconception that committed relationships should be filled with constant struggle and compromise.
- Society often teaches us that relationships are meant to be tough, causing us to view red flags as mere obstacles.
- It’s crucial to understand that while relationships require effort, they shouldn’t feel like an ongoing battle. Ignoring red flags because of this misconception can lead to prolonged unhappiness and conflict in the relationship.
Effects of a toxic relationship to mental and physical health
Toxic relationships can have profound, far-reaching effects on your well-being. Not only do they take a toll on your mental health, but they can also harm your physical health.
Here’s how toxic relationships affect your well-being, according to Kate Skurat, Clinical Product Manager at Calmerry.
1. Mental Health: Toxic relationships can plunge you into a constant fight-or-flight state, making relaxing nearly impossible. This ongoing stress can lead to anxiety, depression, disrupted sleep, and even weaken your immune system over time.
2. Physical Health: The impact on physical health can be significant. Toxic relationships increase the risk of heart problems, elevate blood pressure, and lead to elevated blood sugar levels, making you more susceptible to various illnesses. Over time, they can manifest as body aches, inflammation, skin issues, digestive problems, and hormonal changes.
3. Self-Esteem and Confidence: Toxic relationships can erode self-esteem and confidence. They might make you seek out conflict in other relationships because you may no longer recognize what healthy behavior looks like.
4. Social Isolation: These detrimental relationships can distract you from your other social connections, leading to isolation from friends and family who care about your well-being.
5. Neglecting Self-Care: Toxic relationships can disrupt your ability to care for yourself. You may find yourself sacrificing your regular self-care routines, sleep patterns, workout schedules, hobbies, and even personal hygiene.
Recognizing the impact of red flags in a relationship is essential. Taking steps to address and remove toxicity from your life can improve mental and physical health, fostering a happier, more fulfilling existence. Your well-being should always be a top priority.
Addressing the red flags in a relationship
Addressing red flags in a relationship requires a thoughtful and balanced approach.
Here are some steps to help you navigate this delicate situation, according to Eatough:
1. Acknowledge Your Needs: Your happiness and well-being should never be compromised. Take time for self-care and reflect on your needs and what you want from the relationship. Understanding your own desires will empower you to communicate effectively.
2. Open Communication: Honest and open communication is the cornerstone of any healthy relationship. Express your concerns and feelings to your partner or friend. They may not even be aware of how their actions are affecting you.
3. Maintain Emotional Control: While having emotions is natural, try to keep them in check when discussing red flags. Emotions can sometimes cloud judgment and lead to irrational reactions. Stay calm and focused on finding solutions.
4. Seek Professional Help: If you feel overwhelmed or unequipped to handle the situation, consider seeking the assistance of a clinical psychologist or social worker. Professional help can make a huge difference in addressing complex relationship issues.
5. Honesty: Be honest about the situation and your feelings. Open and honest communication is more effective when everyone is truthful about their emotions and needs.
6. Set Boundaries: Establish clear boundaries in your relationship. Communicate your needs, boundaries, and deal-breakers with your loved one. Boundaries are essential for protecting yourself and maintaining a healthy connection.
7. Reconnect with Others: Toxic relationships can be isolating, and they may strain your other connections. Reconnect with friends and family members who provide a sense of belonging, support, and perspective. Spending time with those who know and value you can remind you of your strengths.
8. Know When to Leave: Not all relationships will last, and it’s essential to recognize when a relationship is harming you more than helping you. Have the courage to end destructive relationships that drain your energy and hinder your growth. Prioritize your own well-being and self-care.
Setting healthy boundaries and seeking HR assistance, if necessary, in work relationships can help maintain your well-being and professionalism.
Remember, your happiness and health should always be a top priority.
Identifying and addressing red flags in a relationship is crucial, whether it’s a romantic partnership or a new connection with a colleague. Knowing these warning signs is the first step in maintaining a healthy and fulfilling relationship.
Toxic relationships can drain your energy and happiness, but you have the power to protect yourself against these unhealthy dynamics. Defending your well-being is essential.
In any relationship, whether at work or in your personal life, all parties involved must receive the same love and kindness they contribute. This reciprocity is the foundation for thriving, healthy connections.
From the professional world to personal interactions on the playground, understanding and navigating healthy social dynamics is integral to the human experience. Your well-being and happiness should always be a top priority in every relationship.
Disclaimer: This article is provided solely for informational purposes and should not be considered a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or opinion. It is strongly recommended to consult with qualified professionals for any mental health concerns or issues.